Theme: Materials – Glassback Imprimis

The humble little Imp was a trendsetter in several ways. But I’m not talking about pneumatic throttles… not today anyway.

Image: classiccarcatalogue
Image: classiccarcatalogue

Question: Does the 1963 Hillman Imp feature the earliest European production example of a ‘glassback’ or opening rear window? I’m going to stick my neck out and say it does. Yes, the 1959 Austin A40 (Farina) Countryman’s split tailgate arrangement could be said to predate it, as indeed did that of the earlier Chevy Nomad but I’m discounting both on the basis that not only is there a solid looking steel pressing holding the glass in place, it also forms part of a hinged drop-down section. (An arrangement the Range Rover cleaves to).

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Whereas that of the Imp is (apart from a slim metal frame) almost entirely composed of glazed material. Which leads me to wonder if the Imp was Tom Karen’s (or whichever of the innumerable ex-Ogle designers lining up to claim credit) inspiration for the 1968 Reliant Scimitar GTE’s glassback, or indeed of Richard Teague’s 1970 AMC Gremlin – to say nothing of Jan Wilsgaard’s 1972 Volvo P1800 ES?

And just to illustrate how observant I am, it just occurred to me that the Chrysler Sunbeam’s rear hatch treatment was probably a cynical attempt to visually link it to the Imp, a detail I missed in the intervening thirty nine years.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

12 thoughts on “Theme: Materials – Glassback Imprimis”

  1. The VW Up trio all use a glass tailgate and so does the old version of the Peugeot Citroen Toyota trio of cars. The reason Rootes used the same solution on both the Imp and Sunbeam was cost. Cost. Cost.

  2. That advert for the Imp is fascinating for its utter dullness. It’s as if someone who hated the Imp was asked to come up with something nice to say about the car and they spent about five minutes doing so. As for built by car craftsmen…you’ve got to admire their front.

    1. Mark. It looks dull now, but this sort of ad probably tried to emulate the groundbreaking US advertising of VW’s Beetle from DDB. Anyway, things were simpler back then. Pre-Photoshop, decent retouching of photos was a costly business, hence the fact that, despite the ‘craftsman’ thing, no-one thought to ensure that the trailing edge of the door actually lined up with the rear panel.

  3. Anyway Eoin, make cheap jibes if you must, but that pneumatic throttle was a corker. The only problem people had was when they let the tube slip out from between their lips.

  4. It’s odd – and rather unfair – that the clever Imp, which was a fine car to drive, lives on the outside, whereas the original Beetle, the Giacosa 500, the Issigonis Mini and the Renault 4CV (in its own country at least) are all hailed as ‘icons’;

  5. IN terms of glass to surround ratio, does any car beat the Jensen Interceptor?
    Though not a true “glass-back” there was an impressive acreage of glass in the quite thin hatch.

    1. Angus: Thanks for stopping by and for certain, the Jensen was a veritable goldfish bowl in terms of glazed area per-square inch and was something of a trailblazer itself, especially in FF form. I hadn’t considered the Jensen, and while the idea of an Imperceptor is amusing, I do feel it belongs in a different category.

  6. The Bitter CD of 1973 has also a glass tailgate. Not so bad for the visibility of a sportscar.

    1. It offers a great view of the owner’s luggage as well. Apropos of nothing, those tail lights look annoyingly familiar.

    2. Tail lights are similar to those of the Lambo Espada, and no doubt a fair few other cars at the time. Plenty of glass at the rear of this one too.

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