Thursday, June 30, 2016

Boat-Tail Echoes

A small styling fad of the 1920s that continued into the 1930s was the boat-tail rear end.  That is, the rear of the car body was curved, tapering to a point or an almost-point.  In plan view, this resembled the bow section of a boat when seen in plan view or maybe the bow end of an upside-down boat.

Boat-tailed cars were sporty looking due to that style as well as because usually they were roadsters or convertible coupes that tend to be intrinsically sporty.

A major problem with boat-tailed cars was lack of space for luggage; non-boat-tail roadsters and convertibles were more practical, and sold better.  So the style died out.

But a few echoes of it appeared now and then on American cars.  In these cases, the cars' rear ends didn't have boat shapes.  Instead, the aft part of the passenger greenhouse or perhaps sheet metal sculpting on the trunk featured convergence in a sort of tribute to the boat-tail.  Below are some (perhaps most of the) examples.


1935 Auburn Speedster advertisement
This exaggerated, aerial view of the Auburn Speedster proclaims the boat-tail's spirit.

1935 Auburn 851 SC Speedster - Auctions America photo
The actual car was a lot shorter, but very attractive.  It was a facelift designed by the great Gordon Buehrig.

1936 Auburn 852 SC Speedster - Mecum Auctions photo
Rear view of a 852 Speedster showing its boat-tail.

1952 Studebaker Starlight Coupe - McCormick Auctions photo
The Studebaker Starlight Coupe first appeared for the 1947 model year, creating a sensation due to its then-futuristic appearance.  Note the converging raised area extending from the passenger compartment over the trunk.  Not a boat-tail, but the spirit is evoked.

1949 Buick Super Sedanet - Mecum Auctions photo
The upper part of this Buick fastback converges considerably, though not to a point -- yet another boat-tail echo.  General Motors fastbacks of the late 1940s lacked the trunk room of GM bustle-backs, so the style was dropped in the early 1950s.

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray Split Window Coupe - Barrett-Jackson photo
Bill Mitchell was head of GM styling starting in 1958, and the Sting Ray was one of his pet projects.  The greenhouse converges to a point in plan view, much in the boat-tail manner.  Note that the rear fenders do the same.

1971 Buick Riviera
Another Mitchell-inspired design.  Here there actually is a boat tail, stubby though it might be.  The overall design is awkward, however.

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