Top Gear’s Top 9: the iconic side vent edition

By topgear, 19 October 2019

Ferrari 288 GTO

Three simple vents in a very pretty car’s rear haunch. Nothing overly arty, nothing gimmicky, just some strakes, and yet the 288 GTO’s triplet of vents are something approaching automotive art.

Mercedes 300 SL

What’s better than one metal strake across your vent? That’s right, two. The 300SL’s side vents allowed air to escape from the engine bay cradling the 3.0-litre straight-six. And they were copied not just by the McLaren-Mercedes SLR, but the SLS AMG ‘Gullwing’ too.

BMW E46 M3

Ahh, remember the glory days when BMW made handsome cars instead of godawful overwrought eyesores with grilles inspired by a drunken bet?

It’s getting harder to recall the glory days with every new release, so take a while to admire the perfectly proportioned E46 BMW M3, and its extremely tasteful (and rather small) vent just aft of the front wheel. Perfection.

(Click HERE to read about our drive in the legendary E46 M3 CSL)

Nissan R35 GT-R

The GT-R’s a brutal-looking thing – and few cars designed that went on sale in 2007 have remained looking this fresh. The profile is defined by that big, bluff vent ahead of the door. Draw just that simple line and most car folks will recognise it as Godzilla.

Range Rover L322

The old Range Rover’s vents were too iconic for their own good. When Land Rover replaced this fabulous generation of Rangie, it moved the engine’s air intakes higher up, to increase the wading depth. Great – except the car no longer needed gills in the front wing. So instead, fake ones were added… to the doors. We’ve got used to it.

Maserati Quattroporte

The triplet of porthole vents on the flank of the Quattroporte were hardly going to be much use for aerodynamics, but as a tasteful flourish on one of the coolest supersedans of recent years, you can’t fault ‘em.

Aston Martin DB5

Plenty of Astons have had an interpretation of the famous ‘hole with a bit of metal stuck across it’ but the DB5 is the most iconic Aston Martin so it gets the honours here. Simple, elegant, and look, not a single machine-gun poking out of the side.

Ford Mustang Fastback

So far we’ve only celebrated functional vents. That’s because fake vents are pathetic, a scourge in car design that we must tirelessly rally against.

‘Course, there’s an exception to every rule, and that rule is the rear-three-quarter window slats seen on the early Ford Mustang Fastback. As useful as a chocolate teapot, but oh-so-cool.

Dodge Viper

Everything about the design of the original Viper was raw and uncompromising. No roof. No windows. No door handles. And giant, gaping holes forward of the doors. Small wonder, with an 8.0-litre V10 doing the business in the nose. And by the way, only 400bhp from eight litres? How did they manage that?

STORY Ollie Kew

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