Clarty New Reader
June 12, 2011 2:04 a.m.

I don't like newer cars much. That is, I wish they were like old cars an a few big ways. Let me explain: When I was a kid my folks had cars like the 1950 Oldsmobile, a '67 Ford Galaxie and a '69 VW. None of these cars had air conditioning; what they did have (except for the VW) was huge vents in the front footwells that let in gale-force winds from surprisingly low speeds. The windows rolled down all the way, and when the windows were down, we were happy.

Today was a lovely blue-sky Minnesota Saturday. It was about 65 degrees and sunny. Mrs Clarty and I were driving the 2003 Passat, and I wanted to enjoy the fantastic weather, but when I rolled down the windows (front all the way, back about three inches) the wind noise was so loud it hurt. Not the "WHOOMP-WHOOMP-WHOOMP" buffeting noise that makes you think the whole monocoque was about to break apart, though.

Made me wonder: 1) Do aerodynamicists and automotive engineers think we all want to drive around in hermetically sealed cocoons? I get sick of A/C after a while!
2) Were older cars quieter with the windows down? To be fair, I'm probably talking 1960s or '70s cars, as I recall the same complaint about my Volvo 740 Turbo.

Second major complaint about newer cars: The radios are crap. Sure, they all have Blueteeth and Ipod connectivity--Fords even offer a sink--but as far as working well as RADIOS, they are practically worthless. The "Monsoon" stereo in my Passat would lose the local AM station as I headed out of town and get virtually no other AM stations. I replaced it with a Blaupunkt Bremen MP74, and could not believe the difference. Most cars made within the last 10 or so years have featured dinky 6" antennas, which are by far inferior to the regular metal mast antenna, but look cooler.

Third major complaint about newer cars: What Peter Egan said-

Question: Were the cars of the 70s and before quieter when the windas were down?

dogbreath Reader
June 12, 2011 2:10 a.m.

I think the radio thing has to do with the declining number of people who listen to AM and FM.

ransom Reader
June 12, 2011 2:16 a.m.


My memory of each isn't clear enough to say... But ever so roughly, I don't think I recall the crazy WHOOMPing and similarly painful big pressure oscillations from my childhood in '60s Fords (which were well used since I wasn't riding around in them 'til the '70s).

I'm guessing that with the raingutters and so forth, it was just consistently turbulent, and didn't change as much windows up or down. But I could be well wrong...

Travis_K SuperDork
June 12, 2011 2:27 a.m.

My w126 Mercedes is comfortable at 70mph with all 4 windows down, with just the fronts down it's a little annoying though, but still not bad.

jrw1621 SuperDork
June 12, 2011 2:35 a.m.

I do not remember whoomping back when these were standard procedure.

integraguy Dork
June 12, 2011 5:28 a.m.

I'm going to go with the "older designs weren't as aerodynamic, so the air passing your car's windows was MORE turbulent than today's cars"....argument.

In other words, is it noisier to sit next to a waterfall, or to sit next to a series of rapids?

As far as the "problem" with some of today's radios.....perhaps the problem with your "factory" radio was made worse by the "modern" antenna your car is stuck with?

Programming on today's radio stations (NOW there is a subject for discussion) compared to the programming on the radio in the '60s and '70s is a major reason why I have stopped listening to the radio, completely. The last radio in my car (before some lowlife ripped it out) had 6 FM pre-sets, and 5 AM presets....I only used 1. When I was travelling back and forth between Tn. and Fl. I wanted to be able to pick up a classic rock station in Fl. without having to "look" for it. Which brings up a gripe I have with today's radio designs: Why can't we have the simple knobs for tuning and volume like we used to?

Racer1ab Reader
June 12, 2011 7:05 a.m.

I get the same buffeting noise over 70 in my old ES300 when the back windows are down.

Mainly use the A/C definitely breaks the trend of weak Japanese air conditioners!

Toyman01 SuperDork
June 12, 2011 7:16 a.m.

My Roadmaster is almost silent with the windows down. You can actually talk to the passenger in a normal tone of voice. My wife's Venture, not so much. It's kind of deafening.

Zomby woof SuperDork
June 12, 2011 7:58 a.m.

My friends IROC Camaro used to make that noise with the windows down, on the highway. It felt like it was going to blow your er drums out. It was unbearable.

The radio in my Canyon has knobs, and gets the Toronto AM sports station without problems, and it's about 100 miles away. No complaints.

WilberM3 Dork
June 12, 2011 8:30 a.m.

i thought the radio in my TBSS was awesome. it was the first vehicle i've owned where i had absolutely zero inclination to upgrade anything. i'm longing for the AM reception of it now that i'm driving my new 93 325is DD which just terrible AM.

the sunroof of the TBSS however i never used. it'd buffet and make all kinds of turbulence noise. and the BMWs are all really quiet with the roof open, even on the highway theyre not bad.

stuart in mn SuperDork
June 12, 2011 8:32 a.m.

One thing you can try is playing with just how far the rear windows are opened - open them just a crack to start, then open them a little more at a time and you may find a sweet spot where the buffeting goes away.

I have a couple old cars myself, with kick panel vents and vent windows just like God intended. They are a lot better for moving air through the vehicle when you don't want to use the air conditioning.

93EXCivic SuperDork
June 12, 2011 8:44 a.m.

My Civic is fine with the windows open at highway speeds.

NGTD HalfDork
June 12, 2011 8:59 a.m.

My 97 Outback does not whoomp - I wonder if it is because of the way the back windows go down. It is odd, but they kind of rotate while going down.

92CelicaHalfTrac SuperDork
June 12, 2011 9:26 a.m.

None of my cars whoomp.

Her dad's Oldsmobile whoomps like crazy.

Rumnhammer Reader
June 12, 2011 9:35 a.m.

The Mazda 5 whoomps but only if you have the back windows down and the fronts up, with the fronts cracked or down, it goes away. I think it comes from the pressure difference like the air trying to be sucked out the back and other air trying to replace it???

mad_machine SuperDork
June 12, 2011 9:47 a.m.

it's the air pressure difference. I remember driving a Chevy TranSport van (the vacuum cleaner vans) for a radio station I worked for... you could not drive it with just the front windows open as it would pressurise and depressurize the cabin repeately with that "whomp whomp" sound.

now.. I have noticed something odd with new cars. Minivans still have windows in the rear you "prop" open (usually electrically operated) like older hatchbacks.. makes for a new flow through from front to rear with the windows open... New cars and SUVs don't have them.

As for BMWs with quiet sunroofs. I had pulled mine out of my Ti to do some headliner work and had to go somewhere. With JUST the big hole in the roof, it was extreamly painful. BMW does something wonderful with the mechanism of the sunroof itself to limit the buffetting to almost nothing

Clarty New Reader
June 12, 2011 9:57 a.m.

Thanks, fellas!

Actually, I have the WHOOMPing under control; it's just the regular wind noise that's deafening. Mrs & I can't even wave a civil conversation with the windas down.

The Passat has the dreadful Climatronic AC, although I doubt the knob-AC would allow any more fresh air into the cabin. It seems I have to use AC at any outside temp above 65--but then I do have a black leather interior. That explains alot, I suppose.

N Sperlo HalfDork
June 12, 2011 10:00 a.m.

This is why I like the flip around windows JRW was so nice as to share with us. As for radio, I havn't had many problems with reception, but if I ever do, I make my own antenna. I can even make incognito ones that lay across the rear dash. NO ONE WILL EVEN KNOW ITS THERE!

Sorry about the caps. I get excited when talking about antennas.

T.J. SuperDork
June 12, 2011 10:14 a.m.

First gen Honda Fits will make your head explode with front windows up and back windows down at anything over 45 mph.

I have two older cars sans AC and as such frequently drive them with the windows down. Neither is especially quiet, but the opening vent windows are something that should come back from a functional standpoint.

aussiesmg SuperDork
June 12, 2011 11:20 a.m.

2011 Elantra is bad with front window down and rears up, but if I open rears a couple of inches and raise front a couple it goes away completely.

I have a theory that the newer cars are trying to be max fuel efficient, we all know opening the windows removes efficiency, so the factories ignored or didn't test for this so called "WHOMP" effect.

Twin_Cam SuperDork
June 12, 2011 11:24 a.m.

The thing I hate about windows down on the highway- getting "buffeted" in the side of the head by gusts. It's awful. Your hat blows off, your sunglasses get pushed around on your face, you can't see out of your left eye momentarily, and get slightly deafened. Just about every car I've ever driven has this problem. Except for my Saturn coupe- I attribute it to the long doors, and therefore longer windows. More surface area open, and that lowers the pressure of the incoming air.

And about the radios in modern cars- why would you want them to work? It's not like there's anything good on the radio anymore. It's all one big national radio station that plays Top 40 garbage, with occasional modern "country" music garbage thrown in.

Clarty New Reader
June 12, 2011 3:20 p.m.
Twin_Cam wrote: And about the radios in modern cars- why would you want them to work? It's not like there's anything good on the radio anymore. It's all one big national radio station that plays Top 40 garbage, with occasional modern "country" music garbage thrown in.

For the most part I agree. But we haveDale Siegfried, the Vinyl King!

Raze Dork
June 12, 2011 4:09 p.m.

get a car that goes topless and it shouldn't be as big a deal

mad_machine SuperDork
June 12, 2011 5:19 p.m.

things that go topless are good

June 13, 2011 11:51 p.m.
N Sperlo wrote: This is why I like the flip around windows JRW was so nice as to share with us. As for radio, I havn't had many problems with reception, but if I ever do, I make my own antenna. I can even make incognito ones that lay across the rear dash. NO ONE WILL EVEN KNOW ITS THERE! Sorry about the caps. I get excited when talking about antennas.

Do tell! The antenna in my daily is pathetic. I've installed a powered booster and I think the placebo affect has long worn off.

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