Monday, June 22, 2015

Second Generation General Motors Hardtops

I wrote in this Design Classics post about General Motors' first-generation "hardtop convertible" styling.  Hardtop convertible being the term used in America when that type of car was most popular.  To summarize, a "hardtop" (another common name for it) was essentially a convertible coupe fitted with a fixed steel top.  That resulted in a sporty look because all the windows could be rolled down and there was no B-pillar to block views or help support the roof -- a safety defect that eventually killed off hardtops.

GM's hardtops first appeared on 1949 model year Oldsmobiles, Buicks and Cadillacs, then on 1950 Chevrolets and Pontiacs.  As noted in the link above, I am very pleased with the design GM stylists used for those tops.  But Oldsmobiles, Buicks and Cadillacs got a complete restyling for 1950, and that created an opportunity to create a different hardtop look.  What the stylists did was design a lighter appearance by reducing the size of the C-pillar, as can be seen below.

As for Chevrolet and Pontiac, their next redesign came for 1953 models.  Here a thinner but still substantial C-pillar was used.  These pillars were given a backwards slant that nowadays seems to be associated with BMW styling.  One human-factors consequence was improved viewing by back seat passengers, as was a result of the 1950s restyle of GM's senior lines.

Nevertheless, to my taste, the first-generation GM hardtops looked better than their successors.


This auction photo of a 1949 Buick Roadmaster Riviera from the post linked above sets the scene for the second-generation restyles shown below.

Rear 3/4 view of a 1950 Buick Roadmaster Riviera hardtop.  The backlight continues as a three-piece affair.  Rear side windows are longer and the downward curves the their tops and the top of the backlight cross, yielding small, somewhat triangular zones on the C-pillars.

Side view of a 1950 Cadillac 62 hardtop, Barrett-Jackson auction photo.  Same roof design as on the Buick shown above, aside from differences in chromed trim.  The wire wheels on this car were not found on production 1950 Cadillacs.

1953 Pontiac Catalina, sales photo.  This illustrates the C-pillar "kink."

A&E photo showing rear 3/4 view of a 1953 Pontiac Catalina.  Auto glass moulding technology had improved to the point that backlights were one-piece.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

They made these GM cars without a Pilar between side windows and weren't badged very often so people don't realize the Buick hdtps were Riviera, Pontiac Catalina and Oldsmobile Holiday made only in 2 doors until 1956 they included 4 door without post. In 1959 Catalina was a model of its own and in 1961 started the Ventura a fully loaded Catalina with Bonneville accessories!