Thursday, November 22, 2012

Chevrolet Unseats Romance

General Motors recently closed a chapter in automotive history that provided more than one thrill for young Americans. It announced from Detroit that the 2013 Chevrolet Impala will be the last sedan to feature a front bench seat. Chevrolet’s first sedan, built in 1911, had a three-across front seat, and that design has been available ever since.

Over the years, bench front seats gradually became so uncommon that recent car buyers had to pay a premium to get them. Last year, GM said, only one in 10 Impala buyers was willing to pony up an extra $195 for the flat seat.

“A lot of people prefer bucket seats because they’re sporty, even in models that aren’t sports cars, the Associated Press quoted Clay Dean, GM director of design, as saying. “Our customers also appreciate the center console as a convenient place to store their phone and other personal items.”

Farewell, bench seats.
Convenience be damned, I say. I owned a sleek black-and-silver 1957 Impala sedan with a front bench seat while courting a pretty young lady who later became beautiful wife Sandy.

Those bench seats were good for lots of more interesting things than serving as a place to park your sunglasses. Dean admitted as much: “There is certain nostalgia for bench seats, like being able to snuggle up with your date at a drive-in movie . . . “

The announcement of GM’s intent to make Chevrolet sedans a lot less fun observed that they and other automakers will continue to offer front bench seats in pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles. In recent years sales of these vehicles have boomed while GM sedan sales declined.  I always wondered why, because many owners of the more-rugged vehicles are never seen hauling anything or traveling on backcountry roads. Now I think I know.


joared said...

Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoyed your commentary here and had a few chuckles.

Well, I'll be darned! I've preferred bench seats for a lot of reasons besides what you describe. I settled for not having them with my present car, but had no idea they were practically extinct, and now will be except for trucks.

Yeah, I've wondered why so many city slickers have all those trucks, too. They used to be the vehicle of choice only for farm boys. Given cars today, decline of station wagons for the monster vans I dislike (unless I had kids to haul around, I guess,) the trucks do provide hauling capacity. That I could occasionally use for items from my local hardware/gardening type store. A lot of folks, younger people probably use the pickups for moving.

PiedType said...

Heh. Hadn't thought of that. Bucket seats killing romance. But then, it's been a very long time since I've thought about romance in a car ...

Dick Klade said...

Mee, too, Pied. But when I do think about it, the memories are very clear!

Tom Sightings said...

Yeah, I too recall those bench seats were great for "the more interesting things." But I also remember getting stuck in the middle as the third person in the front seat. I hated that! So I'll take bucket seats any day.

schmidleysscribblins, said...

I for one won't miss the front bench seat. No car I have owned in the past 40 years has had one. Of course I drive foreign cars.


JHawk23 said...

I remember when all sedans had bench seats. Indeed, there were advantages (even more in my first car, a 10-year-old hand-me-down 1954 Nash, which had the fully reclining front seats!). Last car I had with the bench was a '63 Impala that I sold before I went to Vietnam. Since then, it's been all bucket seats.

But those old cars didn't have seat belts, either. The one disadvantage of the bench was the tendency to slide out from behind the wheel every time you rounded a corner. Belts control that, but bucket seats really prevent it.

JHawk23 said...

Relative to this topic, I have to share this anecdote:

A couple of years ago we were awakened at some hour like 1:30 AM by the honking of a car horn in the street in front of our house. Didn't think too much of it until it happened again about 30 minutes later; and again about 3:00 AM, and several more times.

We determined it was a car parked about halfway between our house and the neighbor's. When I set out for my normal morning walk about 5:00, I took a flashlight and was prepared to give a couple of the neighborhood teens hell for drunken partying. But the car wasn't a familiar one from the neighborhood.

Still unsuspecting, I proceeded (only one way out of my cul-de-sac) but my approach set off a flurry of activity in the vehicle; a quick glimpse of a lot of bare skin; and a very hurried departure of the car in question.

I hadn't realized it but it was late May - senior prom season - and evidently an enterprising pair had decided on some extracurricular activity in our quiet street. I am guessing they had bucket seats?

Dick Klade said...

It does sound like a bucket seat kind of skirmish.

Kay said...

Hmmm... I was thinking that you had to have those bucket seats so you'd be in proper position for the air bag to deploy.