Piston Slap: Design Week: Chop Top Talk

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

TTAC Commentator Volvo writes:

Sajeev, today in a parking lot I was approaching a new Toyota Avalon from the side and at first thought I was seeing a recent Chrysler product. It had the bottom of the window about shoulder high to the passengers and the windows seemed rather short. As I walked through the lot I saw that many of the newer cars had that same look. When I was a child it was called “chopped” and seemed to be a favorite way to customize post war Buicks. It went away until the early millennial Chrysler products (300 series as an example) and I hear it referred to as the “thug” look. The look now seems to be expanding across many manufactures’ lines. Why is this? Fashion, safety, or efficiency? Wikipedia says it started in the late 40’s with Salt Flat racers to reduce aerodynamic drag by lowering the car’s profile. It then became popular as a Kustomizing look. I have not spent any time in these vehicles. How is the outward visibility? Do you have information or an opinion on this subject?


Sajeev answers:

While there is a safety argument for more metal and less glass (when the dangerous bumpers from an older truck run a red light and T-bone you) the widespread adoption of head curtain airbags make that a tough position to defend. Chopped tops on cars with a tall DLO (daylight opening) are more of a fashion statement.

And we do strange things in the name of fashion: people inject toxic shit in their faces and put hose clamps on their digestive systems. And like so many modern sedans with a NASCAR-worthy C-pillars and chopped greenhouses, we wear ridiculous clothes to “peacock” ourselves in society.

There’s nothing wrong with looking beautiful, but a mainstream family sedan needs purpose in life. But even if the Chrysler 300 had a great interior and Camry-killing reliability, I suspect its “flash-in-the-pan” sales status is dependent on its polarizing style.

But let’s not dwell on the gangsta-fresh MOPAR, everything from the Camry to the Mercedes CLS lives in a dream world where plump, SUV like profiles live happily with a fast, cool roofline. Today’s Chop Top sedans have lousy rearward visibility, mail slot like trunk openings and an interior that surrounds you in (let’s face it) nasty plastic instead of great views of the great outdoors.

All of which bring me to a stunning realization. CUVs exist in the market for a valid reason: many family sedans truly suck at their job. Sad.

[Send your queries to mehta@ttac.com]

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • Eric Ethier Eric Ethier on Nov 12, 2009

    I drove a 300 as well as a Magnum for several months each in 2006-2007 and I must say that the visibility issue is simply one that takes some getting used to. Proper use of mirrors and blind spot checks make it easy to see where you need to. As for backing up/maneuvering in tight spots, I found the same thing applies. I would be willing to have tat learning curve in order to get a vechile with this trait simply because I find the look quite appealing. In fact, a high beltline and small greenhouse with big wheels is a big thumbs up for me. That SRT-8 pictured above looks fantastic. The lines are very attractive, but require the wheels to be both large and fill the wheel wells nicely for that look to succeed. All in all, if one were to be considering a purchase of this type of vehicle... I would tell them to not let the initial change in visibilty stop them from making their purchase.

  • Ronman Ronman on Nov 13, 2009
    All of which bring me to a stunning realization. CUVs exist in the market for a valid reason: many family sedans truly suck at their job. Sad. these above are words of wisdom Sageev...
  • Lorenzo It's an election year, and Biden will drag down enough democrats without the state going deeper in the budget hole than it is now. Newsom isn't the smartest guy, but he has smart guys to tell him the state is running out of other people's money.
  • MaintenanceCosts The symbol is the standard international sign for "controlled access highway." Presumably they are trying to evoke the Autobahn.
  • MaintenanceCosts Absolutely. Most old classics are not Boss 429s or Busso Alfas. Most of them have powertrains that are just crap by modern standards. I'd love to have a classic without the pre-emissions stinky exhaust or the need to futz around constantly with points and jets to maintain drivability.
  • Ravenuer No, I wouldn't be interested in doing this at all. Seems like it would be quite expensive.
  • Tassos Why buy either when you have two matching 2007 diesel e-classes with combined over 950k km. NO ONE SHOULD WANT MORE THAN I HAVE SETTLED FOR.
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