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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Junk in the Trunk: Auto history's leading rear ends

Despite the proliferation of video chat and Zoom calls in recent history, the fundamentals of interpersonal communication involves face-to-face interaction. When it comes to automobiles, we aren't all that different. Manufacturers tend to design them "from the front," as people digest and judge a car's face above all else.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/car-design/junk-in-the-trunk-auto-historys-leading-rear-ends/
139 REPLIES 139
DavidHolzman
Advanced Driver

The Chrysler Corp fins were definitely tops, and of them, I liked best the ones on the Imperial. The guy who brought jazz to the Kennedy Center, and may still be doing so, had a '59 Imperial. I got some of my favorite fin shots off of that car, on the street, and only later met him with his car.
SteelyDan
Intermediate Driver

Studebaker Avanti, '69 Charger, '71 Torino GT fastback, '67 Lemans, and for the dark horse: '84 Taurus wagon...........
65sportfury
Intermediate Driver

I learned to drive in a full size '60 Plymouth and those tall fins will always be my favorite. I later owned a '60 Fury Hardtop with the large back glass and still regret selling it years later.
josephdemeyer
Intermediate Driver

Yes over that period rear ends definitely defined the American automobile as no other brands ( some would say the same about Italian women) .
For me the gracious end of the rear end is exemplified by the 1960 Buick: still clearly fins but elegantly folded in more horizontal lines and still immediately recognizable
Dave67
Pit Crew

Air cooled 911 especially early one.
No cellulite!
DrMindbender
Detailer

My favorite 911 is the classic SC with the widebody and ducktail. I LOVE the ducktail...I'm SOO super excited that you can get a brand new 911 with a real factory ducktail.

One of the few early designs that is PURELY functional. The ducktail was developed in the wind tunnel and on the track...and produced some of the most stunning aerodynamic improvement to hit the streets and track...Singer and RUF do amazing ducktail restomod/re-imaginations of air-cooled 911 ducktail rear ends as well.
DrMindbender
Detailer

I'm going to try for the most real, but controversial pick:

I am super smitten by the rear end of our first gen Porsche Boxster. I know it is one of the most ridiculed designs by Porsche, and many say they can't tell if the car is coming or going...but that is kind of my favorite part...no one really dares trying the tapered look in the back like the early 60s euro sports, or even the pinch back look of the C2 Stingray. I love how the Boxster's rear pinches down almost as wedge shaped as the front, and the little active spoiler that breaks up the lifting airflow at 75mph...It just looks like it is attached to the ground, and nothing can upset it's rear tires!
DrMindbender
Detailer

I personally find the overblown, fake airplane, gaudy look of ALL finned cars from the 50s...horrible looking! They all wanted to be airplanes or rockets, but I (even when I was a kid) think they look like soooooo much extra weight, they look like road-going trophies with all the tacky chrome strips and gigantic wheel wells, they always looked heavy, and slow...I always had a deep affinity for WW2 era aircraft, the ultimate piston engine aircraft...and I thought the cars did not capture that graceful brute force look of the aircraft they were emulating...especially when it came to the jet age...form was very detached from function and the classic American cars look slow, old-fogeyish, overdone appearance, gaudy, overweight, waaaay to big...
27340
Intermediate Driver

Where do I start? Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe, Ann-Margret, Bo Derek ... Oh, wait, auto rear ends.

Okay, how about Talbot-Lago, Austin Healy 3000, Jaguar D-Type, and the Chrysler Atlantic show car.
Mgranttx
New Driver

For me, it’s the 930 Turbo. Wide hips and lots of curves.
bhankinsonn
Intermediate Driver

I would have included the 1979 Chevrolet in this group for sure
Jimboriffic
Intermediate Driver

Auburn boattail speedster.
acooper529
Advanced Driver

71 Riviera without a doubt. Now that you have reminded me, I may have to start looking for one. I worked on only a couple of these in my auto shop over the years but remember them as very smooth and powerful on the road... with that old school Buick ride. Maybe a 430 (real Buick) V8?
Jim86
Pit Crew

70 to 76 Riv's had the 455. 430 was 67-69.
TonyT
Technician

Nah, either a cammed-up 455 or get brave and stick in a 3.8 V6 out of a Grand National with TWO turbos!
Roadsterboy
Intermediate Driver

Renault R5 Turbo has major junk in the trunk !!
inertian
New Driver

'67 - '70 Cadillac Eldorado, '75 - 91 Jaguar XJS
Geno
Pit Crew

As a fin-natic the 59 Caddy is IT!!!
Drivefast
New Driver

Hello? You left out the ‘58 Edsels.
Both the hardtop and station wagon rears are currently copied by many auto makers. Every time I see a Toyota I see an Edsel in the design. Obviously the Edsel design was 64 years ahead of its time. Even the front can be seen in some BMWs.
Corkola
Detailer

These four choices are good ones but only American makes are featured. There are some gorgeous rear views from other lands.
Diego
Advanced Driver

That's not what the article was about.
C7W289
Intermediate Driver

Although I do like the newest body style of the Mustang (but definitely not the front), my bias shows in that I vote for the 67 Cougar, with sequentials, which are functional as well as decorative (when they are working)...
stvkranz
New Driver

I'd submit the 1967 thru 1969 Barracuda. Certainly unusual for its time...
JBBearcat
Advanced Driver

Nice clean tail lights and trim panel.use
Understated, unlike many cars of the period.
don_canada
New Driver

The back of the Fiat barchetta (1995 through 2002) always gets a second look. The restyled barchetta (2003 - 2005) is also interesting in its own way.
BWeston
Intermediate Driver

Agree with 1963 split window Sting Ray coupe, and will also agree with Virgil Exner and the "behinds of his Forward Look ChryCorp 1957 designs", but there are lot of others - as we've seen in the comments - that deserve a place before the 1948 Caddy with fin nubs, or the Sting Ray copy Riv rear! My thoughts on other great contenders - Auburn boat tail Speedster; 1963 Jaguar XKE coupe; 1961 torpedo Ford T-Bird; 1958 Lincoln Continental - very detailed & entertaining rear-end design; 1967 Mercury Cougar, 1960 Ford Thunderbird Coupe; 1959 Chevy Impala; 1959 Cadillac Eldorado...and last but certainly not lease - 2017 Ford GT rear end - amazing integration of style + function!
mtnance
Pit Crew

Ummm, the 1964 Barracuda wasn't mentioned despite having a very similar rear glass shape as the 63 Corvette and 71 Riviera. Our family had two of these. The first swear word I ever heard from my father was when he dropped something from overhead in the garage into the back glass around 1970. Today, I'm not so sure you could find a replacement back glass.
Diego
Advanced Driver

The reason why the 1964 Barracuda wasn't mentioned is because it doesn't have the essence of having been designed from behind as much as the front. A similar perceived backlight alone does not qualify a car in a similar vein.
Scary
Intermediate Driver

you missed the Barracuda
JBBearcat
Advanced Driver

Would it be too churlish to point out that #3 and 4 are the same thing, just in a different scale?

I have to agree with a previous poster, the third gen T-bird (1961-63) was pure '50s rocketship.
2ndeagle
Pit Crew

1964-56 Buick Skylark Convertible
Rich8
Intermediate Driver

AMC pacer
twa2471
Intermediate Driver

Check my avatar and I think you'll figure out what one is my favorite one, even though I had a 63 Vette at one time too.

Both winners IMHO,,,,
TRFTOM
Pit Crew

Great topic and comments! The Series 1 E-Type Coupe! Like the 63-67 Vettes the drop tops are what most people desire, but the coupes with there roofline and flow to the back of the car is just beautiful!

The rear hatch on the E-type is such a great feature, form and function.
roadio55
Detailer

I've always wanted a boattail Riviera. I cheer when one appears in a movie (Immediate Family, Go). Thanks for the opening photo.
My father always complained that magazines showed the new cars from the front instead of the back, the part we're always looking at. I'm glad to hear he was not alone.
thomas_w11
Pit Crew

Ever looked at the 53 Bristol 403?
Lingg
New Driver

Understand your picks and pref for American made, agree. But what about the XKE Fastback coupe? So graceful and lithe, so much copied - by Porsche Panamerica among others
Lingg
Diego
Advanced Driver

I think it's a good choice. And it certainly looks better from behind.
Mtro
New Driver

the crossfire coupe,beautiful rearend,should have been a split window.
JBBearcat
Advanced Driver

Just remembered one...

Studebaker Avanti.
I loved pulling into the garage beside mine.
Tomwas
Intermediate Driver

Dad was a mopar man and had a 57 Windsor and 60 Windsor when I was a kid.. Both stand out in my memory as cool cars.. 57 was dark green with white fins, 60 was robins egg blue with huge fins and a big good grille with a leaping lion in the center... I had a 72 boat tail Riv in 76, silver with a half dark blue vinyl top and blue brocade interior... The 455 loved gas...!!!
Autocar
Intermediate Driver

58 Buick Roadmaster.
kcreary
Pit Crew
Inline8OD
Technician

Nothing "classic" about boattails. They were passe in Europe by the close of the 1920s, used chiefly on a few Auburns, which were Buick/Hudson-priced cars, in the '30s marketed to clueless look-at-me types by a rapidly fading organization, E. L. Cord by then more interested in stock market manipulation that led to the 1934 establishment of the Security and Exchange Commission, spending evermore time evading prosecution by living in England,  citing concern for his teenage children's safety in the wake of the Lindbergh baby kidnap/murder.

'57 Chrysler products were tinny, wretched quality.  Fins and airplane cues on automobiles were moronic substitutes for clean, elegant, crisp style, and go back at least as far as the '34 LaSalle's bumpers, the car essentially a gussied Oldsmobile.

 

 

kirkbrit
Pit Crew

You flubbed again. The God of classy rear ends is Bugatti, followed closely by the slightly newer Auburn.
Wogga4eva
New Driver

I don't know. These are interesting submissions for best, but I don't think I'd pick them as mine. Also, it would be interesting to know what women think - why do I suspect 75%+ of commenters and article writers on this subject are men. Perhaps it's a nostalgia thing / What do non-US based commenters and reviers of auto derrieres think? Without seeing the vehicles but just thinking of the back-sides I can remember, I'd suggest: the glass + angular metal of the early Landrover, something from Jaguar (early XKE, new F-type?), and what about the VW Bug or something rear-engine air cooled. It seems to me 60s and 70s small European cars are going to feature very highly in the best rear show, too. Even the lowly soviet Lada, Volga, Chaika --or possibly the Generation 3 Priuses. If not the Priuses, some 70s-80s wedge supercars, for sure!
jimliberty
Intermediate Driver

The Buick Rivera is, and has been one of my favorite cars of all time. What a bold and wonderful design. .......Jim.
LIBERTY MOTORSPORTS
Maestro1
Technician

The sixties and early seventies Rivieras of course.
I also thought the '57 Plymouth rear was good along with Chrysler's.
For simple elegance, actually the whole car, a 1953 Studebaker Starlight Coupe.
Maestro1
Technician

I forgot the torpedo backed GM cars. The family had a friend with a Cadillac in that model in Black. I never forgot it.
BritCars_Mike
Pit Crew

Wow! Imagine if anyone other than Americans built automobiles! I could only wonder what the world would be like if an Italian, French, or Japanese designer attempted it.
Too bad we'll never know...