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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Vellum Venom Vignette: Car design's glue is a quarter window, too?

Perhaps there are no Band-Aid solutions in car design. Once you build it, you're married to it. Even the one-year-only plastic bumpers of the 2001 Pontiac Aztek prove that once the cast is set, there's no going back. The unprecedented re-plasticizing of the 2002 Aztek's bumpers was impressive, but it proves some things are fully baked into a design.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/opinion/vellum-venom/vellum-venom-vignette-car-designs-glue-is-a-quart...
17 REPLIES 17
tmkreutzer
Intermediate Driver

Another great article. As the proud owner of a 91 Nissan Hardbody 4X4, I second your thoughts on the three-door Pathfinder. Funny as it is, it is the quarter window on the extended cab that sold me on the truck I bought. I liked the fact that the window is just a little higher than the side window on the door and that it matches the height of the bed. It creates a nice little step-up that just works for me.

The triangular window on the Pathfinder is used to a similar effect by matching the height of of the passenger window but creating the space for the higher back window required to clear the rear-wheel bulge. But Nissan has all sorts of little tricks that cause both the Pathfinder and the Hardbody to stand out from the competition - the aforementioned bulges over the wheels that bulk up the flanks and plastic flares that run around the rims of the wheel well are just a couple.

Japanese cars in the 1980s, and Nissan in particular, had great, bold designs with good, clean lines. I hope the industry returns to those sometime soon. I'm getting tired of jelly beans and body lines that go nowhere.

Sajeev
Community Manager

Oh yes, the Hardbody is such an excellent design. I even like the Isuzu extended cab truck from the late 1980s-90s, as their quarter window glass was radically lower than the door glass...cool but not as cool as the Hardbody Extended Cab's quarter window. Between the Hardbody and the Nissan Pulsar NX, I was always impressed with Nissan's ability to take a risk and make it work. The risks they've made later (NX, Juke, Cube, etc.) just didn't had the same effect.  

tmkreutzer
Intermediate Driver

I liked some of Isuzu's vehicles. I think the Amigo and the later Vehi-Cross are quite attractive. I had to look up the extended cab pickup to see what you meant and now that I have, I'm not sure I like it. That's a lot of glass, but other than the ability to see out and in I don't think it's shape adds anything to an otherwise good looking little truck.

I am glad Nissan continues to be out there taking risks, With the possible exception of their Korean competitors, I think Nissan is making some of the best looking vehicles on the road these days. The problem has been their transmissions. I hear all sorts of nasty things about their CVTs. I am hoping, however, that with the right levels of maintenance they can endure - mostly because I have purchased two brand new Nissans in the past 5 years, first a Nissan Versa-Note and then a Rogue Sport.  For better or worse, I am wedded to them.

One final thought. I'm always surprised by the hate the Cube gets in the USA. I remember these on the JDM market when I was living in Japan and they did well there. They have a cute, funky aesthetic that does well on the Japanese market. People are willing to piddle all over themselves about  SCargoes and other weird Japanese cars aimed at young women but for some reason the Cube doesn't rate. Not sure I understand why.

Geok86
Instructor

Every Rogue owner I know has had failed CVTs, with mileage ranging from 35k-80k.
Sajeev
Community Manager

I am pretty certain the Cube will become a cult classic a la AMC Pacer these days, especially if it winds up becoming famous(ish) in a movie in the next 10-20 years.  You just never know, but yes, the super boxy design that works so well in Japan doesn't translate quite as well in a country where space efficiency isn't nearly as appreciated/needed. 

StevieJanowski
Pit Crew

Unfortunately Nissan isn’t what it used to be from their glory 80s and 90s years. Since the merger w Renault, Nissan has fallen way behind Toyota and Honda.
Snailish
Instructor

Interesting article. A lot of these vehicles I haven't seen in years (low survival rate around here in the salt).

I have always liked those boxy Jeeps.
kyree-williams
Detailer

Excellent article, as always. I’ve always paid particular attention to quarter panel windows.

I’m particularly fond of Toyota/Lexus trucks, which have almost always had the trailing kink on the quarter-panel glass. I think the best implementation was the J120, aka 2003-2009 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado and Lexus GX 470.
Sajeev
Community Manager

I didn't remember how many Toyota SUVs had that quarter panel kick up!  Nice, thanks for sharing! 

Qsouthall
Pit Crew

Loved this article! Brought me back to when I was a kid and loving on some box chevys and wondering the future of car designs.

Sajeev
Community Manager

Thank you for reading, I really appreciate it! 

Gary_Bechtold
Specialist

The Bronco II is the least successful design to me here. The other trucks including the Explorer did better. I remember these trucks, thought the Nissan and Toyota trucks were the coolest back in the 80's/90's other than the Syclone/Typhoon twins.
Sajeev
Community Manager

Yeah it's pretty clear the Bronco II was rushed to production, it lacks the integration seen elsewhere...especially the Jeep Cherokee, as it uses the same type of fixed side glass but has a much longer door to make the 3-door configuration really work. 

RallyRaid
Detailer

I was hoping the Pathfinder would rate a mention, and wasn’t disappointed.

If wheelbase is going to be the same, I’ll generally prefer the 5 door design - not that there is a choice in this country, but regardless, I wouldn’t have taken a 3 door XJ over my old 5 door. I’d say the 1990s Pajero/Shogun has the Cherokee beat, despite Mitsubishi taking absolutely no Nissan-style

risks…must be purely in the proportions.

And speaking of rear quarter glass, I recently picked up a 1st gen ML500 for the temporary need to haul more than 5 people. Mercedes somehow executed the combination of poor ride with poor handling. But in my mind, overcompensation is achieved with the successful combination of wraparound-look rear quarter glass with electric pivoting rear quarter windows. I know plenty of coupes (E46 comes to mind) have the rear vent windows, but how many SUVs afford such luxury to their third row passengers? Leg space is less generous, but we are talking about a 4.5m long vehicle with a V8 up front…

Sajeev
Community Manager

Wow, I completely forgot those ML's had opening quarter windows. A lovely feature that SUVs (in America) kinda stole from vans, but I don't know if some old Pajero/Land Rover/Land Cruiser had it first, or if it was a Econoline/VW Bus thing...or did some car from the pre-war era have it first?  Hmm, this might be a good story in the making. 😀

TG
Technician

Although not the point of this story, the Bronco II story is part of the slippery slope that killed the car - at least the interesting car. It is unfortunate that folks got injured rolling over in these things, but now you start down the disasterous slope of altering the appearance of vehicles to make them safer... fast-forward 20 or so years and all cars look the same and no-one wants to - or can - break from the mold to make a car that is interesting, but may have safety stats that are an outlier from their peers.
The Bronco ii and the Suzuki Sidekick (which appears to have suffered the same fate) were neat cars back in the day. I knew a lot of people who had them, and didn't know anyone who ever got folded, spindled, or mutilated while operating one
Sajeev
Community Manager

You are lucky, to this day I have a hard time forgetting how one family was utterly destroyed by that vehicle. But to your point both safety AND global platform sharing have killed the interesting car. What I am about to say is indeed a generalization, but there are no more interesting oddballs from The Land Down Under, no more iconic Ford Crown Victorias, only just a few low volume production sports car makers sprinkled around the world. At least Ford/Chevy/Porsche managed to make the Mustang/Corvette/911 a global sensation without killing what makes them so special.