Does Window Tint Ever Belong On Classic Cars?
Living in sunny Southern California, you’d be amazed how many classic automobiles are puttering around beach towns, and why not? The temperate year-round climate is the perfect atmosphere to endlessly savor your classic wheels of choice. But, all this sunlight can get things toasty—and, with most vintage autos lacking air-conditioning—there aren’t many inexpensive alternatives to keep things less sweaty.
Which is probably why I come across so many classic automobiles with various shades of window tint. Of these out-and-about drivers, most of them are plastered with film that simply looks out of place (especially when it’s of the 20-year-old bubbling purple variety). Admittedly, I’ve never been a fan of a darkened greenhouse, regardless of the vehicle’s age or type, but I find tint on older cars to be dreadful. My dislike for tint is as much of an “OCD tick” as it is a personal preference.
Allow me to clarify.
You prefer a vehicle with color-matched body panels, right? Well, I’ve viewed glass in the same light, so to speak: all of it should be of the same transparency. I need uniformity in my cars. If the windshield is 100% clear, the rest of the windows should be as well. If the windshield is equipped with a limo-spec 5%, the rest of the windows should be, too.
Except: that essentially eliminates all visibility, looks ridiculous, and will get you pulled over within minutes of driving. (And don’t get me started on convertibles with the top down and tinted windows up…) For me, nothing irks me more than when the rear pieces of glass are tinted but the fronts remain untreated. I know my logic isn’t universal, and that I’m likely the odd-one-out on this subject.
But if you are like me, I do have a suggestion. A couple years ago, I purchased my very first BMW—a heat absorbing black-on-black ‘99 M3. The rear ¾ had old 30% tint, which I promptly removed. After a few weeks of “fishbowling,” I came to the conclusion I no longer wanted to condition my leather via perspiration—something had to be done. I really didn’t want tint, but I needed to keep the cabin cooler and wanted to protect the leather as well. It was looking as if tint was my only option.
While researching reputable tint manufacturers, I discovered UV film, also referred to as “clear tint” or film. Initially, I was skeptical of the product but after finding claims of 99% harmful UV blockage and up to a 60% heat reduction, it sounded worth a shot. Best of all, the stuff is nearly completely transparent. Most tint shops now stock several brands of the stuff and it’s a similar cost to traditional tint. Another bonus, applying UV film to your windshield is legal in most states—uniformity at last (you have no idea what joy this brought me)!
When I dropped the car off at the shop, I was surprised to see how many classics were getting clear film, including a lovely Porsche 356. I opted to have all six pieces of glass done in 80% UV film, and it’s one of the best modifications I’ve made to the car. My cabin is significantly cooler, my fair skin is getting the sunblock it desperately needs, the interior materials are staying fresh, and: it doesn’t look tinted. In fact, when I tell people about the stuff, they’re shocked my Munich Machine has anything applied to the windows.
Needless to say, I’m so impressed with the stuff, I plan on installing UV film on my classic cars as well. It protects cabin materials, blocks harmful sunrays, and you don’t have to hide your nostalgic auto’s classy interior—what’s not to love?
Photography by: Laurent Nivalle, Afshin Behnia, Maxim Gurianov, Fedrico Bajetti, & David Marvier