The back end of a car is just as important as the front end of a car.
This inescapable design balancing act has been a big challenge for Detroit over the decades and sometimes they got it exactly right on their cars.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I acknowledge my choices might be the height of subjectivity, but here are a few of my choices for Detroit’s finest rear ends.
The 1957 Plymouth has one of the nicest combinations of fins and tail lights ever put on an Exner car. The ’57 Plymouth had full tail lights, unlike its more famous 1958 successor which became a movie cult classic favorite with ‘Christine’. The ’58 Plymouth had small round taillights at the base of the fin and lost something in the style transition compared to the larger ’57 lights. Maybe that change angered up Christine.
Similarly, I have always liked the back end of a 1959 Chevy because it was such a radical looking design style in ’59 and is even more radical in 2013. Chevrolet made a major design departure from 1958 with the ’59 and it became a car that was either loved or hated for its looks. There was no middle ground for the ’59 Chevy in the public eye and I always sided up with the people who loved its looks.
The 1949 Cadillac was an early pioneer in the finned car era, not the earliest finned Caddy but a very cool rear end style that set the table for the biggest fins ever found on a Caddy ten years later when fins were king. The 40s was a conservative era for car design and the Caddy was designed to buck that trend. Mission accomplished in my opinion.
Clearly, a 1969 Mustang Mach 1 was designed to showcase the muscled-up Pony’s best features: brute force under the hood and a stem to stern style that reflected massive horsepower. The rear end of a Mach I was a home run for Ford because nothing said 60s muscle better than a fastback design that swept back into a spoiler on the trunk and dual exhausts under the bumper.
The 1968 Charger was also an iconic fastback from the 60s muscle car era but it hit the style target with its bullet taillights and long swept roof design. The unique combination also drew the attention of Frank Bullitt when he matched his ’68 Mustang against a ’68 Charger in one of the greatest car chases in movie history. I saw plenty of the Charger rear end during the chase scene and my lifelong love for the ’68 Charger was set in tire smoke.
My final selection for the list is the 1973 Buick Riviera Boat-tail. The 70s were not renowned for radical automotive designs from Detroit, but the 1973 Riviera was a big exception to this basic philosophy. The rear end of a ’73 Riv was unmistakably unique enough for even non-car guys to pick it off in traffic. The sight of a 1973 Riviera in 2013 traffic will prove this 40-year-old car has lost none of its curb appeal when you see its unique rear end.
So there you have it, one guy’s opinion about some of the best rear ends ever to come out of Detroit.