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The three-box, notchback design of the Fiat 124 Coupé
A three-box liftback in notchback form—with its vestigial third box, the European Ford Escort

A notchback is a car design with the rear section distinct from the passenger compartment and where the back of the passenger compartment is at an angle to the top of what is typically the rear baggage compartment.[1] Notchback cars have "a trunk whose lid forms a distinct deck."[2] In profile view, the body has a step down from the roof with a downward inclined passenger compartment's rear window to meet an almost horizontal trunk lid extending to the rear of the car.[3]

The category may be characterized as having a three-box design where the trunk volume is less pronounced than the engine and passenger compartments.[4]

Many models of sedans, coupés, or hatchbacks could be classified as notchbacks. However, the category has limited salience outside American car manufacturers, who distinguish the three-box models from other body styles in the same model range. For example, the Chevrolet Vega range included both a notchback coupe and a fastback coupe.

North America

One of the first cars marketed as a notchback is the 1938 Cadillac Sixty Special.[5][6][7]

In a major design change among U.S. automakers for the 1952 model year, a notchback version of the Nash Ambassador was introduced.[8][9] This was in contrast to the previous fastback aerodynamic body shape that made the 1949 through 1950 Nash Ambassadors the "most streamlined form on the road."[10] The new cars had a distinctive reverse slanting C-pillar and featured boxier styling that became a design trend.[11][12]

In 1971, Chevrolet marketed the three-box sedan models of the Chevrolet Vega as a notchback to differentiate them from the fastback Vega models.[13][14] For the 1973 model year, the car's name was changed to "Vega Notchback".[15]

English-speaking countries

While many car models have notchback characteristics, the category is largely unused outside North America, with their body style being described using other terms. For example, a three-box sedan[17] is more generally known as a "saloon" in British English.[18] "Notchback" has appeared in a few British English publications; however, it is not a term that is used in common parlance in Britain.[19][20]

See also


  1. ^ "Notchback definition and meaning". Collins English Dictionary. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  2. ^ "Definition of Notchback". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  3. ^ Tudose, Sergiu (30 September 2023). "Fastback Revolution: Here's Why You'll Soon Be Saying Goodbye to All Four-Door Sedans". autoevolution. Retrieved 11 January 2024.
  4. ^ Hearst Autos Research. "What is a Sedan? Car Buying Tips". Retrieved 11 January 2024.
  5. ^ "1940, The Cadillac Sixty Sets Another Styling Trend". General Motors: Generations of GM Wiki Timeline. Archived from the original on 17 August 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2017.
  6. ^ McCourt, Mark J. (23 September 2018). "1938-'40 Cadillac Sixty Special". Retrieved 11 January 2024.
  7. ^ "Take Me to Your Style Leader: The 1938–1942 Cadillac Sixty Special". Retrieved 16 June 2018.
  8. ^ Floyd, Clymer (September 1952). "The Owners Report on the 1952 Nash Ambassador". Popular Mechanics. 98 (3): 90–94. Retrieved 11 January 2024 – via Google Books.
  9. ^ Gunnell, John (1992). Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1946-1975. Krause Publications. p. 468. ISBN 9780873412049. Retrieved 11 January 2024 – via Google Books. There was new styling for the Ambassador and Statesman. A new notch back body created by Italy's Pininfarina was the fashion hit of the marque's 50th year
  10. ^ Auto Editors of Consumer Guide (6 November 2007). "1949-1951 Nash Airflyte". Retrieved 11 January 2024.
  11. ^ Foster, Patrick R. (1998). "1 - The Designers". The Nash Styling Sketchbook. The Olde Milford Press. p. 1. ISBN 9780966201901. Retrieved 11 January 2024 – via Google Books.
  12. ^ McClurg, Bob (2016). The History of AMC Motorsports: Trans-Am, Drag, NASCAR, Land Speed and Off-Road Racing. CarTech. p. 20. ISBN 9781613251775. Retrieved 11 January 2024 – via Google Books.
  13. ^ "Chevrolutionary! - 1973 Chevrolet Vega GT Millionth Edition, 1976 Chevrolet Cosworth Vega". Retrieved 16 June 2018.
  14. ^ "How the Chevy Vega Nearly Destroyed GM". Retrieved 16 June 2018.
  15. ^ Chevrolet Vega brochures- years 1971–77. Chevrolet.
  16. ^ McCourt, Mark J. (December 2014). "1961 Rambler Ambassador V-8 Custom "America's First Compact Luxury Car"". Hemmings Motor News. Retrieved 1 April 2021. 1961 Ambassador's reverse-slant C-pillar
  17. ^ "sedan". Chambers 21st Century Dictionary. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  18. ^ "saloon". Chambers 21st Century Dictionary. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  19. ^ Stevenson, Angus; Waite, Maurice, eds. (2011). "notchback". Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Luxury ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 978. ISBN 9780199601110. a car with a back that extends approximately horizontally from the bottom of the rear window so as to make a distinct angle with it.
  20. ^ Barnard, R.H. (1996). Road Vehicle Aerodynamic Design. Longman. ISBN 9780582245228.
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