Monday, May 21, 2018

Cadillac Three-Segment Backlights, 1934-1952

Not all Cadillacs had them, but every model year from 1934 through 1952 had at least some models sporting three-segment backlights (backlight = styling jargon for back window).  In the mid-1930s most automotive window glass was flat due to limitations in glass-making technology.  So as back ends of cars became more curved, giving them wide backlights meant having to use more than one glass pane.  Later Buicks, having a similar body to '34 Cadillacs, used two-segment backlights.  More extreme was the 1934 Studebaker Land Cruiser that had four segments to create a wraparound backlight.

An exception was the 1934 Chrysler CW Custom Imperial Airflow that had a slightly curved windshield.  This was the top-of-the-line Airflow where prices were high and sales volumes quite low, compensating for likely high manufacturing breakage rates for the curved glass.

By the late 1930s glass forming technology reached the stage where slightly curved backlight glass could be made economically.  At that point, Cadillac retained the three-segment motif on some of its models as a prestige marker.  For 1950, senior General Motors brands were given wraparound backlights, but technology intervened again.  The entire window could not be formed, so three segments had to be used.  This problem was resolved for 1953 model.

These various points are illustrated in the images below.


1934 Cadillac V-12 Fleetwood 30 Imperial, "for sale" photo. This is the earliest Cadillac example I could find.

1936 Cadillac Fleetwood Limousine.

1937 Cadillac Fleetwood 75 Trunk Sedan (V-8), photo from GM Heritage Center.

1939 Cadillac Sixty Special, Barrett-Jackson photo.  The Sixty Special was introduced for 1938 and used curved backlight glass.

1941 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe, "for sale" photo.  Its curved backlight is the same as on '41 B-body Buick business coupes that had one-piece glass.  So the three-segment design is used here as a Cadillac brand identifier.

The same applies for this 1942 Cadillac 61 (Barrett-Jackson photo.)

And again for this postwar 1946 Cadillac 62 Club Coupe via RM Sotheby's.

Cadillacs and Oldsmobile 98s got redesigned bodies for 1948 featuring wide backlights.  The Oldsmobiles used two-segment glass and Cadillacs their traditional three-segments, as seen in this Barrett-Jackson photo.  This body was used for 1949 Buicks, but their backlights were one-piece as was also now the case for Oldsmobile 98s.  Despite improved glass forming for 1949, Cadillacs retained three-segment backlights for that model year on all its models.

1949 Cadillac 62 Coupe DeVille, photo from GM Heritage Center.  This is General Motors' new "hardtop convertible" style that proved to be very popular.  The extreme backlight wraparound required three-segment glass.

Cadillacs were redesigned for 1950.  Here is a Barrett-Jackson photo of a Series 62 Coupe DeVille hardtop.  Three-segment glass is retained for technical reasons.

Sedans also got wraparound backlights requiring three-segment glass as seen in this "for sale" photo of a Sixty Special for 1951.

A "for sale" 1952 Cadillac 62 Sports Coupe.  This was the final model year for segmented wraparound backlights on Cadillacs.

This Barrett-Jackson photo of a 1953 Cadillac 62 Sedan shows the new one-piece backlight on the body dating back to 1950.  Hardtops also got one-piece glass.

No comments: