What really is a "moonroof?"

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | May 01, 1991

Dear Tom and Ray:

My husband and I are in the midst of a serious domestic dispute that only the two of you can help resolve!! He recently purchased a car with a hole cut in the roof. He maintains that it's a "moonroof" because it's made of metal and looks like part of the car when closed. He said that if it were made of glass and fully removable, it would be a "sunroof." I think that a sunroof is what you get with an economy car, and a moonroof is what you get with a luxury car. Who's right?

TOM: Actually Linda, neither one of you is right. A retractable metal roof has always been called a sunroof. The idea was that you could open it on nice days and let the sun in. That's what your husband has.

RAY: And since it's not usually sunny at night, and therefore not as warm, sunroofs rarely saw action in the evening...so the moon wasn't even a factor.

TOM: At least until glass roofs came on the market. Then the name "moonroof" was selected. Why? Well, for one thing, they weren't sunroofs, so they had to be called something else. But they had two other advantages. First, glass roofs allowed you to see the moon at night without letting in all that cold air. And second, moonroofs allowed you to enjoy the sun OR moon without the threat of errant bird droppings (an advantage that should not be underrated).

RAY: The problem with the early moonroofs was that they let TOO MUCH sun in. On sunny days, the rays poured in with such intensity that they would melt your Wayne Newton eight track tapes.

TOM: So the engineers in Detroit came up with a solution. They installed a sliding shade underneath the moonroof (sort of like the shade on an airplane window). The shade allowed you to completely block out the light (like a closed sunroof) or expose the glass and see the stars (like a moonroof).

RAY: So that's the story in a nutshell, Linda. Now I hope you'll be able to enjoy the rest of your honeymoon (we know you're on your honeymoon, because if this is what you call a serious domestic dispute, you obviously haven't been married very long).

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