You know what’s an automotive styling detail that has never really caught on, but I think deserves another chance? The reverse-raked rear window. That’s the sort of phrase that, for most people, takes a moment to process: reverse…rake…rake means like angle? Reverse is backwards, so a backwards-leaning rear window? Yes. Then you probably would need to remind whomever’s arm you’ve seized, locked eyes with, and are bellowing at that you mean on a car. Very few cars have rear windows that lean backwards, but there have been a few, and, personally, I think there should be more. I think it’s been almost 20 years since a major automaker has sold a car with such a window setup, so let’s just take a moment and refresh ourselves with this little-known and I think under-appreciated stylistic detail.
I think the major examples of the reverse-raked rear window are the following cars, presented chronologically:
I believe there are nine mass-produced cars that utilized a reverse-rake rear window: the ’58 Lincoln Continental, which directly influenced its European Ford siblings, the Anglia and Consul Classic in 1959 and 1961, respectively, ushering in a veritable boom of reverse-rakers in 1961 to 1962, starting with the three-wheel Bond Microcar, then most famously on the Citroën Ami, then over in Japan with the Mazda Carol 360, and then another British three-wheel microcar, the Reliant Regal.
After a four-decade gap, the reverse rake was back, and dramatically so, as the design was a defining characteristic of Toyota’s bold partnership with consumer electronics companies that ended up in 2000’s WiLL Vi. Finally, in 2005, I think we have what may be the most recent iteration of the design, the Citroën C4, though at this point that reverse rake angle is very subtle. Still, I think it still can count, even though it’s also the only hatchback example, as all the other ones have a trunk.
So, why did the designers of these interesting cars decide to use such a peculiar window/C-pillar design? I think there’s a few reasons: first, from a cheapskate standpoint, it’s a way to use a flat or nearly flat piece of rear window glass, which is cheaper than curved, and still have a striking-looking design. In the case of the Lincoln, the flat glass allowed the rear window to open, letting you get a solitary breath of fresh air and let out all the billowing clouds of cigarette smoke, as noted by everyone’s pal, Jay Leno:
Also, as Jay notes there, too, the angle of the window prevented snow and ice buildup in winter, which is handy.
For the smaller cars, a big advantage of the reverse rake is that you get more rear seat headroom without having to go to a hatchback design. Not that there’s anything wrong with hatchbacks, but there are still people that prefer trunks, and the reverse-rake window can make extra rear seat headroom out of thin air and keep that three-box design that so many crave.
What I’m wondering is how this design conceit might translate to modern designs. Let’s take a quick look at two popular modern cars, EVs even, like a Tesla Model 3 and a Ford Mach-E:
Okay, maybe it’s a bit odd at first, but I don’t hate it! I’m sure there’s an aero hit of some sort, so maybe you’ll lose a mile or two of range, but, well, nothing’s free, right? Especially on the Mach-E’s crossover-type design, this look really helps it stand out from all those very similar silhouettes, and in the case of the Tesla, which wan’t a hatchback to begin with, you don’t lose much, and there’s now an opportunity to bring back trunk-lid-mounted luggage racks!
Gotta admit, that’s pretty cool.
There’s just something rakish and daring and bold about these backwards-leaning back windows, and I’d love to see some ballsy automaker give them another go. There’s no easier way to stand out in a Target parking lot, right?