Car design continues to evolve over time. Styles and designs come and go, just like the fashion world. Some are never to be seen again, while others make a stylish, retro comeback.
Originating in the 1930’s, the split rear window is due for a revisit. Art Deco automobiles like the 1934 Chrysler Airflow were a natural to adopt this classic design. Offering a sweet, swept-back look, some considered the design “privacy enhancing”, while others criticized it for the lack of visibility.
Just like clothing and other designer merchandise, its artistic effect was very “individual”. The 1940’s saw the demise of the split rear window, the exception being the Volkswagen Beetle which carried the design to 1953. Italian designer Franco Scaglione introduced the design back in the mid-fifties for Alfa Romeo.
The most famous domestic appearance of the split rear window was on the 1963 Chevrolet Corvette ‘Stingray’. Designed by Bill Mitchell, many loved the design due to the bulge on the hood that followed a line on the roof to the rear window.
But the Vette’s window fell prey to some of the criticisms of its predecessors. Although many enjoyed the rear window style, they found the limited visibility outweighed the aesthetics.
Bill Mitchell did not give up and worked with General Motors designers and in 1971 came up with the Buick Rivera. This time the split was a clear ridge in the glass, rather than a panel separating 2 windows. It clearly delineated the window without visual obstruction.
The automotive industry has not seen the return of the split rear window since. Many would say good riddance, while others are quietly, and anxiously, awaiting its return to the automotive fashion highway.