QOTD: Keep a Lid on Things?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Last night’s online conversation about bad General Motors vehicles wasn’t the first of its kind, and it’ll surely not be the last. More important than restful sleep, wee-hours back-and-forths about rattly but somehow indestructible GM J-bodies are an important part of staying sane as lockdown measures remain in place on both sides of the Detroit River.

Naturally, thoughts of Cavalier soon turned to CALAIS, and from there to an aspect of that particular era that’s always bothered yours truly: rooflines.

The move to upright, formal rooflines among domestic nameplates at the dawn of the 1980s never sat right with this writer, but they could be forgiven if the body donning them was of the full-size variety. Give me a slant-backed ’79 LeSabre coupe over a 1980 model any day. That said, I’m okay with an upscale Ninety-Eight with a Reagan Era greenhouse. Things got far more questionable, however, after the Great Mid-Eighties Downsizing, with FWD everywhere but those near-vertical rear panes of glass still intact. Formal rooflines didn’t carry over well, except in the case of that aforementioned compact Oldsmobile.

Seemingly tiny N-body and K-body cars looked like they’d been sandwiched between two cube vans in a chain-reaction crash. The H-body, in comparison, looked positively streamlined.

Of course, American passenger car rooflines spanned the gamut once upon a time, with rear glass going beyond vertical in the 1960s Mercury Breezeways and their late-’50s Continental forebears. Among domestic rooflines, one of the greatest greenhouses was seen on GM’s line of svelte 1961-model year “bubbletops,” what with their sharply raked, barely there C-pillars and nearly uninterrupted visibility. A design coup that followed two very confused styling years for The General.

Let’s keep this roofline talk a domestic affair — and normal passenger cars only, please. Of all the many American-made vehicles to roll past your eyes, which model(s) sported the worst-looking roofline?

[Images: General Motors, Mecum Auctions]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Conundrum Conundrum on May 04, 2020

    The worst looking by far was the Rambler Marlin circa 1965, subsequently rebadged as AMC Marlin the next year. It's hard to describe what a doltish looking thing that was, but the occasional one passing by used to cause bouts of mirth. One of those with the three-on-the-tree and an asthmatic six was the kind of thing a small town CPA trying to be "sporty" bought to prove there was life left in him yet. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rambler_Marlin Ewww. Even Wikipedia limits the photographs. Wouldn't want to scare children. But as they point out, the 2004 Chrysler Crossfire Coupe sort of rehashed the Marlin, and looked weird as heck as well. I'll take that one as my number two bad roofline. All the other stuff pales compares to these two monsters.

    • See 1 previous
    • Vulpine Vulpine on May 05, 2020

      @conundrum: I have to disagree. I like the looks of the thing, even if it did need a better engine. But then, when I started driving, it was '60s models or older for my first choice. I ended up with a '64 and still needed to drop a new engine block into it because of a cracked cylinder wall in the original before I bought it. (And my dad thought he was a car guy and that I would like it-- wrong on both counts.)

  • Amwhalbi Amwhalbi on May 04, 2020

    Ooh, I'm kicking myself that I didn't think of the Marlin. The way the roofline tapered to the back of the car ONLY in the center with fender/fins on either side was, well, not pretty. I do remember an older friend getting one in '66 and I actually thought it was pretty cool at the time. But I was 15 at the time, so I guess that's as good an excuse for poor taste as any.

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