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The three-box, notchback design of the Fiat 124 Coupé

1965 Ford Mustang Hardtop

Notchback is a styling term describing a car body style, a variation of three-box styling where the third distinct volume or "box" is less pronounced — especially where the rear deck (third box) is short or where the rear window is upright. Generally, the notchback refers to the distinct angle of the rear window in relation to the vehicle's more horizontal roofline and its rear decklid.

The term is derives from the noun, notch meaning v-cut or indentation — though as a styling term it eludes precise definition and can overlap other styling designations. The term can apply to a sedan, coupé, liftback or hatchback configuration — especially where the third box of the three-box styling remains articulated, though perhaps barely — as with the third generation European Ford Escort. Notchback may highlight a design's sharp or abrupt roof/rear-window angle. Examples include the European Ford Anglia and U.S. Mercury Montclair that also included a rear window that could be lowered for "breezeway" ventilation.

The styling term also may overlap the marketing use of the term notchback, for example where the term differentiates models within a range, for example the Chevrolet Vega Notchback (sedan) from the Vega Hatchback. The compact Ford Mustang although labeled a hardtop coupe, exhibited "long hood - short deck" notchback styling that was common on 60's compact coupes.

North America

1971 Chevrolet Vega Notchback (sedan)

80s Ford LTD, "upright" notchback

1961 Rambler Ambassador sedan

General Motors claims that the 1940 Cadillac Sixty Special introduced the "streamlined notchback" styling that influenced roof and rear deck styling of a broad range of vehicles until World War II[1] The notchback design was common across U.S. automakers and automobile types starting in the early 1960s.

Chevrolet used the notchback descriptor on the Chevrolet Vega two-door thin-pillar sedan, officially changing its name for the 1973 model year to - Vega Notchback.[2] Oldsmobile used the so-called "formal roof" styling on the 1970 Cutlass Supreme hardtop coupe described in marketing literature as having "promised affordable elegance".[3]

In the 80s, short deck - formal roof, compact and mid-size notchback coupes and sedans made a return such as the Ford LTD Crown Victoria, and the C- and G-body cars from General Motors, and the 1985-1991 N-body cars.

American Motors described a "modified fastback"), a styling trend re-emerged in the late 1960s where roof lines on many two-door models were made smoother with a slope of the rear window or more arc (a style that whereas, many four-door sedans featured a more upright roofline such as the Rambler Ambassador[4]


  • 1964-1967 GM A-body coupes/sedans (Chevelle, Tempest/LeMans, Skylark, F-85/Cutlass)
  • 1965-1973 Ford Mustang coupe
  • 1967-1969 Chevrolet Camaro coupe
  • 1967-1969 Pontiac Firebird coupe
  • 1967-1973 AMC Ambassador sedans
  • 1968-1977 Chevrolet Corvette coupe
  • 1971-1977 Chevrolet Vega Notchback
  • 1974-1978 Ford Mustang II coupe[5]
  • 1975-1980 Chevrolet Monza Towne Coupe
  • 1975-1977 Pontiac Astre Notchback
  • 1976-1980 Pontiac Sunbird coupe
  • 1978-1983 Chevrolet Malibu sedan
  • 1979-1983 Ford Mustang coupe
  • 1980-1985 GM X body coupe/sedan Citation Coupe (80-82), Phoenix, Skylark, Omega
  • 1981-1987 J body coupes/sedans Cavalier, Sunbird, Skylark, Firenza, Cimarron
  • 1981-1987 GM RWD G-body coupes/sedans (Malibu/Monte Carlo, LeMans/Bonneville/Grand Prix, Regal, Cutlass)
  • 1983-1997 Mercury Cougar
  • 1984-1988 Pontiac Fiero
  • 1985-1988 Chevrolet Nova sedan


A three-box hatchback in notchback form — with its vestigial third box, the European Ford Escort

Ford Escort Mark III 5-door hatchback 1980–1986

The term became common in British English when used for the European Mark III Ford Escort and the slightly later Ford Sierra, both of which have hatchbacks as well as a slightly articulated trunk.

In British English a three-box sedan[6] is more generally known as a saloon.[7] Although the term appears in a few British English publications (see refs), "notchback" is not a term that is used in common parlance in Britain.[8][9]


  • Lexus LS
  • Mercedes-Benz W108, W109
  • Nissan Cefiro
  • Nissan Laurel
  • Smart Roadster
  • Volkswagen Jetta
  • Volkswagen Notchback


See also


  1. "1940, The Cadillac Sixty Sets Another Styling Trend". General Motors: Generations of GM Wiki Timeline. Retrieved on 6 August 2010.
  2. 1971-77 Chevrolet Vega brochures
  3. Auto Editors of Consumer Guide (20 August 2007). "Oldsmobile's 1973-1977 Intermediates". howstuffworks com. Retrieved on 6 August 2010.
  4. Auto Editors of Consumer Guide (11 October 2007). "1967-1968 AMC Ambassador". howstuffworks com. Retrieved on 6 August 2010.
  5. "The 1974 Ford Mustang: Notchback by Default" by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, 2007-02-15, retrieved on 2009-03-10.
  6. Chambers Dictionary (British English): sedan Retrieved 2008-05-22.
  7. Chambers Dictionary (British English): saloon Retrieved 2008-05-22.
  8. "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" Concise Oxford English Dictionary Eleventh edition, p. 977. Oxford University Press 2006. ISBN 0-19-929634-0
  9. Barnard, R.H. (1996). Road Vehicle Aerodynamic Design. Longman. ISBN 978-0582245228. 

External links

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