In the 1960's the average new car costs about $2,752, and a gallon of gas was around 31 cents. The 1960's were a time of
change: the Civil Rights movement as led by Martin Luther King Jr., the Women's Movement with its demand for equal
rights, Russia beat the US into outer space, Elvis hits the UK, the Beatles hit world big time, the advent of
the counterculture when hair grew longer and beards became common and reaching its zenith in August 1969 at Woodstock,
and later in the decade, man set foot on the moon.
Man on the Moon 1969
The 1960's automobiles belonged to a distinct decade of automobile history with the advent of economy, muscle and pony cars.
The 1960's saw the American automobile industry consolidating into the Big Three: (General
and Chrysler) and American Motors. These firms not only dominated the domestic market with the sales of the 1960s cars, but the global market as well. In 1960 American companies built 93 percent of the autos sold in the United States and 48 percent of world sales .
In the mid 1950s, however,led by Volkswagen and soon followed by Fiat, Renault, Datsun (Nissan), and
Hillman, imports began to nibble their way into the rich American market. The growing presence of imports disturbed
Detroit, and the Big Three responded with their own small 1960s cars. GM produced the Corvair, Ford the Falcon, and
Chrysler the Valiant.
GM introduced three new smaller cars in the U.S. as 1961 models: the Buick Special, Oldsmobile F-85 and
Oldsmobile F-85 was a compact sedan, coupe and station wagon powered which had a V8 engine from 1961 to 1963. In 1964
the F-85 was upgraded to an intermediate sized car. The Cutlass was initially the top model of the F-85 line but
became a separate model by 1964 with the F-85 nameplate continued only on the lowest priced models through the 1972 model
year. Subsequently, all Oldsmobile intermediate 1960s cars were Cutlasses.
1964 OldsmobileF-85 DeLuxe
Chevrolet introduced the radical Corvair which featured an aluminum 6 cylinder rear engine layout. The 1960 Chevrolet
Corvair 500 Deluxe came with a Basic Corvair Engine , one-barrel carburetor, and three-speed manual transmission Chevy may not have "copied" the VW 1960s cars but many of the basics of the air cooled rear engine, compact transaxle and suspension were similar with the main difference that the Corvair was larger, inside and outside and was an "American size compact". The Corvair would represent several production firsts for Chevy including: their first (only) rear air cooled engine, first unitized body, first production car turbo, and fully independent suspension for each wheel-front and rear.
1963 Chevrolet Corvair Testudo
Early in the year of 1960 a "sporty" Monza model was offered with bucket seats, full wheel covers and full vinyl
interior. This sporty 1960s cars were to really "drive" Corvair sales and attract the interest of enthusiasts in the coming years.
Even during this early period the Corvair was developing a following and was considered one of the "sportier" compacts,
sometimes being referred to as a "poor man's Porsche".
As part of the 1962 model year, Chevrolet introduced a new line of 1960s, the Chevy II. The initial Corvair had
been positioned as an economy car, but it was much more successful with the plusher trim and sportier image of the Monza
model which sold well in 1961.
Ford responded with the Falcon, 1960s cars that were its entrance into the compact car race. The Falcon was an uncomplicated little car that was available in two-door or four-door sedans, and station wagons. The styling gave hint that they were Ford products, but was remarkably simple and attractive. Ford said it was “the world’s most successful new car.” Its sales took off for the stratosphere from the first day. Ford’s little Falcon was a true success story of 1960s cars in the annals of automotive corporate history .
1960 Ford Falcon
Chrysler had its Valiant. It was conventional in layout, but actually was extraordinary in its new features.
The Valiant was sold as separate brand in the first year, but subsequently displayed Plymouth logos. The first generation was
launched in 1960 and lasted until 1962. It consisted of a unibody car. It was restyled in 1963 then totally redesigned in a
style reminding of European cars of the time. From 1963, Dodge used the Valiant as a base for its Dart models.
Only survivor of the Detroit compacts, the Valiant lived up to 1976 when it was replaced by the Volare and its Dodge
clone the Aspen. From its creation the Valiant and its various immitations had found a market, but although
profitable, did not suffice to stop Plymouth from its of 1960s cars.
In fact, the paradox is that the success of the Valiant led Plymouth to make another costly mistake. Assuming the mood for
smaller 1960s cars, it downsized its whole fleet. Unfortunately, the majority of customers still wanted larger cars, and Plymouth
lost more market shares.
The Mercury Comet was the everything car for Mercury. Introduced in 1960 on a stretched Falcon frame, the Comet had to
be Mercury's compact, intermediate, and pony car entry at the same time. The planned 1961 Edsel Comet compact car was
relabeled the Mercury Comet and sold more cars in its first year than all models of Edsel ever produced.
The Comet was developed as a compact car for the Edsel line. But with the Edsel brand eliminated before the 1960 model year, Ford released the Comet as a separate model, that was sold by Lincoln-Mercury dealers.
1962 Mercury Comet
Fewer than 6,000 Edsels survive and today they are considered collectors’ items, with convertibles sometimes selling
US$20,000 if in good condition.
Rambler - An interesting But Sad Story
Cheap and easy to repair, the new Rambler was a hit in the recession-racked year of 1958, when American Motors was the
only domestic car manufacturer to show a profit. In 1960, Rambler produced over 450,000 cars, and became number three in
sales among domestic brands.
Ramblers were the first cars to use Unibody construction throughout their model lineup. The primary advantage of this
technology was a stronger structure without the need for a separate chassis. With less squeaks and rattles, the overwhelming
majority of contemporary automobiles, with the exception of trucks and some SUV’s, owe their design to some form of this 1960s cars' original unitized body construction innovation.
1964 Rambler Classic 770
In another safety milestone, Rambler was the first to offer seat belts as an option in 1950, and the first to provide them as
standard equipment by the end of the decade.
By 1962, the introduction of compact cars by the big three automakers had decreased Rambler’s market share.
Rambler introduced some of the most attractive designs of any manufacturer during the mid 1960's. AMC Rambler Limited
Edition Extra puts added emphasis on this period with tests of the again redesigned Classic and Ambassador
series for 1966, and the introduction of the Classic-based Marlin for 1965.
The unsophisticated Marlin was an attempt to capture a piece of the “personal car” market dominated by the Ford
Thunderbird, and Buick Riviera. Unfortunately, Rambler’s attempt to compete with the “Big Three” met with limited success. Their 1960s cars were not selling well. The Rambler name was falling out of favor in a market dominated by flashiness and horsepower. A new image was in the
works, and by 1968 the Rambler name, for years a symbol of economy, was shown the door - ending a saga of 1960s cars known for gas saving.