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The History of Car Window Tint and Tinted Windows

How Window Tinting Has Provided Cooling and Convenience Through the Years

You might think car window tinting is a relatively new feature in the world of automotive customization, but the slick, shaded glass you see on cars today is the result of literally centuries of development. So the next time you slip into your cool car on a hot summer day, thank the UV-blocking film on your windows as well as the innovators through history who made it happen.

Car window tinting from 3000 B.C. to 1300 A.D.

No, you didn’t read those dates wrong. The earliest known tinted glass originated in ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian cultures, which developed processes for tinting and coloring glass for beads and decorative pots. Around 100 A.D., Romans began using clear glass for windows, and by the medieval period in Europe and the Middle East, the process for coloring glass by adding metallic oxide powders was widely used to make stained glass windows for palaces, churches, and mosques.

Car window tinting from 1940 to 1960

The invention of automobiles in the early 20th century forever changed the world of transportation, but cars didn’t proliferate across the consumer landscape until the post-war period. As more and more people included cars in their daily lives, they also began to notice how temperature and glare from the sun were magnified through glass. It was only a matter of time before EZ Eye, one of the first car window tinting manufacturers in the US, introduced factory window tint in a few car models, including the popular ’58 Chevy Impala.

Car window tinting from 1960 to 1966

Because car window tinting was only available from auto manufacturers, a small industry of DIY window tint installers started to crop up. Spray-on tinting was the most popular alternative car window tint, but the result was a dark and often uneven shading that was difficult to install and prone to streaking. Some rudimentary dye-based window films were also introduced around this time; however, not only did they have a tendency to turn purple and bubble in the sun, they would also absorb heat into the car instead of reflecting it away. Yikes.

Car window tinting from 1966 to 1969

Adhesives and laminates manufacturer 3M - best known for Scotch Tape - finally unlocked the key to sun-control window tint film in 1966 with technology that added metallic coatings to clear polyester for a flexible film that blocked much of the sun’s harmful UV rays and heat. Three years later, in response to terrorist bombings in Europe, 3M introduced clear security window films that held broken glass in place - a standard feature of car window tint film today.

Car window tinting in the 1970s

The energy crisis of the 1970s prompted further innovation in heat reflection, and low emissivity films started to become popular in commercial building windows, as well as for automotive use. But it wasn’t until the late 1970s that tinted car windows became the top choice for privacy - limousines all over the U.S. started utilizing dark tints, some with shading of 80% or more.