Vintage Ad Tropes: People Standing in Sunroofs

The germination for our next trope came from some comments made on my sliding sunroof history post a while back. To draw attention to the then-new sliding sunroof, advertisers would frequently pose models standing through the sunroof, as if to say “Hey lookie here! There is a hole in the roof!”

The problem with this trope becomes evident once you think about it. For starters, what practical reason would someone actually need to do this? Well find out it the images below, but spoiler alert: They are all pretty contrived.

The sunroof of most cars lines up with the seatback of the front seat, and not the footwell, and is not really intended to be stood through. In order to do so, you have to assume one of the following contorted positions:

  1. Stand on the seat cushion, which is designed for sitting, not standing. (Please remove your shoes first)
  2. Sit on the seatback which again is not designed to be sat on.
  3. Kneel on the seat cushion, which means only your head and shoulders can protrude through the sunroof opening.

The ad for this 1973 Dodge Dart Sport neatly demonstrates two of these positions, even going so far as to provide a diagram to show how it is done. The lady on the line drawing is standing on the seat, while the one in the lower photo appears to be sitting on the seatback. The car also happens to be parked on a ski slope, a trope that will be covered in a future installment.


This 1960 Thunderbird ad shows a model presumably kneeling on the seat cushion.


This next 1960 Thunderbird Ad left me speechless. Why, pray tell, is the woman (wearing a full-length mink coat) standing through an open sunroof, filming a US Marine ceremony? An overly proud (and well-heeled) mother who is also too lazy to get out of the car and walk?


This 1969 Thunderbird ad features a double exposure: Not one, but two pictures of sticking out the sunroof, sitting on the seatback in this case.


Much like the 1969 Thunderbird, Cadillac leaned into its sunroof option in a big way in 1970. It was clear the advertisers had no idea what to do with the sunroof other than stand someone through it, as demonstrated in the next several ads. For the ad above, it would seem that they are trying to imply some sort of association with skiing, but I’m not sure what that has to do with standing through your sunroof.


The next ad shows a gentleman carrying a horse saddle, while the woman in the sunroof is holding what appears to be an equestrian helmet. Again, I’m not sure what any of this has to do with standing through your sunroof. Maybe sitting on a seatback perched through the sunroof opening is a little bit like riding a horse? Having never done either activity, I really wouldn’t know.


The final Cadillac ad for 1970: Look – three open sunroofs! And someone sitting on the seatback sticking their head out, in case you somehow missed it. By the way, did we forget to mention the sunroof?


Here we see a woman kneeling on the seat, looking out through the open sunroof in her 1972 LTD for no particular reason. As silly as it seems, this is probably actually better than trying to contrive a bizarre scene, as Cadillac did earlier.


Another trope two-fer! Someone standing through an open sunroof on this 1974 Plymouth Duster, while parked on a golf course! All that is missing is the swimming pool.

This trope seems to have mostly died off by the mid-1970s as people have gotten used to the concept of a sunroof, just like you don’t see people standing in open convertibles to call attention to the fact that there is no roof.