As motor car ownership came within reach of a greater number of families, vehicle design changed to accommodate their luggage
Matt Burt
19 February 2015

After World War 2, the evolution of the motor car lurched back into forward motion. By August 1948, nearly two million cars were on the roads of the UK, which was a record figure, although only 10% of the total were made up of cars bought since the beginning of 1947.

The newer cars, though, were taking on family-friendly utilitarian flourishes such as the rear-sited ‘luggage locker’ – or ‘boot’ to you and me – which was taking the place of the body-mounted luggage grids and clipped-on luggage trunks popular on pre-war machinery.

A design shift towards full-width car bodies precipitated the incorporation of the luggage locker as an integral part of the vehicle.

“The changed shape of the modern car has brought considerable benefits at the tail end,” noted Autocar. “The luggage locker has more useful capacity than ever before. The wheel arch is merely a local ‘blister’ in a compartment that extends to the full width of the outer panels.

“At the same time, the steeply sloping tail is giving way to a high boot line which carries on the long sweep of the waistline and which terminates in an almost vertical panel.

“Both these changes increase the space within and serve it up in cubic lumps, more useful and accommodating than the wedge-shaped wastes which formerly mocked the unyielding rectangularity of suitcases.”

Developments in engineering, such as inter-axle seating, lower frames and anti-roll devices, had progressed enough to permit car makers to make use of the space without having a disastrous effect on handling. “Structurally, the locker is often self-supporting and adds strength and rigidity to the rear of the car,” said Autocar.

The boots of several new-to-market cars were appraised: “The sleek tail of the new Jaguar XK120 provides luggage space unusual in a sports model. The bumper is really a light rubbing strip and is attached to the lid of the boot.

“The new Vauxhalls have especially cavernous luggage lockers. The spare wheel lies flat on the floor without a covering, and the single strut for the lid is of self-locking type.”

The ideal configuration for the boot opening was still being determined, as our correspondent attested: “Occasional voices are still raised against the current practice of hinging the lid at the top, on the grounds that this prevents the carrying of really bulky loads, but it certainly makes it easier to load and unload the boot with normal luggage.”


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Indeed, our correspondent went on, somewhat dismissively, to suggest that “anyone who habitually requires more space than the modern tail provides needs a utility car or a light van, or at least a trailer”.

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19 February 2015
Autocar wrote:

Both these changes increase the space within and serve it up in cubic lumps, more useful and accommodating than the wedge-shaped wastes which formerly mocked the unyielding rectangularity of suitcases.

Some of the current hacks get a real kicking on here for their choice of vocabulary and intricate sentence construction. (Not from me, I enjoy it!) Either way, it's good to see it's always been the case... What a great paragraph!

19 February 2015
That is not an XK120. The car depicted is a later XK140 or XK150.

20 February 2015
The windscreen would tell. The 150 had a one piece screen the 140 had the split screen of the earlier models. I can't see the screen clearly enough to tell, and I'm not enough of an anorak to tell them apart by any other means.

19 February 2015
Reading the excerpts reminds me of how far the quality of writing has fallen over the last 25 years. Apparently periodicals believe that in order to attract younger readers one must lower their standards to the puerile use of language in that age group. Instead of raising up people's standards they now lower their standards and the world is much-poorer for it.

19 February 2015
No comma after 'Apparently'?
'one must lower their standards'?
Not good enough - see me.

20 February 2015
Shows the evolution towards 3 box saloons, with boots at the end of the interior section. The trend is car design is now favouring 1/2 box shapes, hatchbacks and crossover SUVs with near vertical rears in which the boot/luggage compartment is a box shaped part of the interior, behind the seats and beneath the parcel shelf.

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