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The History of Golde Sunroof/
American Sunroof Corporation (ASC)

Power Sunroof - Power Moonroof - Power Astroroof

Image: Heinz PrechterDuring the 1960's, a man named Heinz Prechter attended school in Germany with the son of Dr. Golde, who was the head of the family that owned Golde Schiebedächer (German for "sunshine roof" or "sunroofs"), a company located in Germany. Golde built and installed a high quality, cable driven sliding steel sunroof panel that could be cranked open and closed, or could be operated by an electric motor.

Prechter moved to San Francisco, California in 1963 to attend San Francisco State University, and procured part time work in an automotive shop. This shop did quite a bit of work for local car dealers to install Golde sunroof kits imported from Germany for customers who wanted the benefits of a convertible without any of the disadvantages. While there, Prechter learned how to install the sunroof kits and became convinced it was a feature with great commercial potential.

While there, Prechter met George Barris of Barris Kustom City in North Hollywood, California, who was very busy creating custom show cars and street rods, as well as doing special projects for Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler. Before long, Prechter found himself in Barris' shop in Los Angeles installing sunroofs in some of the customs and show cars, and the idea was beginning to catch on with the public. Barris introduced Prechter to the folks at Ford Motor Company, and next thing you know, Prechter was in talks with Ford about installing Golde sunroofs in new Ford cars as a factory option. In 1965, American Sunroof Corporation became a reality and set up shop on Plymouth Avenue in Detroit, Michigan with a $764 cash outlay to purchase a used sewing machine, an old door converted into a work bench, and other items—many of them scrap parts—that would be necessary to operate his business.

Ford had previously experimented with offering a sunroof back in 1960 as a factory option for its popular Thunderbird, and it was obtained from Golde. Once testing by Ford had been completed and the decision had been made to offer the option, Ford promoted it heavily. An advertising campaign that emphasized the availability of the 1960 Thunderbird Hard Top with Sunroof was created, and the open roof feature was displayed prominently in brochures, magazine advertisements, and a television commercial was even filmed showing a Diamond Blue Thunderbird with the sunroof. Unfortunately, the sunroof option was not a popular one with the Thunderbird's customers, and Ford only sold about half as many as they'd hoped to sell. Cars with the sunroof had to be moved to a separate section of the assembly plant for installation of the special sunroof parts as well as unique trim, such as headliners, which increased production costs and slowed the assembly line. Since there weren't enough being sold to justify this additional expense, the option was dropped for 1961. This would be a set back for factory sunroof installations in American cars, but it would only last for a few years.

Image: 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado and 1967 Mercury Cougar with Power SunroofsPrechter kept in touch with Ford and continued to install the Golde sunroof kits in cars at the request of dealers and individuals who desired the feature. In 1966, plans were put in place to grow the business by focusing on working with the automobile manufacturers in Michigan to install sunroofs in new vehicles as original equipment. By 1967, Ford was again interested in offering a sunroof on some of its production cars, as convertible sales were beginning to slow since more and more people decided they preferred the look of vinyl tops and the comfort of factory air conditioning and stereo sound systems in their cars, and a sunroof was perfect for those requirements since when shut the vehicle was basically a normal closed car. For 1967, a power-operated Golde sunroof was offered as a factory option on Mercury's new 1967 Cougar, which was incredibly popular and became Motor Trend Magazine's Car of the Year for 1967. A limited edition run of five 1967 Ford Thunderbird Apollo models were built for Abercrombie & Fitch to be used as displays in their stores, and they were also equipped with power sunroofs. Most of the Apollos were later sold to the public, although they weren't offered through Ford or its dealer network. Enough 1967 Cougars were sold that the option was continued for 1968 on the Cougar, with plans to expand it to the Thunderbird line as well for 1969.

Image: 1969 Ford Thunderbird SunroofAdvertising for the 1969 Thunderbird was virtually dedicated to the sunroof option, as every print ad depicted the car with an open sunroof with an attractive young lady standing up through the opening. It was on the cover of the brochures as well. It wasn't a popular option, but since completed cars were shipped to American Sunroof for the installation, there was no special handling required during the manufacturing process. This meant little additional cost to Ford to offer the option, so the reasons it hadn't been cost effective back in 1960 no longer applied by 1969. For 1970, factory power sunroofs were being installed in not only Cougars and Thunderbirds, but also in Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorados, Fleetwood Broughams, Sedan deVilles, and Coupe deVilles. The Continental Mark III also began offering it in late 1969 (it was a late year offering on the 1969 Cadillac Eldorado as well). Things really took off in 1971, with the power sunroof option being offered on Ford LTDs, Buick Rivieras, and other cars. It would only become more popular in the coming years.

Working with the Lincoln Division, Prechter designed a power glass panel Moonroof for installation in the 1973 Continental Mark IV. The silver-tinted, tempered glass panel featured a sunshade that could be opened to allow light in with the panel closed. The tinted glass greatly reduced solar glare and heat, and with the sunshade closed, it resembled a normal sunroof installation from inside the car, except for the handle to slide the sunshade open or closed. Lincoln advertised the new Moonroof by saying, "when open, you see the Moon and it sees you, but when closed only you have the view." Cute, huh? At this point, American Sunroof Corporation was doing quite well, and demand for their services was steadily increasing in the North American market, as well as in other parts of the world. It was later acquired by North American Rockwell, and is still an OEM supplier to many automotive manufacturers in the United States and Europe.