Honouring the Humble Moonroof

Moonroof, Sunroof, Panoramic Roof, Skylight, Fold-a-Vent, Vista Panel, Flip-open Air-lid, Hole-o-Matic, Ceiling-B-Gone, whatever you want to call the big gap above your head, it’s a sure-fire invitation for water to get all intimate with the inner cavities of your car’s roof, meaning rust from the inside out, stained and saggy headlining and interior lighting that goes all disco-frenetic.
These disappearing roof sections have taken a dive in popularity over recent years; people see climate control as an alternative to letting the outside in. To me, though, nothing compares to a good old fashioned sunroof. Comment below to join me in worshipping at the altar of the tilt ‘n slide roof orifice.

Returning from my grandmother’s house, where Project Audinary currently sits among bits of its own engine in a state of partial apocalypse, I drove my favourite local road. The evening sky was clear, there was a big moon and the heater was set all toasty. I wound my sunroof back (electrically, of course) and  dropped my rear widows a smidge to counter buffeting. With the stereo off I could hear that Austin Rover KV6 song bouncing off the scenery.
The way my seat is set up my head sits just under the trailing edge of the sunroof. As I drive I can see the stars in my peripheral vision as if I’m driving some wonderful 825 convertible, and until I find myself drunk, in possession of an 825 coupé and a Sawzall, such a thing will never exist.
Furthermore, despite mine having been manufactured by an English firm in the late ’90s, thus far (touch wood) it hasn’t leaked or rusted.
So praise be the Moonroof. Or the Sunroof. Or whatever.
(Images, including the astonishing night-shot above, copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse, 2015)

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  1. Tanshanomi Avatar

    As somebody who started having carcinomas removed before I turned 50, I prefer to invite in the fresh air in exactly the opposite manner.

  2. david42 Avatar

    It’s quite the opposite in the US: the moonroof is becoming ever more popular. I guess because a/c was pretty common since the 1970s, the moonroof never served the same practical purpose as in European cars. But these days all cars are getting plusher, and a moonroof is one of the little toys that everyone treats themselves to.

  3. Feds Avatar

    Bitch I might:

    Seriously though, it is an option I’ll happily spring for, not just for those days when it’s just-right degrees out and you can roll it back and enjoy some fresh air, but more for how much they brighten up an interior. The Delica (that’s not mine pictured above) has 5, and the Grand Vitara has one as well. They feel like different cars with the shades pulled back.

  4. SawdustTX Avatar

    Yes! I’ve had a sunroof in each of my last three cars (Buick. Lexus, Cadillac) and won’t ever be without one! Love the fresh air, ability to look up at rain, clouds, stars, and planes, and the extra light even when the glass is closed. I literally never close the cloth shade, and use the sunroof fully open frequently. Never had one leak and all three of these cars were purchased with nearly 100K miles and driven far beyond that. The one on the Buick did have an issue – would hang up about 1/2″ from closed. Got it repaired, and the tech suggested I shouldn’t use it much, to which I said “impossible”. Used it frequently for 3 more years with no issues.
    Here are my favorite sunroof modes:
    Convertible Simulation – sunroof full open and all windows open
    Feel the Wind – sunroof full open and driver side rear window open
    Breezy – sunroof full open and passenger side rear window open
    Smell the fresh air – sunroof full open, all windows closed
    Cold or Hot days – sunroof cracked about 3 inches, fingers in the wind
    Someone lets me in – sunroof cracked, waving hand
    Venting hot air or offensive odors – sunroof in vent mode, front windows slightly cracked

  5. PotbellyJoe★★★★★ Avatar

    My favorite Moonroof was the gigantic one in the Toyota Sequoia. It had to be 3′ by 4′. It was huge in a time before panoramic roof options.
    Comfy seats, very large side windows and an electronic roll-down rear window, you could get a lot of wind through a full-size SUV.
    I recommend anyone on this board to go to their nearest Used car dealer that has a Sequoia Limited or SR5 from 2001-2007 and see what the huge thing was all about.
    Very underrated truck.

    1. Krautwursten Avatar

      Opening tailgate windows, roll-down or flip-up, mechanical or powered alike, are an awesome feature I’d love to see making a return on station wagons. It’s nice and dandy that you can still get them on some SUVs, but SUVs are just so gawd dang monstrous these days.

  6. Vavon Avatar

    Panoramic glass sunroof of a Peugeot 205: Great.
    Canvas sunroof of a Renault Twingo: Even better.
    Roll-back canvas sunroof of a 2CV: Simply the best!

    1. crank_case Avatar

      Panoramic 205 sunroof, perfect for dropping a load of rainwater on your passenger at the first sharp corner after heavy rain because the drain holes have gotten blocked…again.

  7. Scoff Law Avatar
    Scoff Law

    The last two cars I have owned have come equipped with a moon roof and while I don’t open it very often, I certainly enjoy the benefit of additional daylight coming in on those grey winter days.

  8. JayP Avatar

    The first new car I bought was a factory order. The salesman said I really needed to get the sunroof option if I ever wanted to sell the car since “you really can’t unload a car without a sunroof.” Of course I bought it. My Beetle, Audis, Subarus all had sunroofs.
    None of the vehicles I have now have roof openings. Lower CG and more headroom for a helmet. Racecar.

  9. salguod Avatar

    The only option I really wish my Mazda3 had.
    I got to drive my daughter’s Protege yesterday in the beautiful mid 40s sunshine and I delighted in having her sunroof open.

  10. mdharrell Avatar

    “…despite mine having been manufactured by an English firm….”
    I know the feeling. My Maestro has a factory sunroof. It doesn’t leak. It opens. It closes. It doesn’t leak. I don’t understand.

    1. Vavon Avatar

      Where is that sunroof you’re talking about???

      1. Kiefmo Avatar

        In my experience, sunroof = metal panel and moonroof = glass.
        So, sunroofs are more subtle in appearance.

        1. mdharrell Avatar

          Regrettably that’s the best shot of its roof I have on hand. The rear seam of the all-metal retractable panel is just barely visible, although from this angle it looks very much like a reflection.

    2. Vairship Avatar

      Reliability = factory defect? 😉

  11. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    Well yes, the sunroof on my Rover 820 only gave trouble when a faulty alternator blew all the electrics and then I found out how long it took to manually wind it closed, using that little key that hides beside the switch.Since the new fuses it is stunningly/boringly reliable.
    I always assumed that the moonroof had started out as a Honda part. It’s reliability comes from it not being British at all, but Japanese.

  12. Krautwursten Avatar

    Ever since I went on numerous international vacations as a child in my parents’ minivan with -seperate- front and rear passenger moonroofs, they’ve become one of the be-all end-all comfort features on cars to me, even more so in recent years when I started appreciating their mechanical elaboration and endless variety of mechanisms. With that said here’s a toast to blue skies, sunshine and a nice breeze.

  13. neight428 Avatar

    Around these parts, we rather prefer the shade. Having your noggin mere inches from glass that is perpetually exposed to the brutal sun is a significant negative.

  14. P161911 Avatar

    For those of us over 6 ft. tall, these contraptions manage to steal 3-4″ of valuable headroom.

  15. SlowJoeCrow Avatar

    I live in the Pacific Northwest, so I refer to them as Overcast Roofs.

  16. Citric Avatar

    I’ve got one of those giant panoramic sunroofs, and they’re the best when it’s not that warm, because you get a lovely greenhouse effect. It’s less lovely on an actual hot day, when if I forget to close the sunshade it feels kind of like my seats are on fire.

  17. needthatcar Avatar

    Pilfer my headroom
    Invite the rain, cold, and rust
    Worthless waste, sunroof.

  18. Mr. Ollivander Avatar
    Mr. Ollivander

    They are a joy of driving. My only regret is waiting so long for my first vehicle with one.

  19. Top-dead-centre Avatar

    Volvo makes a typically Volvo moonroof and installs it in many of their cars, especially for the US market. My 850 Turbo wagon had one. My V70R had one. My new-to-me XC70T6 has one. They open, they close, they don’t leak.
    Since convertible station wagons are nonexistent (can anyone find one with a functioning top online?), the moonroofs satisfy my need for cargo capacity and my love of open-roof driving.
    By the way, the best marketing name for a sunroof/moonroof is the old Cadillac ASTRO-ROOF! They needed a big name for a big feature, and nothing is bigger than outer space!