Thursday, July 7, 2011

No, fake air vents don't make your Taurus look better

I pass this gussied-up Taurus every day on my way to work, and it really bothers me. It looks to be a 2000-03 model, and it sports the champagne color ever popular with rental companies, fleets, and mid-1990s suburbia. The chrome alloy wheels and red brake calipers do look expensive (read: overpriced), but are totally mismatched on a car this bland. But the real problem with this car are the aftermarket air vents and V8 logo. Both are a bit crooked and appear to have been affixed at home using crazy glue.

Air vents aren't supposed to protrude from a car - doesn't that defeat their aerodynamic purpose? And this Taurus is not a SHO (they didn't even offer one on this body style), so affixing a V8 logo is ridiculous. The V8 was only offered on late-90s SHOs anyway - today, a V6 is offered.
The concept of car customization is as old as the automobile itself, and saw resurgence in the 1990s and early 2000s with movies such as Fast and the Furious. Cars were still basic enough to easily swap a bumper on a Civic, swap the taillights on an Eclipse, or replace the hood of a Mustang. Toyota specifically created Scion to address the young population driving these trends. However, in today's post-recession world, kids don't have discretionary money to spend on car customization (because their parents don't), and young people increasingly want to retain the resale value of their cars. Today, Toyota is struggling to sell Scions. Cars are also more difficult to customize today; I would imagine that swapping out a new Honda CR-Z's body parts, while certainly achievable, is more difficult and expensive than doing so on a 1989 CR-X. There are more electronics, more curvy, tightly fitting body panels, and more safety regulations in today's cars than ever before. Therefore, simple "at-home remedies", such as the stickers affixed to the Taurus pictured above, are increasingly popular and cost-effective way to attempt to make your car unique.

How air vents are supposed to be done
Air vents look great on some cars. Portholes are an interesting subset of air vents, and I think Buick is the only company that can pull them off. The portholes look great on the new Insignia Regal GS, LaCrosse, and Enclave.

Buick Regal GS
Placing the portholes on top of the hood instead of the side is a much sportier design choice. Well done, Buick.

Buick Lucerne
Even Buick's previous porthole location on the side of the car, such as on the Lucerne, works well. Portholes would look gaudy on any other car, but people have come to expect portholes on Buicks - it is an instantly recognizable brand symbol.

Mercedes SLS AMG
Many sports cars, such as this Mercedes SLS AMG, use a more traditional style of air vents in a tasteful yet functional manner. For powerful cars like these, airvents are a necessity to keep the engine cool.

When used appropriately, side air vents can create a very powerful visual statement, such as on the M3. Notice how the air vent does not protrude like on the is rather aerodynamically carved into the car.

Porsche 911 Turbo
The rear-engined 911 Turbo has one of the most recognizable air vents of all Porsches. Yummy.

How NOT to do air vents (besides the Taurus)

Similar to the owners of the shameful Taurus, many manufacturers add air vents to their cars in a tasteless manner. Often what was intended to be a status symbol turns into an embarrassment.

Ford Focus
There are so many design flaws with the previous-gen Focus (all of which have been addressed in the current redesigned model). The side air vent is obviously not functional - it is a slab of black plastic intended to make this awkward car look sporty.

Infiniti QX
All I can say is "wow". The air vents look terrible on the QX, although even without the vents the SUV would be an eyesore. The vents look tacked-on and mismatch the rest of the car. It was almost like the designers realized that the SUV was too slab-sided and needed a quick fix to make it more "interesting". Well, they much (or as little) as the Taurus did.

Cadillac CTS
I do not understand the little chrome side vents on the CTS. They look like an afterthought, and I wish Cadillac had left them off. In every other way, the CTS is a fantastic design - no need to overdo it, GM :)


  1. I think Buicks had portholes on the very first model. When I was a kid, I could always tell a Buick by the air vents on the sides. Buick was a status car just under a Cadilack. Chevy drivers longed for the day they got a promotion at work and could celebrate the occasion with a Buick. Buicks will alway have portholes and other cars should not.
    So, when people "paste" portholes on a cheap car that they can afford, but are ashamed of, they are only calling attention to their envy of a better life style.
    I don't understand the "V8" logo on a pathetic car. In the 5o's, when customizing was popular, decals were not a cheap addition, mud flaps and antennas were. They would look ridiculous today.

  2. Haha, great post. When I bought my current used car from a dealership, it had fake air vents stuck onto the sides. But by the time I picked it up from the dealer, someone had already removed them. I guess even the mechanics were offended by them!

  3. Great post. I actually just had to write a similar one today.

    I'm convinced this fake-vent thing is some kind of epidemic.

  4. I have a very nice 2004 SL 600 and am looking to take the 'bareness' off the bonnet and have noticed the 'air ducts' on the c63 amg and am wondering if there is an after market part that would give the desired effect??

  5. Is there an aftermarket Bonnet ( air dam) available for an sl 600 similar to those incorperated on the c63 of latter year my car is a 2004 SL600