Home » Check Out One Of The Greatest Rear Seats Of All Time And Some Of The Very Worst

Check Out One Of The Greatest Rear Seats Of All Time And Some Of The Very Worst

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Rear seats in cars are more interesting than you may think. As something designed to carry human beings, it’s an important part of a car, and yet it’s also a part of a car that many haven’t actually sat in. Back seats are evocative of many things, with some lascivious connotations as they’re often a prime spot for in-car boning and also innocent connotations, since the possible results of those bonings, children, often end up there. What really fascinates me in the world of back seats are those barely-usable back seats that are often crammed into sports cars, almost as an afterthought. Very often they’re just the idea of a back seat, but still made real with leather and foam and carpet. Let’s look at some of these marginal seats, but, before that, I want to share with you a truly incredible rear seat.

This one was shared with my by our very own The Bishop, a man who also appreciates a good rear seat. We were talking about back seats, though I can’t recall just how we arrived there? Anyway, that barely matters, because this back seat is worth seeing, regardless of the context.

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Are you ready? Good. Behold one of the best back seats ever to be mass-produced, the rear seat of the Lancia Beta HPE:

Hpe Seat1

Look at that! It’s like the best of ’70s modern furniture, crammed in the back of an Italian hatchback. That color! And that fabric! I can feel it under my hand; there’s something about that color and texture that I always associate with bold ’70s European design and I don’t feel ashamed saying I fucking love it. It’s the furniture style of the space stations we should all be living on in some much more optimistic future that never quite happened.

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Look at those black bolsters between the seat and the backrest! Look at how the sides are cushioned and upholstered and wrap around the rear of the car! There’s nothing I don’t like about this. I want to slump in that back seat with a book on a nice long road trip. And maybe nap.

Okay, I promised you one fantastic back seat, and I delivered. Now I want to really push the limits of what we can consider a back seat at all, and see how various cars played in these blurry spaces, sports cars that, for reasons lost to time, decided that they needed back seats, even if physics and space and human anatomy weren’t able to quite make it work. But they tried. Oh did they try.

Lanciazagato

Some I actually think were successful, if strange. Like the Lancia Fulvia Sport Zagato, which had a really novel back seat that somehow eliminated the middle of the backrest. It looks odd, but you have the top and bottom of the backrest, so I think your back would be plenty well supported. It may be less hot, too, in the summer, with that big gap allowing for airflow to your sweaty spine, and you have easy grabbing-access to stuff in the trunk area. I think this one kind of works, actually.

Alfajrzagato

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In some ways, this is the opposite of the Lancia up there: this Alfa Romeo Junior Zagato has a full seatback, but what looks like no seat bottom, which makes me question if this is actually a rear seat or not. You see, the presence of un-padded, un-upholstered, carpeted areas usually are how one tells an area not actually intended to be a seat from something that is intended. This sort of has both, which is confusing. They seem to be hedging their bets here – is it a seat? Maybe! Can you sit in it? Sorta? It’s a gamble!

356

The Porsche 356 is really pretty similar in setup to that Alfa, but Porsche is determined that the rear area there be thought of as a place one could sit, so there are actual padded and upholstered seat bottoms and a sort of half-backrest, with the negative spaces covered in carpet. It’s a strangely disconnected seat, but it’s clearly intended to be one, and, provided the front seat passengers are short enough, you may be able to keep your legs.

Lc500

Speaking of legs, I think the most cynical of the almost-seats are ones like these, in a Lexus LC 500. It’s well finished and upholstered in a lovely manner, padded and fully-realized, but the legroom is effectively zero, unless you have legs made of some kind of flat noodles, like rad na noodles. The effort put into those seats while the car designers knew that there was zero legroom just feels, I don’t know, cruel somehow. Like a sick joke, and I’m not laughing.

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Lambo350

I have a lot more respect for cars that really worked and tried new ideas to make a rear seat work. Take the incredible Lamborghini 350, for example. It could be had with no rear seat (those twin metal strips on the not-seat are the clue that this almost-seat is not really intended for sitting) or with one central rear seat, as you can see above!

It’s a very strange solution, and I’m not clear on where the rear passenger’s legs should go: splayed out to either side, where there’s sort of room, if you sit like a big frog, or perhaps stretched out between the front seats? I’d really like to try this seat one day, perhaps when I get to become part of the incredibly wealthy thruple of my dreams.

Alfamontreal

The Alfa Romeo Montreal is a confusing one, because I’m not 100% certain these are seats. The level of apparent padding/upholstery is riding the line between cargo area and seat area; the little wells there could be for butts or suitcases. I’m really not sure of the intent; perhaps it was deliberately vague? I guess whatever you end up using it for makes it what it is?

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Rx7

The Mazda RX-7 took an opposite approach, with two variants of its rear interior area, one very clearly for seats, and the one we got in America, very clearly not. The rest of the world got scooped-out butt-holders, and we got little covered bins. I think I’d rather have the seats, because they can do both jobs: occasional people or cargo. The bins are just cargo!

Merak

Okay, one last one, which I really like, because getting any rear seat into a mid-engined car is a triumph. And the rear seats in a Maserati Merak are kind of a triumph. Maybe a terrible one if you’re stuck in them, but they exist, and that goes a long way. The backrests are as vertical as church pews, and between the seats is something that looks like a quilted garbage can. You sort of have an armrest in front of that, but just, it seems, for the part of your arm from your wrist to your fingertips.

At the same time, legroom seems to exist back there, somehow! I think the designers did an incredible job working within some massive constraints.

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88CieraXC
88CieraXC
2 months ago

I nominate the far back seat of the Buick Roadmaster /pretty much every gm wagon. Backwards, baby

Technosaur
Technosaur
2 months ago

I LOVE that my BRZ has a backseat. Very occasional use, but it gives me legroom flexibility in the front and acts as a cargo shelf when I’m solo. Plus it’s a great place for the doggo to hang out which cannot be done in 2 seater sports cars, or at least not with wifey in the passenger seat.

Bassracerx
Bassracerx
2 months ago

1997 toyota Avalon had the most comfortable seats out of any car ive rode/driven in. Truly a couch just the perfect squishiness and reclining. https://images.dealersync.com/cloud/userdocumentprod/2571/Photos/397641/20190731230514780_DSCN9204.jpg?_=528c9a6f06a7f0e380fb109f13a29f16011f0cd8

Philip Dunlop
Philip Dunlop
2 months ago

I always liked that the rear seats in the Volvo C30 were two buckets – essentially the same as the front seats which, being a Volvo, were always excellent. I think I’ve only been a rear seat passenger in a C30 once. The legroom was okay, though I’m on the shorter side of average height so anyone taller may struggle. The boot was comically small. I loved the C30, but they were not well packaged cars.

Anthony Magagnoli
Anthony Magagnoli
2 months ago
Reply to  Philip Dunlop

They can do a lot more when they abandon the center seat. Those are great.
RX-8 was great, too! I had leased one and loved it.
https://youtu.be/FvIvGZ8Z-j0?si=g2nLqGNqutYJ-0j-

Emma P
Emma P
2 months ago

My 1974 Alfa 2000GT has really nice buckety rear seats, they’re actually really comfy to sit in.. unless you have legs. If you push the front seats all the way forwards you can sit in them, but as the base of the seat is pretty much mounted on the floor, all you can see in front if you is your knees. With the front seats in any sensible position, that floor where your feet might go disappears. It’s remarkable how much effort they put into utterly pointless seats.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
2 months ago

Porsche until the boxster seemed determined to offer more that two seats. The 914 was officially a three passenger car if you ordered a third set of seatbelts and a pad to put between the seats. It’s fun to show that to the cop that stopped you for giving two people a ride.

M570 – Third center seat
M166 – seat belt for M570

Yeah it’s not even a worst back seat, it’s worse than the worst.

Do I receive a prize?

Mars
Mars
2 months ago

Well, how about the A310 seats then? They look not much more sensible than the Merak’s and are paired to positively bonkers front seats, and I can confirm they fit a me-sized human, though I can’t speak to their comfort over trips of any length.

Thatguyinphilly
Thatguyinphilly
2 months ago

It’s my understanding that in many of these examples the rear “seats” are provided because two-seaters are typically more expensive to insure.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
2 months ago

What about the original Fiat Panda? The rear seat was a quilted fabric hammock that could be a conventional seat, a child sized bed or a cargo barrier depending on where the support bars plugged in.

MiniDave
MiniDave
2 months ago

I recognized those Beta Coupe’ seats in the lead photo, but I don’t remember ever getting any with cloth seats, ours all had leather. Source – I worked for a Lancia dealer in the mid 70’s when these cars were introduced to the US market. I had one of every type for a dealer Demo, including a Skorpian and an HPE – really liked the style of the HPE – the sedan, not so much.

I remember the day our dealer principal asked us what car we would like to add to our dealership – we all answered “Honda!”, instead we got Fiat, then later Alfa (whose cars had rust holes in them as they were delivered off the truck!) and then Lancia. The 70’s were an interesting time to be in the car bidness…..

I liked the Beta Coupe’ enough to buy one, and so did my then girlfriend, now wife. $7500 fully loaded, which was a lot for a tiny 4 cyl car, even with leather.

Torch, you should really try to find a brochure for the mid 70’s Lancias – the cover said “Lancia, The return of Truth, Beauty and Wisdom”!

I kid you not!

Last edited 2 months ago by MiniDave
DrDanteIII
DrDanteIII
2 months ago

I’d really like to try this seat one day, perhaps when I get to become part of the incredibly wealthy thruple of my dreams.

Great, now I need to explain to my co-workers why I just laughed audibly, or LOL’s as the youths say.

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
2 months ago

As a lanky, average-height person, this sort of thing makes me angry, and let me tell you why.

Inevitably, because of my build, I am the one resigned to having to ride in the back. My compatriots are usually taller and/or wider than me. Those RX-7 seats? How do you seriously get out of those on your own? I’m willing to bet there’s still someone out there who’s been stuck in the back of an RX-7 since the Bush Sr. administration.

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