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 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.
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.