While Kimberlee over at Buggy Side has been blogging about awesome and sensible mechanical wonders that operate on the tundra, I have been distracted by a different automotive trend. It’s neither awesome nor sensible. Either it’s stupid, or I don’t understand it. Here’s a picture of what I’m talking about:


Fake porthole vents adhered to the front fenders of cars…why? I was trying to describe this to my sister Andrea, recently, because she had not seen it, living in Arizona where people probably don’t do such things. My information is certainly limited, but here is what I have observed and my conclusion about it.

For many years during its heyday, the Buick division of General Motors had as one of its trademarks the porthole vents. They were likely functional for a while, but eventually they were fake, even as early as the 1963 Buick LeSabre my parents had when I was a kid. Every now and then, Buick will attach similar portholes to their new models; in fact, some of their current cars use them. (What do you mean “use”, Patterson; they don’t do anything!) But now I see these stick-on “vents” on all manner of modern automobiles. And they aren’t coming from the factories that way. People are feeling the need to affiliate their modern ride with historical Buick. Again, I don’t know why.

The photo above is of a very fine-looking BMW. It has no need to look like a Buick! That’s like deciding to improve the looks of the Biltmore House by putting plastic flowers in all the windows. The BMW still looks good, I will admit, but it’s just wrong. Most of the cars that display the portholes do so to the detriment of their appearance. What is this all about? It obviously has transcended the Buick status symbol and taken on a life of its own. Over the last few days I have observed these chrome-colored plastic scars on two Cadillacs, a Suzuki, two Dodge pickups, a Chevrolet pickup, and (this is so sad) a Nissan Xterra. In recent weeks I have seen them on Mercedes, Mitsubishi, Hyundai, Lincoln, and probably many more. Some of them are diamond-shaped instead of round, but the idea is the same.

Maybe there is a reasonable reason behind it and someone out there can explain it to me. Until then, it’s just a popular trend, and therefore to be ridiculed and resisted.

Published in: on March 31, 2008 at 11:14 pm  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. How about: fake hood air scoops, fake stick-on bullet holes, rear spoilers, plastic ground effects, ground neon under the vehicle, neon around the license plate, other various vanity rings around the license plate, wheels worth more than the vehicle, headlight and tailight covers (what’s up with that – aren’t the lights actually supposed to work), tires so big they extend past the body (actually illegal in most states), and the list goes on and on.

    It appears that our vehicles have become an extension of ourselves, and as a result, are becoming personalized with accessories. Just like hair style, hair color, clothing, tattoos, body piercings, etc.

    Hey, maybe the portholes are kind of like a pseudo vehicle piercing?

  2. If you can solve this mystery, can we move on to more and more of the crazy things people do to their cars?? Fake bullet holes, tires that are wayyyyy!!!!!! to big for the car, baseballs (and the like) through windows, …. the list can go on and on. I haven’t had cameras on certain occasions, but I have seen the large rim tires on an early 80’s minivan. It was so very, very wrong.

  3. I’ve been surpressing some reckless meaness for a while. To get it out of my system, I’m going to go to the barn, dust off a Farmall tractor, and glue porthole vents all over it. Yep, that’s what I’m going to do.

  4. Well, from all the previous comments on the subject, it sounds like most of the votes are siding with the “popular trend to be ridiculed and resisted” explanation. That makes sense to me as well.

    I totally agree with those who have mentioned that vehicles seem to have become an extension and/or reflection of the owner. Whether it is an attempt at being funny (fake bullet hole or baseball through the window stickers), meant to depict a sense of style (neon lights, chrome additions), or present some sort of elevated image (spoilers, fake hood air scoops, vanity plates, and fake portholes), all seem to be more about presenting a manufactured image and drawing attention to the vehicle and to the owner/driver by association. Not only is it something to be ridiculed and resisted; I think it’s to be pitied as well (sorry if that sounds harsh). And it’s a sad commentary on our society today that SO MANY find it necessary to seek attention and affirmation in such a shallow way.

    So…what image do you think people are trying to project when they have fake animal tails and human limbs hanging out of their trunk? Have you seen those? Is the driver saying, “Hey, I am an imbecile with a sick sense of humor and/or a diminished regard for life?” If so, mission accomplished!

  5. Thanks for all the energetic comments, everyone. It sounds like I’ve tapped into an artery of disgust about the matter and related examples. Michael communicated with me further and suggested I attach fake porthole vents to my kayak! Wouldn’t that be hilarious?

    Feel free to keep talking among yourselves. Rant on, friends!

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