Fastback Friday: The Golden Age of Hatchbacks

Over at Hatchtopia, I’ve ruminated a number of times on an idea that I have – that there used to be a far greater selection of hatchback vehicles than there are today.  I don’t have any numerical evidence to back that theory, but I know it to be true.  It used to be that a car buyer could walk into nearly any dealership in the United States and find at least one mainstream vehicle available in a hatchback configuration.  I’m not talking about low-volume sports coupes or niche rides, but rather a 4- or 5- seat compact or midsized car with 3- or 5- doors. 

For instance, in various points in time, there were hatchback versions of the following:

  • Toyota Camry
  • Toyota Corolla
  • Toyota Corona
  • Nissan Stanza
  • Nissan Sentra
  • Honda Accord
  • Mazda 626
  • Volkswagen Quantum
  • Chevrolet Corsica
  • Chevrolet Nova
  • Chevrolet Cavalier
  • Dodge Lancer
  • Dodge Shadow

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, and I’m certainly not suggesting that these cars were any good or even interesting, merely that they existed.  And to point out that they – or an equivalent replacement do not.  Adding to the above list were a number of sporty coupes – the Celica, 240SX, Camaro, Mustang.  These cars are also now gone, or soldier on as a trunk-ified version.

That list forms at least the barest of reason for me to declare that there was in fact a time where hatchbacks may have not ruled the earth, but perhaps at least roamed the margins in fairly significant numbers – a Golden Age of Hatchbacks if you will.  The problem is to define the period as the list above is not necessarily contemporaneous – those cars didn’t necessarily exist all at the same time. 

There’s been much discussion of the Malaise Era and the Turbo Era – those two existed about the same time… Also, could the Golden Age be considered an era?  A trip down memory lane to a 101-level geology class ensued.

According to the study of geochronology, the earth’s history is divided into a number of different time scales – from eons down to chrons.  Eras and ages fall somewhere in between – eras being defined as hundreds of millions of years and ages being millions of years.

For car people, the Malaise Era seems like millions of years long – for me, the Golden Age of Hatchbacks was but a fleeting memory.  So the Golden Age name works.

Now, if I could only find a car that defined this time period.  The Camry pictured at the top came and went too quickly – arriving on these shores in 1982 and gone by ’86.  That seems to be right in the wheelhouse, but certainly not long enough to define an age.

Various K-cars and similar economy shitboxes do not define an age either – they’ve existed since dinosaurs roamed the earth.  What I needed to find was an icon, something that everyone recognized and for better or worse could identify as the bellwether of this Golden Age.  While driving to work, I spotted that icon on the freeway.

Yep, the Ford Mustang defines this age.  Why?  Starting out with the 1964 1/2 model, the Mustang was a notchback or fastback with a trunk.  Then, in 1974 with the introduction of the much-maligned Mustang II model, a hatchback was available – and that was the case until 1993 when the Fox body Mustang was replaced by a trunk-equipped model.

Therefore, the Golden Age of Hatchbacks can finally be defined as 1974-1993.  So what’s your favorite Golden Age  hatchback?  Here’s mine:

Photo via Autofrei





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