Ever seen those cylinders wedged onto windows of classic cars? This Americana expert explains how they work.

Americana expert and TikTok user @TheeTravisB uploaded videos earlier this week explaining how car coolers (A.K.A. portable swamp coolers) work. Travis uses a Thermador-branded car cooler and, while there are other brands, they all work using the same principle.

Check out his videos below and, if TikTok is no longer hosting videos, I’ve shared it on Twitter, too.


Reply to @zanehuff1989 I wanted this for yearrrs before I got one for my truck. Enjoy ? ##1950gmc ##retrotok ##GetTheLook ##vintagevibes

♬ original sound – Travie

Reply to @theonlyfaizan mines fully functional , it’s about being period correct, not efficiency. ##1950gmc ##retrotiktok ##getthelook

♬ original sound – Travie

Swamp coolers, or evaporative coolers use a science principle called the enthalpy of vaporization. Water and other liquids can absorb a lot of heat energy before it’s converted into gas. As air passes over a liquid, heat from the air is absorbed by the water and you’re left with cooler, moisture-laden air. If the air already has a lot of moisture, like in humid climates, this cooling property is less effective.

As the videos show, these car coolers are mini-swamp coolers powered by moving air rushing past your car. While Travis only uses distilled water, you technically could fill the reservoir up with ice-cold Red Bull and it’d have the same effect. Ants might invade your sponge, afterward, but, you get the picture.

Also, you really don’t need to mount these on classic cars. If you don’t care what people think, you can mount one on a 2020 Honda Civic and it’d work just the same.

As Air-Conditioning became a must-have and standard in cars made in the ’60s and afterwards, these car coolers became obsolete. That’s why no one’s making them anymore.

I imagine, with rapid prototyping and 3D printing, someone’s probably already made replicas of this technology of a bygone era with lighter materials.

If you want, you can scour classic car swap meets for one, offer to buy one from someone who owns one, or, buy one on eBay. Can you believe they fetch around $500 for one in OK condition?

If you spy one at a garage sale, scoop it up A.S.A.P!

Swamp coolers are one of those accessories that looks cooler than it works and is probably the main reason anyone mounts them on their restored classics today.

It’s a reminder that, while motoring is a convenience, we still want to be as comfortable as possible doing it.


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