Say the word “hardtop” and any vintage-auto enthusiast knows what you’re referring to: a closed-roof car with a pillarless roofline (i.e., no door posts to break up the flow of the styling). Though there were earlier examples of the basic concept, General Motors kicked off the hardtop as we know it by introducing a pillarless-coupe body style in its Buick, Cadillac, and Oldsmobile product lines midway through the 1949 model year.
The glamorous styling feature took hold almost immediately, and competitors rushed to field their own hardtop models. American automakers continued to innovate and expand on the concept as the Fifties progressed. GM introduced four-door hardtops for 1955, and American Motors was first to market with a hardtop station wagon: the Nash (and also Hudson) Rambler Custom Cross Country, which debuted for 1956.
With no door pillars to contend with, auto stylists were freed to create sleeker, more stylish rooflines—and those rooflines became especially dramatic at the tail end of the Fifties, as the front and rear roof pillars got smaller and the glass areas of the tops got larger. Besides their stylish looks, hardtops offered the all-weather security and solidity of a closed-roof vehicle combined with at least some of the breezy, open-air feel of a convertible when the side windows were rolled down.
By the Sixties, the hardtop was a fundamental part of new-model planning in Detroit, and many European makes offered them as well. However, by the early Seventies, the end of the traditional hardtop was already in sight, due primarily to the specter of new federal safety regulations and, perhaps, an increasingly litigious society. With their inherently weaker roof designs, pillarless-roof cars couldn’t offer the same level of protection in rollover and side-impact crashes as their pillared counterparts—even when equipped with structural reinforcements to their chassis that added weight and hurt fuel economy. Auto manufacturers began eliminating hardtops from their respective lineups as the Seventies wore on, and by the end of the decade, the genre was essentially extinct in the U.S. (save for the occasional imported hardtop coupe with smaller window openings and thick roof pillars).
Collected here are about a dozen print ads for Sixties hardtops—arguably the heyday of the style. If you spent time with one of these (or any other) hardtop cars, tell us about it. The place to leave comments is down below.
Sixties Hardtop Ads
1960 Dodge Dart
1962 Mercedes-Benz 300d
1963 Oldsmobile F-85 Jetfire
1964 Mercury Marauder
1966 AMC Ambassador DPL
1966 Ford Galaxie 500 XL
1967 Chevrolet Caprice
1969 Buick LeSabre
Gallery of Five Great Car Logos—For Tattoos
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