Even though a few cartoon dwarfs made it okay to whistle while you work, having your muscle car whistle while you drive is not cool. The initial design of the Chevelle featured vent windows, a common staple of just about all vehicles at the time. The introduction of the ’70 model saw the end of the vent window when it came to Chevelles. The El Camino siblings were a little slower in the design change and kept them until ’72. While the vent window assemblies made it very convenient to quickly blast the interior with fresh air, as they aged and the seals dried up they allowed for air and water leaks. Water leaks are not only annoying, but they help facilitate rust. The other issue—and one that can drive you insane—are the little air leaks that whistle when you get up to speed.
Luckily these are annoyances you don’t have to live with thanks to aftermarket companies like National Parts Group (NPD). NPD offers just about everything you could need to restore your muscle car, including all the components for a vent window refurbishing, right down to the glass. NPD has warehouses and stores located in North Carolina, Michigan, Florida, and (where we will be doing the work) California. We received our parts in two days without adding a rush or overnight shipping.
It’s a good thing NPD offers all these parts because our subject is a freshly painted ’69 El Camino that not only has dried out rubber goods, but completely missing vent glass. We have been to a lot of shows over the years and have seen many restored cars with unrestored vent windows. Since we had a willing subject and knew the information needed to get out, we figured it was high time to do this story. Now you can stop whistling.
1. Here are the seals and such we ordered from NPD to make our assemblies factory fresh and leak-free. The vent window seals consist of two parts: the large V-shaped piece and the straight strip with the little tabs. The glass, which is offered in clear and green tints, is cut to the factory shape and has the proper curvature to fit in the framework. The roll of fuzzy stuff will run down a channel and provide the seal for the door glass itself.
2. The entire assembly needs to be out of the car for the job. Instead of showing you pulling it from the car, just reverse the installation later for guidance. As you can see our assembly is so worn out the glass and V shaped seal are totally missing.
3. The fuzzy rubber piece that goes along the back of the vent window assembly or run channel will simply peel out.
4. Now the vent window glass framework needs to be separated from the assembly so the V-shaped rubber seal can be removed, if it’s still intact that is. The hinge is welded to the glass framework, then pop riveted to the main assembly. The pop rivets need to be drilled out—a long drill bit will make this a little easier.
15. Last seal on the vent window side of things is this vertical piece. As you can see the seal features small tabs that line up with holes along the assembly. There is a right and a left but NPD molds in an R and L into the part that makes figuring that out much easier.
5. With the hinge free, the vent window frame needs to be rotated to line up a small tab on the pivot post with a notch in the main assembly for it to slide out. We will show you what we are talking in a couple steps.
16. The V-shaped seal has an area made to accept the straight piece so we made sure it was seated properly before moving on.
6. Now that the framework is out we can move onto installing the new V-shaped rubber seal. The seal pops into the assembly and a little lubricant and a plastic tool helps get it done. We found it best to start with the corner and then work out towards each end.
7. Here is a closer look at how the rubber engages the assembly. One side goes right in, and then the tool will help pop in the other side.
8. The rubber needs to line up with three points on the assembly. The two ends need to line up with the ends of the seal channel and the last line up point is this hole that the pivot post feeds into.
9. Remember the tabs and notch we spoke about earlier? Well, here are the tabs on the pivot post. These tabs are there to set the proper up and down alignment of the vent window in the assembly.
10. Here is the notch. The vent window needs to be rotated to line up the tabs and notch as the post is slipped into the hole. One tab will stay above the hole while the other needs to be below it. Once the vent window is rotated the tabs will be away from the notch and in turn lock the vent window from moving up and down.
11. Once the vent window framework is back in the assembly, the hinge is reattached with new pop rivets. As you can see we needed to unseat a portion of the rubber seal to access the holes.
12. We don’t want the rivets to interfere with anything so we’re going to flatten them out to make sure they don’t. To properly flatten out a rivet, the mandrel or center needs to be driven out first. The piece of the mandrel that breaks off will work perfectly as a drift to knock out the rest.
13. Once the mandrel piece is out we backed one side with a chunk of metal and then pounded down the other side. That left us with a nice flat rivet that will still hold everything together without interfering with anything.
14. After all that we could go back and reseat the rubber seal.
17. With the seal properly in place, we came back and bent the little tabs over to lock it in.
18. The window run channel felt is next and this is pretty straightforward to install. It simply unrolls and stuffs into the channel.
19. Typically the glass is installed with a strip of butyl that needs to be purchased from your local glass shop. As things sometimes go, we forgot to pick some up before the day of the shoot. Our glass shops were closed, so we need to pull out our best MacGyver impersonation and use some black gaffers tape. If you have the correct butyl strip the process will be the same except you will only need one layer. We had to apply four layers of tape to the edge of the glass to get it to the correct thickness to take up the slack between the glass and the frame.
20. We carefully persuaded the clear glass into the frame with a rubber mallet. This is not a time to get impatient use light taps with the hammer until the glass fully seats in the frame.
21. Then we came back with a razor blade and cut off the excess tape.
22. The freshly rebuilt vent window assembly can now go back into the car. The run channel will feed down into the door, but it has to be rotated 45-degrees so the lower adjustment stud can go in.
23. Once the stud is down inside the door the assembly is rotated correctly.
24. And then pushed up against the doorframe.
25. There are three very short Phillips screws that go through the doorframe and into the vent window assembly.
26. This small bracket bolts to the doorframe and serves two purposes. The bolt goes through a hole in the vent window assembly and threads into the door itself, but its not tightened just yet. Tightening this will draw the door together closing the gap in the sheetmetal and sealing up against the vent window rubber. The tab sticking up is what the door panel will snap onto.
27. This little screw needs to be installed before the bolt is completely tightened to keep the bracket from moving.
28. Now the regulator for the vent window is fed into the door. The regulator has a hole in it that matches the pivot post and once its been slipped over the post and the bolts installed will open the vent window when the window crank is turned.
29. The rear track needs to be unbolted to allow the door glass to come back enough to let the vent window assembly come out and why we are now messing with it. The door glass is rolled all the way up and the rear track brought up tight. Then the nut is tightened.
30. Then the glass is rolled down and the lower adjustment of the channel is brought up tight against the glass and tightened.
31. There you have it folks, the ins-and-outs of vent window rebuilding. Now not only does this El Camino have all its glass, it doesn’t leak water when being washed, or whistle while being driven.