Classic Car Insurance: History of ‘Coke-bottle’ Styling
One of the most iconic features of mid-century American automobiles is the pervasively curvaceous body styling which began in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Stepping away from straight-edged boxy and envelope styling of the early 1900’s vehicles, designers in the mid-20th century began to incorporate chiseled edges, dramatic fenders and curvature into the automotive body styling with both performance and aesthetic intent.
To auto enthusiasts and collectors this design has come to be known as Coke-bottle styling, named after the resemblance to the classic contoured bottle design of popular American beverage producer Coca-Cola. Many tenants of Coke-bottle styling were originally crafted by aircraft manufacturers who had been streamlining aircraft design to improve aerodynamics and reduce drag and air resistance for better flight performance. When automakers began incorporating functional curvature, wasp-waste body modeling and other elements into their vehicles, the performance improvements and consumer response was staggering.
Throughout the 1960s automakers such as Studebaker, Pontiac and Buick began to incorporate subtle horizontal creases and a slightly pinched middle section which swelled out again in the rear of the vehicles. By 1966, the General Motors A-body sedan had incorporated the softer more aerodynamic curvature into their design with a mid-riff pinch and slightly tilted fenders. However, it was the 1968 Corvette Stingray which brought Coke-bottle styling to prominence.
The new shape of the 1968 Corvette Stingray, first of the C3 generation, featured improved aerodynamics when compared to the C2 Corvettes, an iconic pinched mid-section and fenders which bulged out and arched upwards. The design was adopted in response to racer complaints about drag and high speed front end lift experienced my drivers in earlier models. The C3’s new Coke-body styling was so successful that it would be a staple for the next four generations of Corvettes and inspire other auto makers such as Ford, Dodge and GM to adopt similar styling in their sports, muscle and race car models. By the 1970’s tailfins had been incorporated into coke-bottle styling, and the combined design would be adopted almost unilaterally among American and foreign automakers over the next decade.
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