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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Kammback on a 1969 Fiat 850 Coupe

A Kammback—also known as a Kamm tail or K-tail—is an automotive styling feature wherein the rear of the car slopes downwards before being abruptly cut off with a vertical or near-vertical surface. A Kammback reduces aerodynamic drag, thus improving efficiency and reducing fuel consumption,[1] while maintaining a practical shape for a vehicle.

The Kammback is named after German aerodynamicist Wunibald Kamm for his work developing the design in the 1930s.

Some vehicles incorporate the kammback design based on aerodynamic principles, while some use a cut-off tail as a design or marketing feature.


1950 Nash Airflyte
1952 Borgward Hansa 2400

As the speed of cars increased during the 1920s and 1930s, designers observed and began to apply the principles of automotive aerodynamics.[2] As aerodynamic drag increases, more energy, and thus more fuel, is required to propel the vehicle.[3]

In 1922, Paul Jaray patented a car based on a teardrop profile (i.e. with a rounded nose and long, tapered tail) to minimize the aerodynamic drag that is created at higher speeds.[4][5] The streamliner vehicles of the mid 1930s—such as the Tatra 77, Chrysler Airflow and Lincoln-Zephyr—were designed according to these discoveries.

However, the long tail was not a practical shape for a car, so automotive designers sought other solutions. In 1935, German aircraft designer Georg Hans Madelung showed alternatives to minimize drag without a long tail.[6] In 1936, a similar theory was applied to cars after Baron Reinhard Koenig-Fachsenfeld developed a smooth roofline shape with an abrupt end at a vertical surface, effective in achieving low amounts of drag similar to a streamlined body.[5][7][8] He worked on an aerodynamic design for a bus, and Koenig-Fachsenfeld patented the idea.[9] Koenig-Fachsenfeld worked with Wunibald Kamm at Stuttgart University, investigating vehicle shapes to "provide a good compromise between everyday utility (e.g. vehicle length and interior dimensions) and an attractive drag coefficient".[5][7] In addition to aerodynamic efficiency, Kamm emphasized vehicle stability in his design,[7] mathematically and empirically proving the effectiveness of the design.[10]

In 1938, Kamm produced a prototype using a Kammback shape, based on a BMW 328.[11] The Kammback, along with other aerodynamic modifications, gave the prototype a drag coefficient of 0.25.[12]

The earliest mass-produced cars using Kammback principles were the 1949–1951 Nash Airflyte in the United States and the 1952–1955 Borgward Hansa 2400 in Europe.[7]

Aerodynamic theory

The ideal shape to minimize drag is a "teardrop," a smooth airfoil-like shape, but it is not practical for road vehicles because of size constraints.[1] However, researchers, including Kamm, found that abruptly cutting off the tail resulted in a minimal increase in drag.[5] The reason for this is that a turbulent wake region forms behind the vertical surface at the rear of the car. This wake region mimics the effect of the tapered tail in that air in the free stream does not enter this region (avoiding boundary layer separation); therefore, smooth airflow is maintained, minimizing drag.[11]

Kamm's design is based on the tail being truncated at the point where the cross section area is 50% of the car's maximum cross-section,[5][13] which Kamm found represented a good compromise, as by that point the turbulence typical of flat-back vehicles had been mostly eliminated at typical speeds.

The Kammback presented a partial solution to the problem of aerodynamic lift, which was becoming severe as sports car racing speeds increased during the 1950s. The design paradigm of sloping the tail to reduce drag was carried to an extreme on cars such as the Cunningham C-5R,[14] resulting in an airfoil effect lifting the rear of the car at speed and so running the risk of instability or loss of control. The Kammback decreased the area of the lifting surface while creating a low-pressure zone underneath the tail.

Some studies showed that the addition of a rear spoiler to a Kammback design was not beneficial because the overall drag increased with the angles that were studied.[1]


1964-1969 Ford GT40
1974-1985 Citroën CX
2000-2006 Honda Insight
2009–2015 Toyota Prius
2011 Audi A7

In 1959, the Kammback came into use on full-body racing cars as an anti-lift measure, and within a few years would be used on virtually all such vehicles. The design had a resurgence in the early 2000s as a method to reduce fuel consumption in hybrid electric vehicles.

Several cars have been marketed as Kammbacks despite their profiles not adhering to the aerodynamic philosophy of a true Kammback. These models include the 1971–1977 Chevrolet Vega Kammback wagon,[15] the 1981–1982 AMC Eagle Kammback,[16][17][18][19] the AMC AMX-GT, and the Pontiac Firebird–based "Type K" concept cars.[20][21][22][23][24]

Some models that are marketed as "coupes"—such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz SUVs like the X6 and GLC Coupé—"use a sort-of Kammback shape, though their tail ends have a few more lumps and bumps than a proper Kammback ought to have."[25]

Cars that have had a Kammback include:

See also

  • Fastback, a similar automotive styling feature
  • Liftback, a type of tailgate that cars with a Kammback often use


  1. ^ a b c Santos, Rodrigo de Oliveira; Lyra, Paulo Roberto Maciel; Souza, Márcio Rodrigo de Araújo; Souza Júnior, Marcelo Alexandre de (2012). "Aerodynamic Design of Super Efficient Vehicle". SAE International. 36–0352. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  2. ^ Hucho, Wolf-Heinrich (1987). Aerodynamics of Road Vehicles: from fluid mechanics to vehicle engineering. Butterworths. pp. 19–20. ISBN 978-0-408-01422-9.
  3. ^ "The Effect of Aerodynamic Drag on Fuel Economy". Auto Research Center. Retrieved 8 March 2024.
  4. ^ "Paul Jaray 1889-1974". Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d e Ziemnowicz, Christopher (2004). "The Origin of the Kammback Design". Archived from the original on 15 April 2012. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  6. ^ Gowans, Alan (1981). Learning To See: Historical perspective on modern popular/commercial arts. Popular Press 1. p. 360. ISBN 978-0-87972-182-4.
  7. ^ a b c d Eckermann, Erik; Albrecht, Peter L. (2001). World History of the Automobile. SAE International. pp. 115–117. ISBN 978-0-7680-0800-5. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  8. ^ Ludvigsen, Karl (Fall 1967). "Automobile Aerodynamics: Form and Fashion". Automobile Quarterly. 6 (2).
  9. ^ Montgomery, Bob (8 August 2007). "Designing a spin for the tail end of things" (fee required). The Irish Times. Retrieved 8 March 2024.
  10. ^ Bush, Donald J. (1975). The streamlined decade. George Braziller. p. 109. ISBN 978-0-8076-0793-0.
  11. ^ Ihrig, Ron (3 December 2004). "Part 3: Production, Physics, Politics - Only the Strong Survive - German Design History". Car Design News. Archived from the original on 22 July 2012. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  12. ^ "Kamm Back". Archived from the original on 6 January 2014. Retrieved 8 March 2024.
  13. ^ "Cunningham C5-R, 1953". Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  14. ^ Stevenson, eon (2008). American automobile advertising, 1930-1980: an illustrated history. McFarland. p. 221. ISBN 9780786452316. Retrieved 8 March 2024 – via Google Books.
  15. ^ "History of the 1981 AMC Eagle". Retrieved 8 March 2024.
  16. ^ Ernst, Kurt (10 March 2014). "Lost Cars of the 1980s – 1981-1982 AMC Eagle Series 50 Kammback". Retrieved 8 March 2024.
  17. ^ Witzenburg, Gary; Miller, Moss (September 1980). "Driving the new AMC Eagles". Popular Mechanics. Vol. 154, no. 4. p. 100.
  18. ^ Stevenson, eon (2008). American automobile advertising, 1930-1980: an illustrated history. McFarland. p. 221. ISBN 9780786452316. Retrieved 8 March 2024 – via Google Books.
  19. ^ "Kamm Tail AMX". Car and Driver. Vol. 14. 1968. p. 99. Retrieved 8 March 2024 – via Google Books.
  20. ^ Mitchell, Larry G. (2000). AMC Muscle Cars. Motorbooks. p. 23. ISBN 9780760307618. Retrieved 8 March 2024 – via Google Books. ...with a chopped-off rear end that was known as a Kamm-back.
  21. ^ Editors of Consumer Guide (15 November 2007). "Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird Concept Cars". Archived from the original on 13 June 2018. Retrieved 8 March 2024.
  22. ^ Wilson, Bill (26 March 2014). "The Pontiac Kammback: Innovation vs. Convention". Yahoo. Archived from the original on 15 December 2021. Retrieved 8 March 2024.
  23. ^ Stone, Matt (August 2009). "Pontiac Trans Am Greats: We Shall Never Pass This Way Again". Motor Trend. Retrieved 8 March 2024.
  24. ^ Gold, Aaron (8 July 2020). "What Is a Kammback Car?". Automobile Magazine. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  25. ^ "BMW Press Release dated 27 March 2007. "BMW at Techno Classica". Archived from the original on 27 May 2007. Retrieved 9 June 2014. Kamm was a key figure in the design of the body for this . . .car, which was built specially for the Mille Miglia 1940."
  26. ^ "Victory in Italy". 9 June 2014. Archived from the original on 20 March 2007. Giovanni Lurani and Franco Cortes have to retire on lap seven with their BMW 328 'Mille Miglia' Kamm coupe.
  27. ^ Editors of Consumer Guide (17 May 2007). "Iso Grifo". Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  28. ^ "Ford Mk IV". 9 June 2014. ...cut-off 'Kamm' tail
  29. ^ Krebs, Michelle (7 March 2011). "Saab Tells the World: 'We're Still Here'". Retrieved 25 February 2016. ...Kamm-back tail, both reminiscent of the original Saab Sonett.
  30. ^ Nye, Doug (2004). Dino, The Little Ferrari. Motorbooks. p. 110. ISBN 0-7603-2010-1. ...a cut-off Kamm-theory tail...
  31. ^ a b Robinson, Peter (2002). "The Pininfarina 1800". Landcrab Owners' Club International. Retrieved 8 March 2024.
  32. ^ Leffingwell, Randy (2002). Mustang: The Original Muscle Car. MBI Publishing. p. 126. ISBN 978-0-7603-1349-7. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  33. ^ Larminie, James; Lowry, John (2004). Electric Vehicle Technology Explained. Wiley. pp. 8–32. ISBN 9780470090695. Retrieved 27 February 2016. At the back of the Insight the teardrop shape is abruptly cut off in what is called the Kamm effect.
  34. ^ Zenlea, David (8 February 2012). "First Drive: 2012 Toyota Prius C". Automobile. Retrieved 27 February 2016. ...featuring the same Kammback profile as the Prius and Prius V hatchbacks...
  35. ^ Peters, Eric (22 May 2014). "2014 Honda Insight Review". National Motorists Association. Retrieved 27 February 2016. ...a Kammback layout, meaning the roof slopes gradually backward where it meets up with a fairly tall/vertical tail section.
  36. ^ Gold, Aaron (8 July 2020). "Exploring Kammback History and Examples—and Why the Design Makes Sense". Motor Trend. Retrieved 19 June 2019. Slick "four-door coupes" are increasingly popular, and we've seen several such cars adopt a Kammback shape, including the Audi A7/S7/RS7 family and the Kia Stinger..
  37. ^ Express, Auto (19 April 2021). "Ford Mustang Mach-E review - Practicality, comfort and boot space". Retrieved 3 June 2021. ...Mach-E's sloping coupe-style roof line...
  38. ^ Turkus, Brandon (15 December 2020). "2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E First Drive Review: A Faster Horse". Retrieved 3 June 2021. ...he black roof hides some of the mass from the front and sides, but viewed from behind, design sorcery can't obscure the height of the rear glass, the Kammback tail, or the rear fenders' girth...
This page was last edited on 23 May 2024, at 00:34
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