It all started when I was a small boy. I cannot pinpoint the exact moment, but it had certainly taken root by the time I was six years of age. The ‘it’ in question was a fascination with windscreen wipers, an obsession which continues to this day, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit. The more unusual the wiper arrangement, sweep pattern, or lack of synchronicity, the better.
The dullest of all arrangements is one of the most common found. It was to be found on our Ford Cortina Mk1, Mk2, Mk3, Escort and Fiesta; two bottom spindle mount wipers, cranked to the parallel with the lower edge of the screen, parking to the nearside with a perfectly even synchronised sweep to just beyond the vertical, a sweep of some 100 degrees or so. The vertically mirrored arrangement, bottom spindles but parking to the offside, as found on home market Morris Marinas, comes a close second in dullness, but it at least leaves the driver with an unswept top offside corner of screen to contemplate.
Big Farinas and 1980s Saabs offer a slightly more hypnotic wiper experience, with each bottom spindle wiper sweeping a different degree of arc. However, they are perfectly synchronised, detracting from an otherwise valiant attempt at making screen cleaning interesting.
Then we come to 1950s to 60s Jaguars and the like and their synchronised sweep from an offside park position. Although both wipers are mounted symmetrically at the bottom of the screen, their ‘dance’ from dedicated park position to operating arc is a delight, as is the opposite ‘park dance’, where the wipers stop mid-arc and return to their resting position, nestling close to the bottom of the nearside of the screen.
Of perhaps equal merit is the ‘clap hands’ formation, found on Morris Minors up until 1963/4. The overlapping blades version of this, as found on various 1960s Mercedes models is perhaps the most logical and ‘best’ arrangement, if one is searching for maximum sweep and minimum fuss, but it tidies things up far too much to be interesting.
Triple synchronised wiper arrangements, as found on E-Type Jaguars is a cut above the rest, giving a broadly swept, heavily curved, but shallow screen, which is a neat trick, although not confined to this model. However, we start getting down to the real interesting business of rain clearance with arrangements that feature two unsynchronised motors, top or bottom mounted, as found on numerous prewar cars with split windscreen arrangements and, of course, on Land Rovers up until later Mk2A models, at which point bthey dulled down to Minor-esque ‘clap hands’ arrangement, ending the driver distracting fun. Some such arrangements feature neat park positions, but the real joy is had when such types simply park where switched off, jauntily spoiling the symmetry of the screen, a situation made even more appealing if each arc is unevenly set, or of different degrees.
The pinnacle of wiper settings is found almost invariably on commercial vehicles, dating from the 1940s to the 1980s and features one wiper mounted centrally at the top of one screen usually although not exclusively on the driver’s side, with the other mounted centrally at the bottom of the nearside screen, supposedly offering a view of the kerb although, in my experience, offering very little visual assistance at all. Sometimes, a third wiper is included, mounted at the top of the nearside screen, proffering even more wonderful distraction for the afflicted.
1980s, single central mounted Mercedes wipers featured that delightful ‘bob’ mid-sweep, to allow the wiper to travel further across the screen, bringing more science to these humble, overlooked items. But this arrangement failed to trump the ‘top and bottom’ wipers of the bus and lorry world. And so it is that I crown the ‘top and bottom’ types, king, queen, all beyond and in between of wiper arrangements. Perhaps now you’ll notice what happens when it rains and wipers perform their unsung task. Whether inside a vehicle or outside, you too may find yourself up this little-navigated creek of classic car enthusiasm.
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