Theme: Shutlines – The Difficult C-Pillar Junction

I’ve spent a lot of time looking at shutlines this past month…

How it used to be done. Original image via carsbase
How it used to be done. Original image: carsbase

… and one thing inevitably leads to another, so today we’re taking a (not particularly comprehensive) look at how manufacturers used to deal with another, often tricky junction. The one at the base of the C-pillar.

Once the idea of lead-loading panel junctions fell out of favour during the 1970’s, stylists and production engineers were forced to find novel ways to cover up those inconvenient transitions. On cheaper cars, this was less of an issue. Pininfarina or Peugeot (it’s unclear which) for example, opting to close the Peugeot 304 coupé’s C-pillar with a piece of spongy rubber. On more upmarket cars however, such inexpensive solutions simply wouldn’t do.

Hasn't this design aged well? Original image via curbsideclassic
Hasn’t this design aged well? Original image: curbsideclassic

Take Ford for example. During the mid 1970’s Uwe Bahnsen’s Merkenich studios employed the elegant solution of a body-coloured vent panel to partially cover the 1976 Granada’s C-pillar, neatly masking any visible join; a feature borrowed by Roy Axe’s team at Whitley for the 1980 Talbot Tagora. Lancia, as befitting their straightened circumstances, used a narrow chrome beading to hide the shutline on the Trevi’s rather hefty C-pillar.

Audi by contrast chose an subtle body-coloured trim for the 1976 B2 100, before going a stage further with the 1981 B3 edition; killing two birds with one stone by using the air extraction vent along the base as a visual diversion.

The 1976 B2 Audi 100. Original image via thegegeblog
The 1976 B2 Audi 100. Note how the trim piece aligns with the base of the rear screen trim. Neat. Original image: thegegeblog
It's successor - the B3 100. Original image via historyofcars
Its 1982 successor. Original image via historyofcars

Mercedes-Benz opted for a baroque approach to the 1976 W123 saloon, (an elaborate looking chromed and painted trim piece) before shifting towards austere rationalism with the W201/W124 models during the 1980’s; also employing the horizontal vent motif to good effect.

The Mercedes 190E opted for a similar approach to that of Audi.
The Mercedes 190E opted for a similar approach to that of Audi.

Jaguar’s body engineers clearly took a good hard look at the W123 when the XJ40 body shell was being designed – (their first ever body monoside) – demonstrating once again just how long that car was in gestation. It was a rather messy solution and one for which they were repeatedly berated. Possibly stung by this, its 1994 X300 replacement, despite sharing virtually the same body-in-white, utilised an entirely different body join – the shutline disappearing from the base of the C-pillar entirely.

That car again. XJ40's not very subtle solution.
That car again. Jaguar’s unconvincing solution for XJ40.
Remedied on its successor, the 1994 300. Original image via mercland
Remedied on its successor, the 1994 X300. Original image: mercland

I’m tempted to suggest this problem has been entirely eradicated by modern production engineering methods, but I’m equally confident someone will prove me wrong. Over to you…

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

14 thoughts on “Theme: Shutlines – The Difficult C-Pillar Junction”

  1. It must be one of the stranger things but I happen to like those solutions, barring the Jaguar, of course which was purest rubbish. The Opel Omega “A” and W126 Mercedes used the little strip to bridge the roof and rear wing and both have their appeal. Do I like this more than the use of an elaborate pressing and some welding and filling? It depends on the car. What the joining strip does is allow for a nice little bit of detail and also allows the step from the lowerbody to the glass
    house to be deeper which produces a good castellated look to the glasshouse.
    The Volvo 240 managed to have a complicated weld and crease at the base of the C-pilar and then have a strange triangular “thing” at the top of the C-pillar at the same time.

  2. I think it was the Peugeot 304 sedan and not the coupé that had that black plastic panel. The Citroën BX’s body-coloured trim was controversial too, I’am not sure if I prefer it with or without the optional plastic window on the C-pillar.

    1. As a onetime owner of a 1973 Peugeot 304S Coupé – (1996 – 2001), I can attest to the foam rubber solution At the junction of the of the C-pillar and wing. I expect it was done to ensure maximal parts commonality between it and the cabriolet version.

    2. I thought you may have been talking about the black plastic grille on the sedan’s C-pillar.
      I’ve done another image search and could not find that rubber strip you mentionned until I found 1
      304 coupé image that featured it. It doesn’t look like it was a feature on all models, even quite a rarity judging by the availability of pictures with it.

    3. To be honest, over the duration of my stewardship of the car, I only ever saw one other. They were a very rare beast in the UK – (the cabriolets, less so), so I really only have my own example to go by. It looked factory fitted though, given that it was the treatment on both sides of the vehicle and the example in question was a very original, unmolested example.

    4. Me too, even though I’am in France, the last time I saw one I must have been wearing diapers still. I will do some digging to see why a seemingly small number of the coupés had that feature.

    5. This is Strange. I’ve looked at thousands of pics of the 304 coupé and there’s only that 1 photo of a model with that rubber strip. Nobody talks about it, it never appears on any of the official pictures, the blogs dedicated to the car never mention it. At first I thought it might be the “S” version only but no, the “S” versions don’t have them. It doesnt look ike it’s country-specific either. The mystery remains. Maybe that one picture I found with it was your car lol. What also remains a mystery is how to post pictures on this blog so i can only put a link to the pic in question.

    6. ….and that pic I posted above is of a 204 coupé I think not a 304

    7. The trim piece on that 204 you appended is not original. The rubber piece is embedded within the panel join, where the base of the C-pillar abuts the top of the wing. It’s not immediately apparent in photos. It would require a physical examination to discern.

    8. I was about to ask if it was visible to the naked eye or in pics at least so you’ve answered my question.

    9. I would add that the 204 and 304 Coupé cabriolets (as far as I can ascertain) shared identical bodies in white, only differing from the bulkhead forward at the front and in the treatment of the rear lamps, aft. Therefore, the body-join solution is likely to have been the same for both models.

    10. I’am pretty sure this a correct. The sedan was already considered a bit of a sham because it was a just a glorified 204 with a longer boot, the 304 coupé logically followed the sedan’s recipe and inherited a lot from the 204 indeed.

  3. I used to love the long piece of plastic that ran the lentgh of the Alfa Romeo 75 and connected the C-pillar to the boot in a brutal and handsome way.

  4. I thought it was nicely done on the Renalt 25, for both generations, with the added novelty ( a Renault tradition) of having the name of the version added on the C pillar.

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