FIVE-ORITES: Portholes and Opera Windows

When I was a small boy growing up in Southern California, one of our neighbors had a shimmering black 1957 Ford Thunderbird. She kept the hardtop on most of the time, and I distinctly remember the distinctive porthole cut into the roof.

Portholes, or Opera Windows as they are often called, have been used in automotive design from the early twenties. Ford incorporated the porthole as a way to improve visibility when the hardtop was affixed. But by the 1970’s they were being used as a luxury item to evoke a sophisticated look to coupe design.

1977 Lincoln Continental Mark V Emilio Pucci 

The 1970’s AMC Matador Barcelona, the Dodge Charger SE Coupe, the Chrysler Cordoba, the Oldsmobile Toronado, and of course the Fords—the Thunderbird, the Granada coupe, the Mustang II Ghia, the Mercury Cougar, and the Lincoln Continental and Mark series all boasted rear-placement fixed windows. Opera windows on the 1972 Lincoln Continental Mark IV were an optional item—one that was almost universally adopted. The cars even boasted an “opera light” to highlight the feature when driving at night. The windows typically poked from a vinyl roof, hugging the c-pillar of a coupe.

The Opera Window's heyday ended in the 1980’s but their memory will live on.

1977 AMC Matador Barcelona

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