Monday, October 6, 2014

Bustlebacks Before There Were Bustlebacks

During the early post- World War 2 years here in America (and even shortly before the war), car buyers often had the choice of styling themes for the same brand, especially if they were shopping for a General Motors automobile.  The themes had to do with the treatment of top ("greenhouse") and rear of a car body.

On the one hand, the fashion of visual streamlining yielded what were called "fastbacks" where the roofline fell off to the rear in a smooth curve that ended near the back bumper.  On the other hand there were "bustlebacks," where the trunk area formed a curve separate and distinct from that of the roofline.  As cars grew longer, bustleback trunks became increasingly large, offering considerably more storage space than fastbacks could manage.  Even in the early years of the fastback fashion, bustlebacks were more practical from a storage standpoint, so all that fastbacks had going for themselves was a sleeker appearance.  By the early 1950s, GM dropped fastback bodies from its product lines due to poor sales levels.

Because of all this, along with an awareness of the usual appearance of pre-1930s sedans, I've tended to think of bustlebacks as appearing on the styling scene as of around 1940.  But I was mistaken.  I failed to take into account what is revealed in the Gallery below.


1948 Oldsmobile 98 fastback

1948 Oldsmobile 98 bustleback
Here are examples of post-war GM cars with the two styles.

A 1928 Chrysler.  Sedans of that era tended to have a chopped-off back, though in some cases a box-like trunk could be added at the rear behind the body shell.

This is circa late-1920s Paramount movie composite image (printed on textured paper, it seems).  Three of the cars seen here are coupes or roadsters with what clearly are bustlebacks containing trunkspace and/or a rumble seat.  Note that these are all two-door and not four-door models: those were usually like the Chrysler shown in the previous image.

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