Autumn In The Sixties: When The New Cars Hit The Showroom

Jim Sutherland
by Jim Sutherland
autumn in the sixties when the new cars hit the showroom

Those of us who were kids in the 60s hated fall for traditional reasons like the end of summer and the inevitable return to ten months of incarceration in the education system. We were forced to abandon our “no more pencils, no more books” mantra and accept our grim fate. One of the few redeeming features of autumn was the debut of the new models at the Big Three dealerships because the 60s were also a time of change every year for most North American cars in the 60s.

Most of the popular car magazines used to dangle artists’ sketches of future models a year or two in advance of their actual production. We would be treated to these teasers and eventually we would see the actual photo preview of the new models in the magazines about a month before we saw them in the dealership. These were exciting times for us because we could see the changes every year in an era where cosmetic surgery was a staple of the new car philosophy in Detroit. Think of the visual differences between a 1964 Chevy and a 1965 Chevy; then consider how radical a shift in appearance occurred in one model year.

The same was true at Ford in 1965 when the new Blue Oval model pushed the 1964 model right out of the dealership showroom, as well as the hearts and minds of the buying public.

Things were no different at Chrysler because their models also took on a brand new appearance for 1965. All of the Big Three flagship models had become less rounded and more squared-off in their bodylines on their ’65 cars.

The back nine of the 60s decade concentrated on yearly cosmetic variations on the basic platform for many US car models and the sheet metal changes were more subtle than the giant change from 1964 to 1965. The 1966 Ford looked a lot like the ’65, but it was still very clearly its own car with its own identifiable look.

However, there were exceptions, with models like the Dodge Charger because the 1966-67 Chargers shared much of its sheet metal with the Dodge Coronet, while the 1968 Charger blazed a brand new path for the car.

None of these changes were missed by those of us who were young and impressionable junior car guys in the 60s. I can recall a very cold Saturday morning in October 1967 when we rode our pedal bikes into town to see the new 1968 cars at Miller Motors (now Southside Dodge) before they were even in the showroom.

The cars were fresh off the delivery train and still had a layer of thick dust on them. We felt like we were early guests at a huge event because we were able to see full-sized versions of the new models that were previously only available on the pages of the automotive magazines in their new car preview editions.

These days we attend car shows to see those same models from the distant past that were once brand new on the pages of car magazines and the dealership lots. We bonded with them a long time ago and we still love them today.

Join the conversation
2 of 53 comments
  • TrailerTrash TrailerTrash on Oct 07, 2013

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you...for a fantastic trip down my memory's lanes. I remember these days...these are the days that formed my never ending love for cars that drive others around me nuts. It is why I still hand wash all my cars and polish them several times a year. And then stand around looking at them. I still recall my older brother taking me along to school at Chicago's Navy Pier and leaving me alone. I saw my first ever all black 1964 Ford Fivehundred convertible. With an all red leather interior! I was, along with the 1964 Thunderbird...will always be some of the most beautiful designs...ever. I would design cars...pages and pages per car...from dash boards to seats to doors and exterior from all angles. I would send off to Ford Motors and within a few months I would get a letter telling me thanks for the great effort and to pease keep designing cars. To please accept an enclosed gift. The last was a yet to be manufactured all green 1964 Thunderbird. Wheels turned and doors opened. The boy was a Ford boy for life!!!! They sure as hell will not do this these days. Thanks again....

  • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Oct 09, 2013

    First off I love the rear full-width lamp on that Charger, it's sick. Second, please stop your constant italicization of words which do not need to be. There's about 65% too much italics in this article. Scratch that, make it 100% because there aren't any words which needed to be.

  • Jeff S Always liked this generation and thank you again Corey for an excellent and thorough series.
  • Lou_BC What ever happened to Reid Bigland and his law suite against Ram?
  • Lou_BC This car looks a lot like my son's 2008 4 door Mercury Grand Marquis Ultimate .
  • Theflyersfan ...and then the market for large personal luxury coupes choked on a hairball right around this time as everyone lost their minds and decided that they had to get the exact same Explorer Eddie Bauer edition as four other people also had on their cul-de-sac, or worse, the woefully under-braked and scary in most manuvers Suburbans and Expeditions so they can travel in solo bliss surrounded by 5,500 pounds of unused steel and glass because 'murca dammit!!! Those were the same people who were interviewed weeping at their local Exxon station around the year 2000 when a gas price spike hit and the .75/gal gas in 1998 was now at over $2.00/gal. I look at this Lincoln, and while I wasn't a big fan of it, I did like the Thunderbirds and Cougars of that era as I thought they made a bigger statement about perceived power and wealth compared to "I drive Brayden and Ashleigh to a dozen different activities that they will dump the second they turn 13 and get tired of that stuff" crude SUVs that were becoming the rage. And I have to say the taillights of the Lincoln drove me nuts. The neon part was really cool at night - excellent effect. I recall the rest being your regular old Thomas Edison lightbulb and the look clashed royally, especially when the brakes were hit. You had an LED center brake light, incandescent brake lights, and a neon light smack in the middle. That's kind of busy.
  • Cprescott Why complain? You bought an overpriced golf cart and you know full well the company routinely plays games with its owners and has outrageous repair costs and insurance rates (which no one wants to talk about).