Design Notes: 1995 Chevrolet Lumina sedanMid-life makeover

Having already lived out more than half of its brief 11-year existence, Chevy’s midsize Lumina sedan was given a whole new look for the 1995 model year.

There were only two generations that wore the badge and yet, despite major mechanical similarities, they looked quite different. Thanks to a fellow car nut, we’re going to look at some of what led to the shape of the second and final generation of Chevrolet Lumina sedan.

Lumina, same word different meanings
2008 Chevrolet Lumina SSUp until a year ago, in distant parts of the world, you could still buy a Chevrolet Lumina. Although, those were rear-wheel-drive and available with monstrous V8s (à la Pontiac G8). In the US, we remember Lumina differently.

1990 Chevrolet Lumina sedan profileThat is, as Chevy’s front-wheel-drive, mid-size sub-brand that replaced the relatively young Celebrity line. Lumina was introduced for 1990 and available originally as a sedan, coupe and minivan. The sedan formally lost its lease on life after 1999, having been succeeded by the reincarnated Impala, but it quietly lived on for a bonus year, as an option for fleet buyers only.

The first generation, shown above left bottom, had a lanky design. At introduction I remember being impressed by the, hmm… sort of importish approach to sizing and finish. It had compact dimensions and thoughtful detailing, on a fine level. Despite my admiration of the overall design, the sedan’s rear never set well; the C-pillar angle, trunk and side window lines, and tall greenhouse looked disproportionate.

1995 Chevrolet Lumina sedanMy first look at the newly designed 1995 Lumina, shown right, was at that year’s Los Angeles Auto Show. I recall being a little let down initially after noticing the fine detailing was absent. I didn’t mind the new shape, at all. It certainly looked more modern, but also a little less complete.

Nevertheless, I think both generations’ designs were successful and quite relevant in their respective times. Amazingly, under their skins the two are largely the same car, yet, based on looks, most people wouldn’t connect them.

Well, that’s enough of me carrying on (if anyone is even still reading). Let’s get to the good stuff.

1995 Chevrolet Lumina sedan early sketch

This image above is an early sketch by Dave McIntosh and shows a pretty ambitious profile. A few things jumped out at me. One is the masterful convergence of the C-pillar and trunk line which provides a handy place on which to hang the side rear window’s upward arch (at the point where the rear seat and headrest can be seen). None of the angles seem forced, rather symbiotic.

2003 Chevrolet SS concept profile rearOther eye-catchers include the near-flat rear window and trunk lid, and rounded tail. The look reminded me of the hindquarters of Chevy’s SS concept, shown left, from 2003. Kudos to Mr. McIntosh. Another element I wanted to point out from the first sketch are the upward-facing lower airfoils at the front and rear. It looks like the car is resting in them. Scoop-shaped airfoils still pop up here and there on designs but it seemed to be most popular in conceptual drawings during the mid to late 1980s.

Next up, an early full-size rendering by Sun Paik. It’s my favorite of all the images in this set.

1995 Chevrolet Lumina sedan early full-size rendering

Remember my comments above about the first-generation Lumina’s rear windows and trunk line not meshing well? Yeah well, I feel the opposite about this rendering.

The profile is harmonious, each shape merely a part of the greater chorus. There’s something timeless here. Rogue lines and clashing shapes buy short-term glances, but continuity and integration gain extended appreciation.

1995 Chevrolet Impala SS front rightAnd wouldn’t it have been the perfect showroom counterpart for the other black beauty in Chevy’s stable? (1995 Impala SS shown right.)

This next image provides profiles of an early clay and first-generation example. I’m not sure what went wrong but there seem to be a lot of curious design elements, with little cohesion among them.

1995 Chevrolet Lumina sedan early full-size clay

The short, bulbous rear seems at odds with the hood line and protracted front overhang. The skirted rear wheel well, however, was already explored in the early sketch shown first, above. I’m glad they moved on.

I didn’t check on this but I seem to remember reading that the windshield, A-pillars, cowl and related hard points were carried over (please speak up if you have information on the topic). The comparison image above and one later would seem to support that memory.


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