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Old Volkswagen Beetles Used Spare Tires to Clean the Windshield

The ingenuity of humans have led to some crazy but effective ideas. Cars nowadays have automatic windshield washers that spray the glass with water or some other cleaning fluid while the wipers dry them away. But back in the 1960s, that was too much of a luxury for car manufacturers. Volkswagen was faced with the same predicament.

Initially, VW installed a hand pump in their Beetle model that would manually spray the fluid on the windshield. But it was too tedious for people to use so instead they used something else that they already had: the spare tire.

Old VW windshield washers work by using the air pressure of the spare tire.
Yes, the spare tire! Personally, I think this is one of the most clever hacks in all of motoring. 99% of that spare tire’s life it’s doing nothing but taking up room in your trunk. VW put that tire to work, providing pressure to clean your windshield for, essentially, free.

(Image credit: Jalopnik)


In the early 1980s I had a 1963 Rambler Classic --a beautiful car, full-width bench seat, 3-speed manual transmission, one-barrel carburetor the size of a 3-way lightbulb, four manual side windows and two cigaret-air flip vents, recent turquoise-aqua Earl Scheib paint job. Maybe 25 miles-per-gallon and a giant 20-plus-gallon gas tank, so a month between fillups, and all the critical rust was structural, none of it apparent unless you opened the hood or got underneath or hit a bump. The whole car was just $200, right off the lot. Among its charming features were the windshield wipers that had no electric motor but instead an air-piston like a tiny screen-door opener with a rubber hose that went to a valve on the dashboard and then to a nipple either on the intake manifold or on the very bottom of the carburetor. So when you pulled the valve open the wipers would wipe back and forth at a speed dependent on manifold vacuum. Idling was slowest, and you could speed the wipers up momentarily by gunning the motor, which you were doing anyway because if you turned the wipers on at idle the engine wanted to stall, and it was raining, so.

I drove it for a year until every essential part of it broke down. Even dead the car was beautiful. The neighbor offered me $500 for it. I said, "Are you sure?" "Yeah. Here." He pushed it next to his barn, and he and his wife would go out and sit in it and talk about things.

That's the thing about Ramblers. My current employer used to fly, so he kept cheap old cars with a fresh battery in them in all the little airports nearby the places he had to be. When for health reasons he stopped flying he sold the cars off, including a middle-sixties Rambler Ambassador. A man came all the way from Texas and bought that car and took it away on a trailer to fix up like new because it was identical to the car he and his wife first had sex in back when they were in high school. I just think that's so sweet.
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