QOTD: Is There Still Appeal in Going Pillarless?
Those who know me wellÂ â€” the lucky souls who’ve plumbed the deepest depths of my dark psyche and returned aliveÂ â€” know my strange and beautiful lust for 1970s land yachts. It needn’t be seen as a weird kink. I mean, who doesn’t like vast swaths of interior room, pillowed velour, and a narcolepsy-inducing ride? Weirdos, most likely.
If two sad, motherless puppies ever crawled their way to my doorstep, shivering and scared, I’d immediately rename them Brougham and Landau, and I don’t care who knows it.
As full-size cars shrink in popularity, the cues of those past Interstate bargesÂ â€” padded roofs, opera windows, flip-up headlightsÂ â€” are nowhere to be seen in today’s automotive landscape. Another common feature of those overstuffed rides, one that rose to prominence in the heady 1950s and met its death before the end of the 1970s, currently occupies an endangered micro niche.
I’m talking about the missing B-pillar. Yes, the alluring and illustrious pillarless hardtop.
In coupe and four-door sedan guise, the pillarless look implied a luxurious step up from the stodgy, pillared fare occupying the bottom-rung trims. Every automaker took to it at one time or another.
While the pillarless look, especially in sedan form, provided more sun and air for occupantsÂ â€” especially rear-seat passengers â€” the svelte look did nothing to help side-impact crash or rollover protection. Once three-point seatbelts came on the scene, the open-air look was spoiled by long straps affixed to the interior roofline.
Those weren’t the only drawbacks. By its very nature, a pillarless hardtop offers up less weatherstripping, meaning more opportunities for annoying leaks (especially as a vehicle grows old).
For a myriad of reasons, including a downsizing trend and a move towards less ornate designs, true hardtops disappeared from the domestic landscape during the Carter administration. The 1978 Chrysler New Yorker, still wearing a body from 1974, was the last four-door offered without a B-pillar. Personal luxury coupes from the Detroit Three soldiered on into the early 1908s with no B-pillar. However, as with lesser models that shunned the post â€” including the Plymouth Sapporo and Toyota CorollaÂ â€” the rearmost side glass was fixed, meaning no fully open sides.
That left the Germans, Mercedes-Benz specifically, to carry the torch. Which it did, admirably, through the 1980s and 90s. Who doesn’t turn and stare when a vintage (and obtainable!) 280 CE or 300 CD coupe drives past? Who doesn’t appreciate the lines of any model ending in “SEC”? For those who have never owned one, we can only dream of the easy shoulder checks an absent B-pillar could bring.
The long-gone BMW 8 Series continued the pillarless trend in a more upscale fashion, though the flame returned solely to Benz when that model died at the end of the 1990s. Now, we have the sleek E-Class and S-Class coupes to remind us of a bodystyle that once roamed free, and in big numbers.
Will it ever return on this side of the Atlantic? The feature is, along with suicide doors, a go-to trait for concept car designers in Detroit and elsewhere, but the buying public isn’t about to be bestowed with a Buick Avista. Clearly, it creates an impression. However, with coupesÂ â€” and cars in generalÂ â€” falling out of favor, it’s likely that all the high-strength steel, seat-mounted belts and innovative airbags won’t be enough for American automakers to bring true hardtops back from the dead.
The question to you, Best and Brightest is: should they? Besides opining whether it’s worth it for an automaker to take the pillarless plunge, answer us this. Would you care if they did, even at all?
via The Truth About Cars http://ift.tt/Jh8LjA
February 21, 2017 at 07:41AM