Welcome to another edition of Hooniverse Fastback Friday. Almost seven weeks have passed since I did a Fastback Friday posting, and that was all about the Isuzu Impulse and Piazza. That my friends is way too long, so for this edition of Fastback Friday, I thought it would be fun to try and find out what a Fastback really is. There has been fierce debate within the Verse that is Hoon about this very topic since we debuted this feature, and now its your turn to decide once and for all how to define the term “Fasback”….
There is no doubt that the above image of a 1949 Cadillac Coupe is the quintessential early 50’s fastback. The roof trails off right down to the rear bumper in a graceful manner, with an eye toward aerodynamic efficiency. Rear visibility has been compromised, but who cares… just look at that style and grace, how the rear end is framed by the newly introduced tailfins, which would later on grow to gigantic proportions. We are agreed that this is in fact a fastback coupe, right?
At the very same time period, Nash introduced their Airflyte Statesman and Ambassador Sedans. There is no doubt that these cars were aerodynamic, but are they true “Fastback” designs. Notice that the roof tapers down toward the rear bumpers, as on the Cadillac, but abruptly changes curvature at the very back of the car. If the car was longer, then the taper could be more gradual, again as with the Cadillac. Would you call this a fastback sedan then?
Sticking with the same period, this Packard Eight also carries an Aerodynamic theme, only there is a distinctive roofline that that isn’t present in either the Nash, or the Cadillac. The rear window treatment is raked, giving all the disadvantages of a fastback during this time period, providing a sleek and streamlined appearance, with a hint of formality. Still, could this be defined as a fastback, at least when compared to the Packards of the pre-war period?
The Fastback style fell out of favor during the fifties, only to come roaring back in the mid 1960s, with the advent of the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray coupe. This was a very distinctive car that help to define the new “Fastback” style, in which a car with a fastback roof was fast, sporty, and distinctive. The Corvette was all three, but is it really a fastback?
Another game changing automobile was the 1965 Ford Mustang, and it introduced its own version of a fastback, the Sports Roof. It certainly was distinctive, eye catching, and very sporty, but is it really a fastback? The roofline does taper to the rear, only to come to an end just before the trunk lid.
During this time period, another styling hallmark became popular. The roofline was designed to look like a fastback, but the backlight was a bit more upright. This was known as the Flying Buttress, and became popular for a short period of time during the Muscle Car Era. This Dodge Charger illustrated this style better than most, but could the “Flying Butress” roofline be called a fastback?
Ford seemed to offer a fastback in every model during the late 60s and early 70s, and they were as rakish as anything ever produced. However, they became less common on the full sized Galaxie, and increasingly more common of the midsized offerings like the Torino. General Motors used the fastback roofline on all of their intermediate two-door cars, like this Skylark, but you can see that there is a hint of a formal roofline making an appearance.
However, the era of the Fastback was once again on the decline, except for a new subcategory of cars with a rear hatch. Introduced by General Motors in the fall of 1970, the Chevrolet Vega debuted the three-door hatchback model, along with a two-door sedan, and a three-door wagon/panel van. Ford quickly followed suit with their Pinto, and soon there were a myriad of fastback hatchbacks. But is this a true fastback?
Curved windows are a great way of producing fastbacks from ordinary two-door coupes or sedans. one of the earliest was the 1964 Plymouth Barracuda, in which a large rear window (and some other styling touches) transformed an ordinary Valiant into a competitor to the Mustang. (it was actually introduced before the Mustang, but that’s not the point). One of the largest rear window fastbacks was the 1971 to 1973 Buick Riviera, but would you really call that a fastback?
During the 70s, the fastback body style was once again falling out of favor when the personal luxury car was king of the road. The General Motors Colonade hardtop was offered in a raked roof version, offered by all divisions throughout the 70s, but this style suffered from the same identity crisis that the first Mustang fastback did… the roofline didn’t taper all the way to the rear of the car (it stopped at the trunk lid). Can any of the GM Colonade cars be called fastbacks?
During the 80s, NASCAR made a resurgence, but the cars were all about as aerodynamic as bricks. Ford made a calculated decision to introduce the newly revised aerodynamic Thunderbird to the speedways with great success. This prompted GM to heavily modify two of their squared off personal luxury cars to do battle with the slippery bird. The Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe was modified from the standard Monte Carlo SS with the addition of a fastback window, and a shorter deck lid. The Pontiac Grand Prix 2+2 went a bit further, with an even larger fastback window, a smaller deck lid, and an aerodynamic nose treatment. But are these true fastbacks?
Today, you could make the argument that almost any sedan or coupe could be called a fastback. So, what do you think a fastback is?