Today, we’re pleased to introduce DTW reader, Bruno Vijverman, who poses a question which has been bothering him of late.
Bill Mitchell considered the 1965 GM cars to be his best work. And he may very well have been correct: The already beautiful Buick Riviera’s styling was cleaned up with the hidden headlights it was always supposed to have, the Chevrolet Corvair was restyled in a faintly Italianate fashion, while the regular Chevrolets had a more dynamic and flowing look if compared to the somewhat boxy 1964 models.
The same could be said of the other full-size offerings from Oldsmobile, Buick and especially Pontiac. The GM flagship Cadillac was of course also fully restyled for 1965, and is generally regarded as a handsome, and in view of the era and fashion, relatively uncluttered and cleanly styled car.
I also like the 1965 Cadillac. Apart from one thing: the weird trajectory of the shutline between the front and the rear door on the four-door models. Since this caught my eye I cannot “un-see” it.
My hobby is collecting American car brochures. Living in Europe, 1960s US cars are not seen that often on my streets for a personal visual inspection, and because my brochures only offer a two dimensional view of the cars, initially at least, I had never noticed it.
Although the unsightly shutline first manifested itself in 1965, I will use the 1966 Cadillac as an example because this was only a mildly facelifted version of the 1965 car and the brochure for the 1966 model demonstrates my point in the clearest manner. If you look at the white car on the cover (lead photo, top), there seems to be nothing wrong. The shutline between front and rear door runs broadly along the same slightly curved trajectory as the one between the front wing and front door.
But when you look at a photograph of the actual car (photo 02, above), it immediately becomes apparent that GM marketing was not happy with the way the actual shutline turned out and decided to resort to some creative retouching to hide it. One imagines that they hoped that the prospective client would be sufficiently distracted by seeing the entire car in person in the showroom that he wouldn’t notice the awful truth….
By the way, things get even weirder with the illustrations on the inside pages of the brochure (above). Here the shutline is suddenly perfectly aligned and almost arrow-straight! GM’s ad men were creative with magazine advertisements as well: Cadillac’s cleverly hid the shutline from view by either showing the four-door car in black, or even in rear 3/4 view with the front door open! (See below)
It is difficult to imagine that Bill Mitchell was happy with the way this shutline turned out either- so I assume there must have been some engineering reason that necessitated it.
Perhaps it has something to do with the very slightly concave shape of the bodysides? One can theorise that when opening the rear door, a more or less straight-down shutline would cause the front edge of the rear door to make unwanted contact with the rear edge of the front door. However, this does not explain why the shutline between front wing and front door drops almost perfectly straight down.
Also, contemporary full-size four door US cars from AMC, Chrysler and Ford don’t seem to require this unusual arrangement. The cars from Buick and Oldsmobile were similarly affected, but the full-size cars from Pontiac and Chevrolet were not. The reason for this is most likely that Cadillac, Buick and Oldsmobile employed the GM “C-body,” while Pontiac and Chevrolet used the smaller “B-body”.
The unsightly shutline was eliminated with the second facelift of the C-body for the 1969 model year, visual evidence that for GM styling, correcting the original shutline was deemed necessary.
I have discussed this anomaly with fellow enthusiasts but unfortunately nobody has been able to provide a convincing explanation. We can’t ask Bill Mitchell anymore (and I fear this also goes for his colleagues in GM’s styling studio at the time), so I turn to Driven to Write and its knowledgeable readers. Who can shed light upon this anomaly?
Perhaps fretting about shutline trajectories borders on OCD but rest assured I neither wear an anorak nor have ever owned one. But given that DTW has its own minor obsession with car ashtrays, I trust the readership can sympathise with mine.