Doane Yawger: Affinity for early 1960s cars runs deep

dyawger@mercedsunstar.comNovember 28, 2013 

Doane Yawger, Sun-Star reporter

MERCED SUN-STAR

Cars of the early 1960s are my favorites, particularly the extremes.

I am growing progressively enamored with luxury cars from about 50 years ago, as well as the other end of the spectrum, the plain-Jane compacts.

Cadillacs, Lincoln Continentals and Chrysler Imperials all peg my nostalgia meter. They exhibited extravagant styling, couched in luxury refinements.

Early 1960s Cads still had fins like their late 1950s brethren but they were more tasteful and subdued. Sixties Cads also had smaller, lower fins running along their sides called “skegs,” which added to the elegance.

Cads from that period also had large grilles with lots of teeth. Interiors featured exotic sculpted fabrics. Their hubcaps were works of art by themselves.

Continentals had more smooth and rounded lines with massive protruding grilles. The Lincolns also had four-door convertibles with rear doors hinged at the back, which sends the cool factor off the charts.

Imperials seemed to flirt even more with styling excesses. The fins are bigger and the headlights were free-standing within the gaping bumper-grille cavity.

On the other extreme, compact cars were pushed hard by the automakers starting about 1960 to counteract the excesses of the luxury cars and cater to a buying public craving economy

Ford Motor Co. had the Falcon and the Mercury Comet. General Motors fielded the Corvair, Chevy II and Nova, Pontiac Tempest, Buick Special and Oldsmobile F-85 sedans and station wagons. Chrysler Corp. offered the Plymouth Valiant and Dodge Lancer, and don’t forget the Rambler American with its tabletop roof and squared-off lines.

A 1960 Falcon has always been a favorite of mine, and getting a ride recently in a 1963 Falcon Futura convertible just sealed the deal. That drop-top had simple elegance as well as fairly impressive performance.

An endearing aspect of the Valiant was its faux spare tire covering on the trunklid, as well as a distinctive angular grille. The Corvair sported a flat-top roof and the absence of major grillework in front. The Mercury Comet had smaller batwing-type fins in the rear.

By the mid-1960s the compacts had begun morphing into mini-muscle cars, getting progressively bigger and more powerful. These cars really have caught on with today’s collectors, but my heart remains with the compact “pioneers” from earlier in the decade.

There’s nothing wrong with a Chevy Impala, Ford Galaxie 500 or Oldsmobile 88, but I could have as much or more fun with their little brothers and not overextend the wallet in the process.

Having a big Continental to cruise around in would be huge but a Falcon is more my speed.

Sun-Star staff writer Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dyawger@mercedsunstar.com.

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