The Coca-Cola Company adopted Things Go Better With Coke as their new advertising tagline in 1963. It then became a jingle, performed by leading pop acts of the decade including Jan & Dean, Tom Jones, Petula Clark and The Supremes.
At the same time, automotive designers were thinking that maybe things went better with a Coke shape.
In the 1960s, a raised waistline ridge, rising hipline, ‘hop-up’, ‘kick-up’ or ‘hip-like hump’ just forward of the rear wheels became quite popular. Some of the more flamboyant examples incorporated a complementary upward sweep of the rear windowsill. This style became commonly known as a Coke Bottle shape.
This style of upsweep can be traced back to the days of separate wings or fenders. Many early ponton-bodied cars with fully-integrated wings used subtle pressed accent lines to represent the now-missing disparate body parts.
These raised character lines were utilized as far back as the 1947 Cisitalia and 1950 Buick and Cadillac. Many vehicles adopted this trend including the Mercedes Ponton, Fiat 600 and Volkswagen Karmann Ghia.
In 1953 the Buick Skylark and Cadillac Eldorado took things a bit further with a corresponding dipped quarter-window sill complementing the dropped character line. This feature spread throughout the General Motors lineup until disappearing for 1959.
To qualify as a true Coke Bottle design, any accent over the rear wheel arch should be more pronounced that at the front. Just such an interpretation was incorporated into post-war sporting machinery like the 1955 Ferrari 750 Monza, the Ferrari 250 Series and the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider. By the late 1950s, the humped-up accent line began to appear on more prosaic machinery.
The Lincoln Continental Mark II had a kicked-up character line and beltline that spread to standard Lincolns for 1958. In the meantime, the rising hipline made its way to Fords and Mercurys.
This being the 1950s, many of these raised waistline sections segued into a tailfin as they flowed sternward. The later extinction of such fins failed to deal a deathblow to the budding Coke-Bottle look; it simply took a brief hiatus.
After completely disappearing at GM, Pontiac reintroduced a subtle kicked-up rear quarter just forward of the rear wheel on their 1961 full-size models. It would turn out to be an integral feature of big Pontiacs for the next 15 years.
For 1962 Pontiac added a complementary symmetrical echo of the Coke Bottle character line just above the sill on full-size two-door models and added it to four-door versions for 1963, where it would remain through 1968.
Unlike GM, Lincoln never abandoned the rising hipline. A slight hump atop the rear doors was the sole styling cue carried over to the all-new 1961 Continental, where it would remain in various iterations through the 1979 models, an unprecedented 22-year run.
Meanwhile, the new Jaguar E-Type carried over the Coke Bottle-esque body shaping of the XK Series, while Triumph featured it on the new TR4.
A big boost was given to the Coke Bottle look when the all-new Buick Riviera debuted for 1963 sporting a particularly voluptuous interpretation.
While the Buick was garnering rave reviews, across the ocean another new model was introduced; the Mercedes-Benz W113 SL-Class. The new Mercedes bore just the barest hint of a kicked-up rear quarter panel, the only Mercedes-Benz ever to be so endowed.
For 1964, Ford made full use of the burgeoning Coke Bottle line on two seminal U.S. models of the decade, the new Mustang and their fourth-generation Thunderbird.
With the Thunderbird, Ford went with a deeply sculpted, full upper and lower symmetrical Coke shape.
General Motors went full on with the Coke Bottle Look for 1965 with all their new full-size models.
All but invisible on the new Cadillacs, the look was particularly embraced at Oldsmobile and Chevrolet, the latter also adding the feature to the new second-generation Corvair.
By 1966 every Buick, Chevrolet, Ford (U.S.), Oldsmobile and Pontiac passenger car incorporated a Coke motif and Chrysler added an angular Picasso-esque interpretation to their Coronet and Charger.
From Germany came the Opel Kadett B. Not to be outdone by the hoi polloi, a distinct Coke swag line appeared on the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Coupé by Mulliner Park Ward.
In 1967 American cars without any form of Coke Line became the rare exception as new iterations appeared on the Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac Firebird, Mercury Cougar and Cadillac Eldorado.
New entrants from Europe included the Opel Rekord C and Vauxhall Viva HB, while in Japan, Coke Bottle flair was added to the Toyota Crown.
By the mid-seventies the vast majority of cars from the U.S, Japan and Australia featured some version of the Coke profile. At the same time it remained quite rare among European manufacturers outside of American subsidiaries Ford, Opel and Vauxhall, with the exception of overtly sporting models like the Aston Martin DBS and Maserati Ghibli.
In the 1980s, as Lines of Coke became increasingly popular, the venerable Coke Line all but disappeared from non-sports cars, even stalwart Lincoln throwing in the towel. Ironically, the real Coke almost disappeared as well, when the Coca-Cola Company ill-advisedly tried replacing it with a new formula.
It took the dawn of a new century to bring the Coke Line back to life.
While some Japanese models toyed with subtle hints at Coke Bottle shaping in the 1990s, it really didn’t take off until the debut of the fifth-generation Maserati Quattroporte in 2003. Inspired by the lines of the 3200 GT and Coupé, the new Maserati sedan flaunted a clearly defined Coke Bottle rise over the rear wheels in classic 1960s style. Almost simultaneously, the Bentley Continental GT was launched with shaped creases resembling separate fenders à la the Karmann Ghia and Fiat 600 of the 1950s, vaguely hinting at a Coke Line profile.
Today, more cars are flaunting Coke Lines, including the Bentley Mulsanne, Hyundai Equus, Infinity Q70, Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.
Coke. It’s the real thing…