Not all Detroit styling trends are keepers. Here’s one of the shorter-lived design fads in the Motor City, the bustleback period of 1980-87.
As styling themes go, the Detroit bustleback look didn’t live long, running less than a decade before it disappeared without a trace. But while it was here, the quirky design swept up all three American luxury brands: Cadillac, Lincoln, and Imperial. Here’s a quick look at each.
The Detroit bustleback movement has a clear beginning with the 1980 Seville, above. Created by Wayne Kady, chief of the Cadillac styling studio and heavily promoted by General Motors styling vice president Bill Mitchell, the look was inspired by the razor-edge styling of the Hooper-bodied Rolls-Royces of the immediate post-war era. Mitchell made no bones about his regular borrowing from Rolls-Royce. “If you’re going to steal,” he proclaimed, “you rob a bank, not a grocery store.”
The short-trunk theme was employed with only minor changes through 1985 on the dour-door Seville, which then shared its basic platform and front wheel-drive powertrain with the two-door Eldorado. While the distinctive look generated plenty of buzz, it didn’t exactly set the showrooms ablaze. Sales languished at 20,000 to 40,000 units annually through the six-year production run.
Chrysler followed Cadillac into the bustleback craze for 1981 with the ’81-’83 Imperial, based on the J-body Cordoba platform and available only as a two-door coupe (above). A 318 CID V8 with electronic fuel injection was the sole engine on the order form, but a number of appearance packages were offered, including a Frank Sinatra edition. Sales were lackluster at around 17,000 total for all three years.
Ford’s Lincoln division was the third and last to enter the bustleback club in 1982, and it hung on the longest, employing the gimmick on the four-door Lincoln Continental through the 1987 model year. The Lincoln take on the theme included the division’s signature faux spare tire bump, below. Under the crisply folded sheet metal, the seventh-generation Continental was a stretched Thunderbird.
While the Detroit bustleback look was short-lived, it did serve one useful function: The sawed-off decks allowed automakers to shrink the footprints of their aging and bulky luxury platforms. As each of the three Detroit bustlebacks were retired from the market, they were replaced with smaller, transverse-front-drive vehicles.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.