You could probably win a bar bet with your buddies by asking them what was the first production car equipped with power windows. They'll probably never guess that it was the '41 Packard 180, which used an electric motor to power hydraulic cylinders. Lost Packard drivers having to ask for directions from passing strangers could minimize their shame by miraculously lowering the passenger-side window without having to stretch across the seat to turn the window crank.
By the late '50s, fully electric power windows on were a factory option on practically every car rolling out of Detroit (on the '59 Chevy Impala, it was factory-installed option number 426). Even so, many of the cars being built as street rods, customs, and street cruisers probably came off the assembly line with old-fashioned, manually operated cranks windows.
Making the switch to electric power windows is one of the most popular and simplest upgrades, and the advantage of power windows appeals to even traditionally minded rodders. Whether you're raising it up to keep out the rain, or dropping it down to let in some fresh air or to ask a stranger for directions (just kidding), tapping a switch at your side is easier (and sometimes safer) than reaching for that crank handle.
The original owner of the AMSOIL/Street Rodder Road Tour '59 Impala neglected to order option 426 when he bought the car. Fortunately, his mistake can be fixed with an aftermarket power window kit.
We were at Hot Rods by Dean, where the Impala was built, to photograph the installation of a kit from Specialty Power Windows. The Georgia-based company has been around for almost 30 years. They manufacture a variety of complete and partial kits for many popular post-war GM and Ford car and truck applications, in addition to Ford Model As, Tall Ts, and a universal kit. SPW's complete two-window Power Wonder Lift kit (PN PWL-2C) was selected for the Impala. Also known at the Street Rod Kit, this cable-driven GM motor kit includes everything you need: regulators, lower glass channel, GM switches, switch and motor plugs, wire harness, hardware, installation templates, and a stainless steel wire conduit kit for the doorjamb openings, along with printed and DVD installation instructions (not to mention a helpful tech support crew back in Georgia, reachable by phone or email).
The printed instructions that come with the Universal kit include illustrations of an early style full-frame door as opposed to the Impala's hardtop door with no upper window frame. The installation procedure is generally the same. Although the PWL 2C kit is universal, it is designed to provide a custom fit for your vehicle. Modification to the doors is minimal—basically just a few mounting holes and slots in the case of our '59 Impala application.
Wes from Hot Rods by Dean finished installing the Classic Industries garnish molding on the AMSOIL/STREET RODDER Road Tour ’59 Chevy. SoffSeal supplied the weatherstrips and seals. ARP supplied fasteners
1. Electric power windows would provide Road Tour leader Jerry Dixey the luxury of lowering and raising the door windows with the touch of a switch. We used Universal kit PWL-2C from Specialty Power Windows. The system uses a GM-style motor and a vertical track designed to minimize window tilting, and is easily modified for a custom fit.
2. With the window glass in the full down position, Dru from HRBD marked the location of the bottom of the glass onto the door, and then removed the glass.
3. The Power Wonder Lift kit comes with a paper template, which is dropped into the door to the mark made in the previous step. The template is marked at the edge of the door, as shown, to measure the window glass travel from completely lowered to completely raised. Installation instructions call for adding 3/8 inch for adjustment.
4. The paper template is cut, and used to determine the needed length of the regulator. This is how SPW ensures a custom fit for every application.
5. The vertical arm of the regulator is cut to the correct length as determined by the template.
6. The end cap/upstop from the upper edge of the regulator is reinstalled at the "new" upper edge. If the regulator is cut across on of the vertical slots, the end cap bolt will fit in that slot. In this case, a bolt hole needed to be drilled
7. The regulator should be positioned at the center of the window glass (the kit allows for adjustment). The door length was measured to figure out the correct spot.
8. The regulator will be mounted on the inner doorskin. The cut paper template is used again to determine the best mounting points for the regulator along the center line. The regulator will be bolted to the door through the vertical slots.
9. Mounting holes are drilled in the door. The kit includes three-sided square flanged mounting brackets (shown on the left in photo 1). These brackets can be welded or bolted to the inner door to provide stronger upper and lower mounting surfaces for the regulator. Horizontal slots in the brackets allow for more adjustment. Once in place, the bracket flanges can be removed.
10. Glass-setting tape is provided with the kit. The tape is cut to the length of the lower glass channel and adhered to the glass.
11. The lower channel is carefully fitted onto the window glass.
12. The regulator is assembled, using lithium grease on all rollers and slice channels. Dru is pointing to one of the nylon mounting balls that must be added to each end of the slotted tubes and fastened with cotter pins. The tubes are mounted on the lift bars. This design offers flexibility and prevents binding as the glass raises and lowers.
13. When the whole assembly, including glass, is installed in the door, this is what it will look like. But first the regulator must be mounted and the glass attached. While somebody holds the glass in place, the regulator assembly is installed through the doorskin opening.
14. The regulator is fastened to the door along the center line, and the channel holding the glass is situated properly on the lift bar and fastened. The flanged mounting brackets would be located at the upper and lower mounting points, but had not yet been installed when we were there.
15. In addition to wiring harnesses and switches, and wiring diagrams, the kit comes with stainless steel flexible wiring conduits (and bushings and grommets) for running the wires through the doorjambs and hinge pillars.
16-17. The Specialty Power Windows kit comes with an aluminum GM-style double-button driver-side switch and single-button passenger-side switch. SPW also offers a variety of round and oval bezels.