Buy/Drive/Burn: Classic Luxury Coupes From 1963

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
buy drive burn classic luxury coupes from 1963

Today’s Buy/Drive/Burn brings three big and brawny American luxury coupes from 1963. You’ll have to burn one — no exceptions.

Ford Thunderbird

By 1963 Ford’s successful Thunderbird was in the final year of its third generation, which was the last of the model’s smooth, bullet-like styling. Available in coupe and convertible variants, the third generation Thunderbird was a darling of television product placement, and one of the stars of JFK’s inaugural parade. For ’61, it also did some work as the Indianapolis 500 pace car. Updates for 1963 included an AM/FM radio and a remote driver’s side mirror. The Thunderbird was available with a single V8 engine, the 390 (6.4L). It produced 300 horsepower, sent to the rear via the three-speed automatic.

Chrysler 300J

Chrysler started their 300 letter series cars in 1955 with the C-300. After that, the letter moved behind the numbering, and each new year was given the next subsequent letter in the alphabet. In 1963 the letter was J, as Chrysler skipped the I to avoid confusion with the Roman numeral. Styling was smoother than prior years, as American cars entered a Sixties aesthetic and designer Virgil Exner exited his position as Chrysler’s chief designer. The new exterior styling was paired with an upscale luxury interior, and a squared-off steering wheel. The 300J was also quick, with a 413 (6.8L) 390-horsepower V8 which powered the big coupe to 60 miles an hour in 8 seconds. Big and expensive, the 300J sold poorly. Just 400 were produced.

Buick Riviera

Buick’s Riviera was brand new for 1963, as Buick once again entered the personal luxury coupe market. The tri-shield brand took some time off to rethink its personal luxury offering after the Super model concluded in 1958. Buick dedicated the Riviera name to the new coupe after its most recent application on the six-window Electra 225 Riviera in 1962. Riviera was the first vehicle on GM’s E-body, which was designated for front- and rear-wheel drive personal luxury cars across the company’s lineup. Said platform would see notable front-drive use three years later, in the Oldsmobile Toronado of 1966. Two V8s were available, of 401 (6.6L) or 425 (7L) cubic inches. With the 425, Riviera had 360 horsepower distributed via an old two-speed automatic, which was only offered in ’63.

With big displacement comes a big decision: One must burn. Which will it be?

[Images: GM, sellers (via Hemmings, Vegas Muscle Cars)]

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  • Jagboi Jagboi on Feb 07, 2019

    Tough call, as I want none of them. I like the looks of the T bird, but the Chrysler looks awkward to me. The Buick is ok, but I wouldn't want the slushbox transmission. I wouldn't want any of them because they all have drum brakes. If I was a car buyer in 1963 looking for a 2 door coupe I'd have to buy a Jaguar E Type - same price as the T Bird or the Chrysler with a few options added. Base price of the Chrysler was $5260, T Bird $5563 and Buick $4330. Jag was $5500. With hindsight, the Jag is the one to buy if you wanted an appreciating asset, based on current auction prices.

  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Feb 07, 2019

    OK, I'll play, because the thinking behind these three models directly explains the death of the 'American' passenger car by the year 2019. Buy the Riviera. GM's talented engineering staff was sometimes almost allowed to build good vehicles. They came close on this one. Drive the Chrysler (a short distance and then park it). Chrysler historically learned on the job and left beta testing to its customers. The upside is increased personal engagement by the owner - because it's up to you to finish the job they started. Burn the Ford. Automobiles are a distracting side business for Ford - their real focus is family politics and internecine warfare.

  • Jeff S Corey--We know but we still want to give our support to you and let TTAC know that your articles are excellent and better than what the typical articles are.
  • Jeff S A sport utility vehicle or SUV is a car classification that combines elements of road-going passenger cars with features from off-road vehicles, such as raised ground clearance and four-wheel drive.There is no commonly agreed-upon definition of an SUV and usage of the term varies between countries. Thus, it is "a loose term that traditionally covers a broad range of vehicles with four-wheel drive." Some definitions claim that an SUV must be built on a light truck chassis; however, broader definitions consider any vehicle with off-road design features to be an SUV. A [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossover_(automobile)]crossover SUV[/url] is often defined as an SUV built with a unibody construction (as with passenger cars), however, the designations are increasingly blurred because of the capabilities of the vehicles, the labelling by marketers, and electrification of new models.The predecessors to SUVs date back to military and low-volume models from the late 1930s, and the four-wheel drive station wagons and carryalls that began to be introduced in 1949. The 1984 [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeep_Cherokee_(XJ)]Jeep Cherokee (XJ)[/url] is considered to be the first SUV in the modern style. Some SUVs produced today use unibody construction; however, in the past, more SUVs used body-on-frame construction. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the popularity of SUVs greatly increased, often at the expense of the popularity of large [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sedan_(automobile)]sedans[/url] and station wagons.More recently, smaller SUVs, mid-size, and crossovers have become increasingly popular. SUVs are currently the world's largest automotive segment and accounted for 45.9% of the world's passenger car market in 2021. SUVs have been criticized for a variety of environmental and safety-related reasons. They generally have poorer fuel efficiency and require more resources to manufacture than smaller vehicles, contributing more to climate change and environmental degradation. Between 2010 and 2018 SUVs were the second largest contributor to the global increase in carbon emissions worldwide. Their higher center of gravity increases their risk of rollovers. Their larger mass increases their stopping distance, reduces visibility, and increases damage to other road users in collisions. Their higher front-end profile makes them at least twice as likely to kill pedestrians they hit. Additionally, the psychological sense of security they provide influences drivers to drive less cautiously. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sport_utility_vehicleWith the above definition of SUV any vehicle that is not a pickup truck if it is enclosed, doesn't have a trunk, and is jacked up with bigger tires. If the green activists adhere to this definition of what an SUV is there will be millions of vehicles with flat tires which include HRVs, Rav4s, CRVs, Ford Escapes, Buick Encores, and many of compact and subcompact vehicles. The green movement is going to have to recruit millions of new followers and will be busy flattening millions of tires in the US and across the globe. Might be easier to protest.
  • Sckid213 I actually do agree that most Nissans are ultimately junk. (I also think many BMWs are also). I was talking challenging the 3 in terms of driving dynamics. Agree all were failures in sales.
  • THX1136 More accurately said, we are seeing exponential growth in the manufacturing capabilities in this market. Unless, of course, all those vehicles are sold with customers waiting until more a produced so they can buy. Indeed, there are certainly more EVs being purchased now than back in 2016. Is demand outstripping manufacturing? Maybe or maybe not. I sincerely don't know which is why I ask.
  • ToolGuy The page here (linked in the writeup) is ridiculously stupid https://www.tyreextinguishers.com/how-to-spot-an-suvLike, seriously stupid, e.g., A) Not sure that particular Volvo is killing the planet as quickly as some other vehicles we might choose. B) A Juke is "huge"??? C) The last picture shows a RAV4 Hybrid?
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