Today’s Feature: What if the Ford Five Hundred, Chevrolet Impala, and Cadillac DTS were available as hardtops?
Yes, I’m obsessed with hardtops. My apologies to those of you who don’t feel the same.
Okay, try making these two-door hardtops and see what you get!
You will get a lot of Baby Boomers buying them, especially if they are rear wheel drive
Uh oh, somebody get the smelling salts for Zachman, its an Impala Hardtop… 😉
Althgough the DTS looks good, but part of that looking good is the fender skirt.
My original idea for the DTS was to make a modern Fleetwood Sixty Special, so I used the long wheelbase DTS, gave it fender skirts, and, although there is enough room for a full size window to roll down, I left the rear quarter window like those on the 1960s Fleetwoods. I don’t really like how it turned out (those proportions almost look like a Cadillac, but not quite), but I left it in there to fill out the post.
Nice work, but I hope you don’t mind a few comments on the DTS:)
IMO, the 4 door hartop creates a sportier version of the regular sedan, but your DTS looks rather limo-like, so I’m not sure of the “point” of a 4 door hardtop. And yes, the ’60s Fleetwoods had the rear quarter window, even though they weren’t needed to allow the main section of the rear side windows to retract, but I think the Fleetwoods were all always sedans with B-pillars, and only Sedan de Villes came in sedan and hardtop versions.
The Sixty Special only became a sedan in 1965. I’ve always thought of hardtops as the luxury body style, so to me a hardtop limousine makes perfect sense.
I believe that the Sixty Special was a sedan from the beginning through 1956. The hardtop versions started in 1957 and terminated as you said. The 63 version in your comment is a virtual twin to the one I owned in the late 70s.
I stand corrected! I guess I was thinking of ’65-70 models. Oddly enough, before I came back to this site, was browsing Hemmings, and came across a 6 window Series 62 from around 1961 or so. I noticed it was a hardtop.
I’m not feeling it in these pix. Don’t misunderstand me, if I hadn’t just spent 5 hours updating the youth soccer website, I’d hop on the iMac and try my hand at this.
What’s ruining it for me, is that we can see the artifacts of the remainder of the window frames. The Impy is really noticeable. I would wonder if the car were truly hardtops, that on the back doors, the back of the window frame and c-pillar junction, if that area would be thinner.
On the older cars, that wouldn’t be there. Actually, the Caddy looks good, but on the 500 and the Impy, that area looks odd.
Yes; the Impala needs a roll-down third window, like the Mercedes 300 b had. Now Zach would really swoon over that…
Mmm, Mercedessss. Pre-war design, low power straight 6. I hope the handling sauce was lavished on these. This Roller rip-off was prob. the top line Mercedes-Benz. If the Chancellor of West Germany had to travel in *this*, I’d feel sorry for him.
Just for laughs, here is another 300B hardtop:
Paul, that’s a 300d in the picture you posted, the hardtop and squared off fenders give it away. I’ve liked the 300d ‘Adenauer’ ever since I saw one in Henry Rasmussen’s Mercedes for the Road book. I believe these were the first Mercedes available with air conditioning and automatic transmission, a Borg-Warner unit if I remember correctly. These were made from 1957-1962.
Also, I’m pretty sure the rear quarter windows on the 300d didn’t retract, they popped out and were stored in the trunk.
Agreed Tom, the most elegant M-B sedan ever
Nice article from Popular Science circa 1959 on the then-new Benz lineup, including the 300. Certainly different than the Detroit sleds my grandparents were driving at the time.
This car had MB’s very own X-Frame! This needs a CC all of its own. More at:
Good catch. These cars sat on a pre-war chassis, and in the thirties, back-bone type chassis/frames were quite the rage. As soon as I find one sitting on the streets of Eugene…
catching my breath…slowly…
Wow. What if, indeed. …And me never even owning a hardtop! My dad certainly did, though, and I enjoyed them all.
This is what I get for not opening up a computer all weekend, too.
Doggone it, Paul, you’re killing me!
Now that’s a gorgeous old Benz. It may have looked extremely dated even by 50’s standards, but the engineering was far ahead of its time. Overhead cam inline 6 engine and independent suspension.
Rolls-Royces of the time still had a side-valve inline 6 that predated WW2 and a rear live axle with leaf springs. Just like what one would find under the rear end of a Chevy pickup truck or a Jeep CJ.
I completely agree that they would look better that way, but I was trying to keep these at least somewhat realistic, and I didn’t want to make the windows much larger than they already are because then they wouldn’t be able to fit inside the doors. Just look at any of several 1950s four door hardtops, back when the companies were still trying to figure out how to make a four door hardtop:
Also, rollover standards mean that a thin airy roofline on a modern hardtop isn’t really an option. Mercedes figured out how to do it, but then again, the CL600 costs $160,000, so extra engineering costs aren’t really a problem.
But if you throw physics out the window and just design a dream car, you’ll end up with a much better result:
Somehow that Cadillac looks like a creepy old woman/witch sneaking up behind someone. Disney cartoon kinda thing.. Anyone else see that?
Cody, you could always name it the Cruella de Ville.
I don’t think the auto companies can build a car solid enough nowdays for a 4 door hardtop to stand up to the rotten roads we have, and they know it. Besides, I’m sure there’s some reason like rollover stiffness why they can’t do it, unless we were to make the greenhouses even MORE bunker like. Hey, if Mercedes goes that way, can I call them der Führerbunkers?
For the Impala at least it’s gonna need some aerodynamic mods around the cabin – it’s not bad with just one window down but once you roll down another you get a lot of annoying buffeting. I’ve noticed this in other modern cars too – they’re designed for windows up cruising, not windows down.
Older cars generally have more wind noise with the widows up but are calmer with the windows down too. My old VW Fox had the same buffeting with the moonroof removed though – that option must’ve been an afterthought as our very similarly shaped Dasher wagon had no such issues with its sunroof.
Interestingly, my 2004 Impala isn’t bad for me with all windows down, as I routinely do in warm weather. My 100-mile-a-day commute takes me off I-75, so the traffic noise isn’t as bad on the I-275 loop I travel now. Sometimes I just cop-out and turn on the A/C and cruise in silence and enjoy the ride to work and back home.
Wifey and me are window-down drivers – that’s why we have a history of owning convertibles. All windows down on her 2002 CR-V makes for very large holes in the sides and with the sunroof open, it’s pretty nice.
Our 2007 MX-5 is a delight all its own.
Ours is a 2007. I like your body style better though – the 2006 reskin lost a lot of character. I kinda wish I’d held out for a loaded 2005 with a 3800, maybe even a blown one – the ’07 is a perfectly cromulent automobile but I don’t feel any attachment to it at all like we did with her Lesabre or the Nissan Quest before that or any of the other cars we’ve owned between us. Anyway, I imagine there were plenty of changes to the airflow over the cabin in that redesign.
Windows down cruising in it isn’t that comfortable for me ’cause at my height with the seat as far back and low as I need it the window sills are too high up and the b-pillar pushes my arm forward – the whole thing puts my shoulder into a uncomfortable position and my elbow always seems to be contacting the door right on a nerve.
I drive windows down everywhere and in almost any weather in my Mustang though – turn the heat or A/C on full blast to compensate depending on the season. I often turn the radio off and just enjoy the V8 burble to relax.
My coworker has a CR-V with a sunroof too – yup, it is a nice airy ride on a pleasant day with the sunroof open. Not as airy and enjoyable as his 2007 convertible GT though – I can’t seem to convince him to drive it as often as he should.
While the likelihood is extremely slim that hardtops will ever stage a comeback (particularly the four-doors), it’s still fun and interesting to look at photoshopped styling exercises.
Although hardtops were less impractical than convertibles, they were also the best looking models behind the convertibles, as well. It’s a shame hardtop styling disappeared (for whatever reason).
Side impact remains problematic – in the last week or so there were some pictures circulating of a crash between a Lexus & a Pontiac GTO on display at a car show with some really dramatic damage to the Pontiac
I have an idea of how to partially solve that problem, but I’m no engineer so I don’t know if my idea would actually work in reality. The basic idea would be to connect the tops of the B pillars across the belt line, and maybe add an x brace in there to add even more more structural rigidity. This wouldn’t work on a coupe (there would be no way to get to the back seat) but in a sedan it could be hidden by a wall behind the front seat (like the sedan version of a Fleetwood 75). Another neat option would be retractable B pillars. They would be hidden inside the regular B pillars and when the car sensed a potential crash there would be an explosive charge to drive them up into the ceiling (think of the hidden roll bars on some modern convertibles). That would also be my solution to the severe visibility problem posed by modern headrests, just hide them inside the seat and have them pop up when the airbag is triggered.
I’m digging the Impala HT! They’ve been building that chassis long enough that they could have done a Caprice HT version fairly cheap.
Cars are designed with roof strength in mind these days. That’s a big area between the A + C pillars.
Are there air bags above the windows?
Where are you going to put the seat belts? The metal will be gone.
If you put them in the seats, are there air bags in the seats?
The Impala has a 2 star rating for side impacts in the front. Think of all the great PR if it went down to 1 star.
I don’t think people care anymore about hardtops.
Yeah, hardtops are definitely a thing of the past. The closest you can come is something like a Mustang coupe. That has long enough doors that you can drive with the window open without the high-speed air flow coming in across your left ear.
The shot of the 1957 Lincoln with the rear door open reminds me of the old late-1930’s Railton coupe I saw at a LeMay open house. This car had a vent window on the door, but the door was hinged at the rear, a “suicide door”, so its vent window stuck up like that when the door was open.
Hardtops aren’t completely gone, they’ve only been limited to European hyperluxury cars. Mercedes, Bentley, Rolls-Royce, and a few others still sell them, there just aren’t any available from American manufacturers.
I’m afraid you’re right about pillarless hardtops being a thing of the past. Side-impact standards, more so than roll-over standards and the increasing efficiency and reliability of factory A/C is what did it.
My biggest beef is the lack of openable rear sideglass on medium and large coupes. In other words, a practical two-door sedan.
I’m not about to put down 50K for a Mercedes CLK, as I don’t care for over-priced anything! It’s four-door sedans for me, I suppose.
I’ve also noticed that a lot of what would have been the hardtop market a few decades ago is going towards retractable hardtop convertibles. I’ve seen more and more of these with roof up and windows down, even some of the ones on display at the auto shows. Retractable hardtop convertibles like the Chrysler 200 are much cheaper than the offerings from Mercedes and Bentley, but still more than a standard soft top, and since roof-up-windows-down motoring is what inspired the original GM hardtops you’d think it would be a no brainer to offer a 200 with the roof mechanism removed and a permanent top welded on. It would require practically no additional engineering costs and would satisfy a small but devoted market without the risk or expense of developing a hardtop from scratch.
I have thought the same exact thing. Something tells me regulations get in the way. I think federal regs excuse certain things for convertibles, but when the top is fixed, different rules apply.
True, but if the PT Cruiser can be classified as a truck, there’s no reason this couldn’t be classified as a convertible.
It’s fun to do “what-ifs” and styling exercises; but for all the reasons mentioned and many more, the hardtop is gone. As will the full-size sedan be shortly gone.
Trying to meet fantasy mandated fuel-economy standards are taking up 110 percent of automakers’ time and resources now, and there won’t be titanium-roofed hardtops done for styling while complying with Federal standards.
I for one would rather a manufacturer indulge in PERFORMANCE issues, better balance, and improve durability and value, than spend money on rather dubious styling nuances. All cars today look like wheeled bananas; and that’s not an accident. That’s to take wind-cheating to its utmost.
Dramatic hardtop styling as we saw forty years ago, is gone; is as dead as the rumble seat; and will stay that way until and unless laws, priorities and public tastes all are turned on their ends.
> As will the full-size sedan be shortly gone.
I hope that day will never come, if I have to open my own car company for it.
> All cars today look like wheeled bananas;
This was what killed off the aero movement of the 30s. Car executives realised that perfect aerodynamics on every car would lead to similar designs and little differentiation. So they pursued other avenues for increasing speed with non-aerodynamic but well-differentiated designs, like using bigger, and Bigger, and BIGGER engines! We’re at the position today the 30s guys had the foresight to avoid. However, I’m a big aero-booster, so some middle ground needs to be found.
I never appreciated the hardtop until I bought one. Wow, what a difference!
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