Fake Reverse Rake C-Pillars

Monovolume and estate cars tend to alarm designers.

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In Britain such vehicles are habitually likened to “breadvans” even though nobody has seen a breadvan in about four decades. One way to try to disguise the actual profile of the car is to play about with the graphics of the windows and create a false reverse-rake C-pillar. To my knowledge the first to try this was Honda who deployed it on a supermini concept car in the early 90s. I have not been able to find this but someone at Toyota saw it and used it on the Toyota Picnic.

In 1997 Mercedes used the stratagem on the A-class which we all know and love. Peugeot rather spoiled what could have been a nice estate car when the 407 got the reverse c-treatment (along with two other Peugeots of the same period). In the same year Kia pasted some c-pillar fakery onto the Ceed estate (which is a memorably forgettable vehicle). Ford’s Ecosport completes the tour to show a related ruse – though it’s not a very convincing example – rather it shows the effect of making the rear glass look as if it wraps around to the sides.

In all of these cars we see a mismatch between the body apertures and the graphics. I think all of these cars, barring the Picnic would have been better if the rear glass stayed inside the line defined by the rear tailgate aperture. Although not so screamingly wrong as external wood applique, the reverse rake C-pillar is well beyond the boundaries established by the car designer’s artistic license.

Here are two real reverse rake c-pillars: the 1959 Ford Anglia and 1963 Mercury Monterey.

1959 Ford Anlgia: favcars.com
1959 Ford Anglia: favcars.com

If anyone can think of the Honda in question, we will all be wiser.

1963 Mercury Monterey: kerbsideclassics.com
1963 Mercury Monterey: kerbsideclassics.com

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

16 thoughts on “Fake Reverse Rake C-Pillars”

  1. Is not the Citroen Ami 6 an example that this design detail can help creating a remarkable car with character ? I think, the Ami 6 would never have become so popular with the hatchback of the Ami 8.

    1. It is, definitely! What the Ami, the Anglia and the Monterey have in common is that the pillar isn’t just “drawn” on an otherwise plain, square body, but really is there because tgese cars have an inversely inclined rear windscreen.

      By the way, if we go a little bit further back in time (I’m speaking of the1950s), we can find a lot of reverse rake C-, and more importantly, even A-pillars! The difference to today’s reverse rake is that they had real wraparound windscreens, not just added glass (or worse: black plastic) triangles.

  2. I thought of the Ami as well – that and the Anglia and Monterey are real reversed pillars and jolly good they all are. I have to say that yes, the Avantime is a painted-on reverse c-pillar but isn’t a clevery contrived one. So clever I didn’t recognise it until today.
    Does anyone know which Honda I might have seen? This has bugged me for ages.

    1. Do you mean the Honda CR-Z, his rear-pillar can be counted as a reverse one.

    2. One of the better representations of reverse rake, in my opinion, but certailny much too new to be an inspiration for Picnic, A-Class etc.

  3. Interesting thing with the Avantime. I’ve never seen it as reverse-rake myself, either. But it’s clearly a line that doesn’t follow the body apertures at all. However, it doesn’t look as “wrong” as many others. I don’t really see what makes the difference. Is it the more “geometric” aspect of it, straight lines and angles instead of the ubiquitous upswept window line? The lack of added triangular windows? The fact that it cleverly joins the side windows with the roof spoiler / collar (or whatever this silver feature at the top of the hatch is). Anyway, did you notice how closely it mimics that pressing on the Ami’s pillar (which is there for stiffness, I suppose)?

    On a not entirely unrelated note, does anyone remember the “forward rake” C-pillar of the Nissan Terrano from the mid- to late 80s? It could be seen as another predecessor of the current fashion, besides that Honda that I couldn’t find, either.

    1. At first sight, I tended to completely agree. But then I thought, what’s so bad about graphics? In the end, whether we have a true wraparound screen or some fake wraparound made of multiple glass and/or plastic parts, the goal is always the same: to conceal or disguise the car’s true shape or volume. Certainly, of the mentioned possibilities, a wraparound glass ist the most clever and also honest one, besides being the one that is more demanding and costly to implement properly.

      I actually realised that I kind of like this disguising thing, if it’s not just done in the mood of “our car is a boring square, so let’s add some reverse rake like Mercedes, Peugeot, Kia and everyone else already has”, but is done properly to give the car an unique character. Examples I’d like to point out:
      – The first Ford Focus hatchback (1998) has its rear lights cleverly implemented so the quarter window has a sloping, fastback-like line, while the roof and rear windscreen describe a pronounced angle, thus saving rear headroom and boot space.
      – The Lexus RX (2003–2009) does a similar thing with a rear screen that is rather straight at the bottom, but wraps around a lot more at the top, thus making a strongly inclined D-pillar. (The 2009 generation does similarly, but is much more clumsy overall and lacks the “coupé” charm of its predecessor.
      – As a less felicitous example, I’d choose the current Opel Astra estate. Like on the Lexus, the D-pillar is more inclined than the rear screen, but not enough so to really look like a fastback. For a car that’s supposed to be practical like an estate, I’d prefer an honest, boxy looking rear end, like Opel did very well from the 1980s Astras and Omegas up to the last (2002–2008) Vectra.

      Is it pure coincidence that none of my “good” examples have a reverse rake, but rather more forward inclination?

    2. I do not mind “graphics” if they are well done. I would also differentiate between monoboxes and estates, and hatchbacks. In reality most modern softroaders are hatchbacks and the solutions they employ are the same.

  4. The Ford Focus is a work of genius – the graphics of the lamps were inspired and did very well the job of hiding a taller profile without looking sill or involving a really severe disjunction between the apertures and graphics.
    About the Lexus, I wish it had a more upright tail gate and a simpler rear end. I can´t bring myself to like that one but will respectfullly note your suggestion.
    I can see why you like the current Astra less than the really neat predecessor. That model in an unsung champion of great design at a reasonable price. It could look very smart and classy without looking spangly. I don´t honestly think many of its owners realise what a great looking car they are driving. That said, the current Astra manages to look pleasing in the dark colour/chrome window frame versions. In isolation I don´t have any problems with its appearance and think that in comparison with many of its peers manages a nice balancing act of practicality and attractive styling. I prefer it to the Focus, the Golf and the rest of its peers. I might be the only person with a rose tinted view of medium sized estates.

  5. Hi Richard. Longtime reader, first-time commenter.

    Here’s 3 shots at guessing your mystery reverse-rake C pillar Japanese car:

    If you’re thinking of a production Honda with reverse-rake C pillar then my guess is the 1993-1996 E-JA4/5 (JA4 was front-drive, JA5 was 4WD) Honda Today kei car. It had a fixed rear window and fold-down bootlid rather than a conventional hatchback tailgate. Honda archive web info is here (in Japanese, but the photos show the C pillar and rear glass) http://www.honda.co.jp/auto-archive/today/2door1996/line_up.html

    If you’re thinking of a Honda concept car then I guess the 1984 Pininfarina Honda HPX had a vestigal reverse-rake back window where the trailing edge of the glass canopy departed the bodywork? But I can’t think of any others between that and the 2003 HSC not-a-new-NSX concept

    Lastly, if you’re thinking of a Japanese car with a reverse rake C pillar but not a Honda, then perhaps you mean the 2000-2002 Will Vi by Toyota? That car had a properly reverse-raked C pillar and rear windscreen.

  6. Hi Mark- nice to see your words here. Thanks for the tips. I haven´t looked at them yet but I hope one of them will be the culprit. The silly story behind this is that I was idly looking through an old copy of Car in Ireland and I noticed the image. I thought: there´s that wretched faux-reverse rake pillar. I put the magazine back and in the interim have not been back to the Irish collecion to search it out again. I have looked on the web and conclude that Google´s image searches are not very precise. I look forward to your further comments about other articles!

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