By on February 5, 2019

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

Ford ThunderbirdBy 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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105 Comments on “Buy/Drive/Burn: Classic Luxury Coupes From 1963...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Buy Riv – hold forever until it becomes your grandkids Barrett Jackson bonanza

    Drive 300 – generally they were the better handling cars of the Big 3

    Burn Thunder-turd for the parade float/jukebox that it is.

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      You took my vitriol for the turd and made it poetic. Well done good sir!

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      +2 on your order. I’ll be nicer than R Henry and you and say that I find the Thunderbird kitschy. Detroit turned out some kooky, garish designs from ’56-’64, and the Bullet Bird doesn’t represent the worst of the bunch to me.

      Though I don’t love their styling, the J is an interesting car. It’s unfortunate Chrysler devalued the 300 moniker by introducing the non-letter 300 in ’62. If I had to travel 400+ miles on lightly policed North American roads in 1963, a 300J probably would have been my first choice.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      That would be my order as well. I’ve driven all three – well, the Newport coupe, not the 300J. I actually owned the Newport, and it was a better handling car than the other two, it just had inadequate brakes.

      The T-bird was a smooth rider in a straight line, on new pavement. That’s the best I can say about it.

      Funny thing about the Riviera: my uncle bought one new and held onto it for eight years, and every one of those years, he complained that he had to pay extra for the heater/defroster. GM nickel and diming at its finest.

  • avatar
    volvo

    Another easy one

    Buy Riviera – Held its’ value well
    Drive Chrysler – If I remember was the most desirable to be seen in at the time.
    Burn T-Bird – They lost their way after the first gen

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Uhhg, I’d rather buy something else. Probably an Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight coupe, and I’d choose a different Ford or Mercury coupe (or a Lincoln Continental, as I have driven a 1963 Continental coupe and loved it). As such:

    Buy the Chrysler. Its handsome, has big power, and it is rare.

    Drive the Buick. Not my favorite, but I like it better than the Thunderbird.

    Burn the Thunderbird. Never liked this style. From the end of the first generation until the 1983 AeroBird, I want nothing to do with a T-Bird.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Buy: the T-Bird (they’re cool)
    Drive: the Riviera (it’s the best driving car)
    Burn: the 300J (I’d rather have the ’62 300H)

  • avatar
    FAHRVERGNUGEN

    Burn the ‘bird. Keep the 300 for rarity sake. Be THRILLED to drive the wheels off the Riveriera.

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    Ford, Chrysler and Buick as luxury cars? At 36 I can’t imagine a world where that is a reality and not only wishful thinking from marketing execs.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      Cactuar – My, my. Your are a youngster,aren’t you? LOL!

      • 0 avatar
        Cactuar

        Yes! And I’m not the only one to see these brands as anything but luxurious! It just shows how colossal the task of re-inventing Lincoln/Buick/Cadillac as luxury brands is. It’s a paradigm shift that must happen to an entire generation to be credible.

    • 0 avatar
      EGSE

      In 1963 Buick and Chrysler still had an upscale reputation. The Mopar 413 got major respect back in the day as well. The T-bird was sneered at as when it came out in 1955 as a 2 seat car it was Fords answer to the Corvette (which wasn’t a hi-po car at it’s inception). By 1963 the ‘Vette was a serious and desirable performance car; the Thunderbird was by comparison what Liberace was to piano music.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        I think Chrysler commanded respect until they figured out they could sell a hundred and fifty thousand Cordobas a year just in time for CAFE to remove their reputation for strong drivetrains. Personal luxury cars ruined the US auto industry. These three coupes were among the fastest luxury cars in the world. The Buick was some silly fake rear fender air intakes from being completely authentic in its design, while the Chrysler was authentic, if a bit plain. Fifteen years later, their descendants were completely fake and could barely get out of their own ways. Wheezing, poorly running engines that still gulped gasoline combined with fake convertible tops, fake wire wheels, fake radiator shells, fake gauges on the fake wood dashboards, and fake chrome that fell off in months are the reasons it is hard to believe that these were once luxury products.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          @Todd: don’t blame the PLC’s they were dictated by demographics. Lots of young ‘boomers’ with money to burn, but still loyal to domestics. So a 2 door with a ‘big’ engine and what passed for luxury in the early 1970’s. They sold so well that eventually less expensive versions did appear. The first PLC’s were for their time relatively quick. My Grand Prix SJ with a 400 cid engine, my Ford Gran Torino Elite with a 460 (big engine, small car) and even my Cordoba with a 400 were also considered to be relatively powerful for their era, and retained a degree of status. The original Cordoba for being a ‘Chrysler’. If you could afford a ‘big’ T-Bird it was perceived much in the same way that a ‘500’ series is now.

          And the ‘broughming’ of cars was not confined to the PLC’s. Sedans and even wagons also were ‘broughmed’.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            People talk about millennials not wanting the uncool minivans their parents drove them around in, even though they were really ferried around in Explorers. There was never anything as uncool as a brougham was the moment someone pointed out how fake and superficial they were. There are misguided folks who think CUVs are similarly bogus because they look more off-road ready than the are, but that ignores that they package people and their stuff efficiently while being better equipped for our crumbling roads than anything with low profile tires. As a member of generation-x who remembers guillotine-like giant two doors as family cars, some so ridiculous that they moved the cowl back to shrink the passenger compartment and lengthen the hood over their short-V asthmatic engines, a CUV is almost perfectly suited to the way people actually use their cars. Anyway, the point is that Detroit could never be cool with anyone who didn’t fall for the fake-luxury spell of the PLCs. I don’t know if there’s an opportunity to win over youngsters who don’t know who we fought in WWII or not, but then they don’t have any talent to draw on compared to sixty years ago if they wanted to.

      • 0 avatar
        carguy67

        ” The T-bird was sneered at as when it came out in 1955 as a 2 seat car it was Fords answer to the Corvette”

        ‘sneered at?’ I guess if wildly outselling the ‘Vette is getting ‘sneered at.’

        Here, have a cup of data; it doesn’t taste good, but it’s good for you:

        https://www.motor1.com/news/71947/the-1957-ford-thunderbird-almost-killed-the-corvette/

        http://gmauthority.com/blog/2014/12/did-the-thunderbird-nearly-kill-the-chevrolet-corvette/

        https://forums.aaca.org/topic/167936-1955-t-bird-vs-1955-corvette/

        More data available if you’d care to, you know, actually research it. After 1957, though it was no contest; the ‘Vette became a (rather large) sports car, and the ‘Bird did become a turd.

        • 0 avatar
          EGSE

          Well, besides your snotty attitude, you completely misinterpreted what I wrote.

          What I said is the **1963 version** of the T-bird was “a turd” as you put it as people remembered where it started out and how it ended up.

          Again, the context of the discussion is…1963… and what it had become by that time. The 1955 – 1957 Gen 1 was considered to be desirable. Got it?

          Please read more carefully next time.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Liberace actually started out as a concert pianist. On a scale of 1-10 (or Jimmy Durante to Arthur Rubenstein), he was about a 7.5 (or Rudolf Serkin).

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      I’m 36 and I can definitely picture a time when each of these cars stood for class and a taste for the finer things. No, they arent in the same league as Rolls Royce or such, but they arent economy/everyman cars by any stretch.

      • 0 avatar
        Cactuar

        Really? Other than the amount of chrome, how are they different than today’s Impala?

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          You cant compare them to modern cars, compare them to other 1963 cars.

          Nowadays, we take what used to pass for luxury for granted, like 300+ hp, power everything, etc. This wasn’t so in 1963.

          • 0 avatar
            Cactuar

            I wasn’t comparing them to modern cars. What I meant was in terms of bang for the buck ‘bigness’ and perception, in my mind they’re like today’s large value-oriented sedan, like an Impala with more chrome.

            I was trying to understand how it was special back in the day.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            The 300J was one of the fastest cars on the road as well being one of the most luxurious. Then you can throw in limited production in the hundreds of units each year with some hand assembly, and you’ve got the equivalent of an AMG S-cless that wasn’t driven by professional athletes or middle eastern oil heirs. It also cost about four times what an entry level car did, which makes it at least twice as expensive as any modern Impala.

            The Riviera was primarily special because of its styling, which had no traces of ’50s excesses combined with beautiful detailing and balanced proportions. I don’t know when was the last time anyone introduced a car with styling as well executed, but it was no time recent. It was also about as fast as GM could make it without compromising refinement and far more luxurious than everyman’s cars from Chevrolet, Pontiac, Ford or Plymouth. IIRC, all three of these cars were four-seaters with full length consoles that set them apart form utilitarian cars like Impalas as well.

          • 0 avatar
            EGSE

            John, you get it. I’m 65 and understand where Cactuar is coming from but to truly grasp what these cars meant they have to be placed in the context of the times. In 1963 backup lights and defrosters were optional on midline and lower cars as were AM radios. The “standard” transmission was a three on the tree manual; a three speed automatic trans was a major (and high-cost) option (the GM “slip and slide Powerglide” was two speed). Power steering and brakes were top-of-the-line options. A clock was a big deal. Even a fold-down center arm rest cost more. The first car to come equipped with air conditioning standard? The AMC Ambassador and it was big news….in 1970. Larger cars equated to “premium” as the “largeness” conveyed status to the owner and people were willing to pay to have that image.

            It wasn’t just cars that were different. Most TV programs were black and white. Direct Distance Dialing (i.e. long distance without the operator connecting for you) was being rolled out. Computers filled buildings and were attended to by a white-coated priesthood. The culture, the expectations and where people viewed themselves in the social hierarchy has little parallel to today’s ethos. You had to be there to understand how different it was. These cars are exemplars of those times.

          • 0 avatar
            jatz

            “I was trying to understand how it was special back in the day.”

            The original, highly impressed buyers of these three cars grew up looking at cars like these:

            https://farm1.staticflickr.com/580/22391298068_87a23e106f_z.jpg

            And that’s not a movie set.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @Catuar: Just as an example, that Thunderbird was hardly bigger than the Mustang that followed it. It was a small sport coupe that grew into a larger model with each generation until it was as big as the Continental Mark IV and tended to share the Continental Mark series underpinnings until the end. It may have been a two-row car but it was two rows in much the same way the Mustang was two-row.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Vulpine, when someone makes a sincere appeal for information, please don’t get involved. A 1963 Thunderbird was 205 inches long, 76.5 inches wide, and had a curb weight of 4,365 lbs. The Mustang introduced a year and a half later was two FEET shorter, more than eight inches narrower, and had a base curb weight 1,800 lbs lighter. Cactuar was better informed before you shared your ‘knowledge.’

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          “…how are they different than today’s Impala?”

          I’m looking into my crystal ball and seeing absolutely zero Impalas at the Barrett-Jackson auction 55 years from now. That could be one difference.

          • 0 avatar
            Cactuar

            Thanks for sharing the knowledge ToddAtlasF1. These cars must have been something special then.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @ EGSE: Well said. Size and displacement = status. The cars that we see at Barrett-Jackson are not the cars that predominated on the streets.

          • 0 avatar

            ““…how are they different than today’s Impala?”

            As far as I remember they did not have Navigation system and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and 9 speed AT and … (list goes on and on).

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          It was a different world back then. Each make had it’s well-defined territory, but it was about this time where those defining lines got blurred (i.e. luxurious Caprice, cheaper Buicks). The only one of these punching up was the T-Bird…but it proved once again Ford could sell a luxurious Ford and ultimately plan the death of Mercury.

          The T-Bird could play in the Riv’s league because it was effectively a cheaper, more sporty Lincoln. And although everyone collectively cried when the Bird went from a 2 seater in ’57 to a 4 seat luxury ‘coupe’ in ’58, sales blew up.

          I couldn’t burn any of the 3, but I would buy and drive the Chrysler. The Bird and Riv are great looking cars; the 300 oozes power and driveability.

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      Truly. The parallel brand collapses of Cadillac, Lincoln, and Chrysler (and Mercury, Buick, Oldsmobile, etc) is a tragedy.

      –That Lexus willed itself into dominance is a testament to Japanese tenacity and willingness to play the Long Game while Detroit lived quarter to quarter.

    • 0 avatar
      hifi

      The reality is, In the 60s, automakers had only been making modern cars that didn’t use wooden spoke wheels for about thirty years. Everything was new, exciting and changing fast throughout the 50s and 60s unlike anything we see today in our more mature automotive industry that has become very conventional. This was essentially a new niche of post war “premium luxury.” Kind of like Lexus or Acura arguably are today. But not real luxury like Maybach or Rolls.

      • 0 avatar

        I would rather say like cell phones today. How cool is Nokia dumb phone? Yet it was coolest phone not so long ago. Like Pontiac Nokia does not even exist today.

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          Is Nokia gone because of a speeding ticket? There was no longer any point trying to invest in the future in a socialist country.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @ Todd, One the economic strength of the social democratic nations of northern Europe disproves your point above.

            Two, I do agree with you regarding the functional utilitarianism of CUV’s.

            Third, regarding PLCs when they first hit the market they were eminently suitable for their market. Single or newly married ‘Boomers’with disposable income. The back seats were rarely needed, so the 2 door configuration was all that was required. The long hood accommodated what for the time were among the largest/most powerful engines available. They combined performance, luxury and styling, that was for the era outstanding.

            Unfortunately with downsizing and increasing fuel economy requirements, they did become a shadow of their former selves and were later ‘shoe horned’ into performing family car functions for which they were not designed.

            Trying to compare them to current standards of performance or luxury is ‘re-writing history’.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Their economic strength comes from nationalized oil interests and the US picking up their defense bills. The people don’t live any great lives. Our dogs eat more varied and rich diets and their housing and cars are the stuff of dystopian nightmares. I don’t care if you make $100K a year if a Coke in a restaurant is $6 and a gallon of gas is $8. You are poor.

            I’ve got car magazines from the entire PLC epoch. They were maligned practically from start to finish. You can point to the early Grand Prix SJ if you want, but the real trend setters were the MKIII and the second generation Monte Carlo. They were tributes to bad taste and gaudy distractions from the big-3’s collective inability to maintain performance while doing anything about emissions. Comparing them to modern cars isn’t necessary to denigrate them. Compare a MKIII to a 1961 Continental. The 1961 was authentic luxury expressed with elegance and restraint. The MKIII(&MKIV&MKV&MKVI) was a cry for attention using a fake Rolls-Royce grill shell, a fake spare tire carrier, fake landau bars, etc, etc…

            As for performance, the cars of a few years earlier were faster because of higher compression ratios, better ignition timing, and more aggressive valve opening overlap. Engine management technology wasn’t mature enough to maintain performance with unleaded fuel and reduced emissions, but it was a bad time to throw ornamental weight all over cars and ruin their aerodynamics in the name of a fad simultaneously.

        • 0 avatar
          probert

          They reissued their dumb phone and it sold out.

  • avatar
    MartyToo

    Buy the T-bird and let it sit in my garage. Drive the Buick Riv and anticipate the boat-tail in 71. Light the 300 J and enjoy the burning jay.

    In reality, most of us were far to young to have an opinion what it was like to drive in 63. I only remember riding in the back seat.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve

      Actually I did drive a 1963 Riviera as a new driver in 1966. The Riviera was our family car my dad purchased new in 1963. While he really lusted for the Buick, our special order car was sparsely equipped. No air, no power windows, am radio and not even white walls. The only option as I remember was the nice leather seating. Driving the Riviera made other cars feel like ox carts. I’m glad my parents never learned of my driving stunts with the car. The standard 401 V8 made the car feel like a rocket ship.

      In 1968, with college bills to pay, dad economized and traded in the Riviera on a 1968 Skylark which may have been the worst GM car ever made. How I wish our Riviera somehow stayed in the family. The original was truly an iconic car.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    The transmission in the Riviera isn’t a three-speed; it’s the Buick Turbine Drive transmission, the last iteration of the Dynaflow. For 1964 it was replaced by the Super Turbine 400, Buick’s name for the Turbo-HydraMatic 400. It added a switch-pitch converter, not shared by the other GM makes.

    • 0 avatar

      Right you are – I read it wrong. Updated.

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        Um, it’s not a two-speed, either. Dynaflow is a fluid coupling transmission, and doesn’t really have “speeds”.

        • 0 avatar
          MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

          Does it feel like a CVT ?

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            Nope. It just felt like a smooth automatic where you didn’t feel the shifts. It was set up so pushing the throttle (stomping on the gas pedal) produced a kick-down effect, but no hard shifting feel, just more power.

            I had that transmission in a 1963 Lesabre with the 401 cid V8. It had plenty of power, but at 8-11 mpg. By contrast, my ’63 Chrysler Newport with a 361 V8 and Torqueflite got 11-12 city/highway – but it was faster, and quieter.

            Another thing about those cars: you were safer in a Chrysler. Those 1961-1967 full size models were banned from demolition derbies – they always won.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Having never spent any time in an old Detroit coupe….

    Buy Riviera. Just a beautiful, clean, classic style. One of my favorites ever.

    Drive the Chrysler with that fine V8.

    Burn the Thunderbird because my god it is still one of the ugliest cars ever built.

  • avatar
    EGSE

    Buy the Buick.
    Drive the Chrysler.
    Burn the ‘Bird.

  • avatar
    Funky D

    Buy the Riviera, very few American designs top this one.

    Drive the 300J, and take up the entire width of the lane!

    Sorry, but the Thunderbird gets burned by default.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    I have a feeling I’m going to go differently from most.

    • Buy — Thunderbird. While not as sporty as the first generation or as stylish as the second, the third generation was still a sporty and fun-looking car. A clear own, as long as it can be kept running.

    • Drive — Chrysler 300J. For all that its appearance was dated even then, the 300(x) series tended to set records at Daytona, most notably by Andy Granatelli on the sands of Daytona Beach the last year they ran. On that year, despite tide pools and crossing the timer going backwards (his statement, I don’t know if there’s film of it) he still set a record for the flying mile in a Chrysler 300. The model has true history, despite its low sales numbers.

    • Burn — RWD Riviera. It has the looks but lacks what made the later Riviera and its body-sister the Oldsmobile Toronado so famous. As such, its value is minimal and its appearance somewhat forgettable as it would always be overshadowed by its FWD descendant.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    You’d have to put a gun to my head to burn any of these, but here goes:

    Buy: Riviera. You f*cking kidding? It’s easily one of the top-five best looking American cars ever made, and the ’66 is even better looking. Anyone who burns this needs a midnight visit from the ghost of Bill Mitchell.

    Drive: T-bird. If it were the Sports Roadster, in red, it’d give the Riviera a race of sorts. Check this bad boy out:
    https://www.hemmings.com/blog/2014/11/02/hemmings-find-of-the-day-1963-ford-thunderbird-sports-roadster/

    And with the gun pointed firmly at my head, I burn the Chrysler. I never liked the styling.

  • avatar
    Messerschmitten

    Are you kidding?

    * Buy the Riviera

    * Drive the Riviera

    * Burn anything that isn’t the Riviera

    • 0 avatar
      MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

      Basically this – my thoughts before I even saw all the choices.

      But to play along, BUY the Riv, it’s the one I want to own. DRIVE the Chrysler, I bet it’s fun. BURN the Ford, burn most Fords (and I am a multiple Mustang GT owner, and also an F250).

  • avatar
    A Scientist

    Buy: Riviera. Classic, timeless design. Still looks sexy even today.

    Drive: 300J. A face only Mother Mopar could love, but comes with the glorious and underappreciated 413 wedge engine.

    Burn: Thunderbird. Never liked this generation T-bird. Just looks awkward to me from almost every angle.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Sorry Corey, this one is for me the toughest one yet.

    The T-Bird epitomized styling and ‘cool’ early 1960’s style. Watch a clip of 77 Sunset Strip if you don’t remember. T- Birds seem to truly exemplify or exaggerate the trends of the year/period in which they were introduced.

    The Riviera is more mid 60’s styling. I prefer it with the ‘hidden’ headlamps that were available in later model years.

    The Chrysler’s styling with its clean lines probably holds up the best now. Check out that ‘crossed’ grille and how closely it resembles 21st century Dodge design.

    Buy the Chrysler based primarily on its rarity.
    Drive the Riviera.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    By the way, here are some fun facts:

    1) The ’61 Continental was originally conceived as a Thunderbird coupe.
    2) The ’63 Riviera was originally conceived as a Cadillac.
    3) The T-bird had a trick swing-away steering wheel.
    4) The front end styling on the 300 was the result of the entire Chrysler design staff trying peyote one Tuesday morning.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    This is a tough one, as the Riviera and 300J both rank among America’s best post-war luxury cars. I can’t believe the ambivalence I’m seeing here about the Riviera’s styling. It was a landmark design that really made most of what GM inflicted on the public look contrived.

    I suppose I’d buy the 300J. They’re rare enough that there will always be more people who want them than there are cars. I still see beater Rivieras and ghetto Rivieras, no matter how nice they were when new. The last beater or ghetto letter series Chrysler(not counting 300M or 300C) was seen during the cold war. Also, Chrysler’s engineers were some of the very best when the engine, transmission and chassis of this car were developed.

    Drive the Riviera. It is the most tasteful car ever to wear a GM badge.

    Burn the Ford.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Buy the Riviera (love it, had two)

    Drive the Thunderbird, it’s a beautiful convertible

    Burn the Chrysler, because by 1963 Chrysler had already begun to lose it’s way in the quality dept.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    That 300 still has a bit of Exner in its styling. There is some definite familial resemblance to the 1960 Valiant! Both cars had the same dad, and it wasn’t the mailman or the pool cleaning guy.

  • avatar
    jatz

    No other car shouts Peak America louder than the T-Bird.

    The rest of the world was still climbing out of rubble, too backward to ever matter, or our sworn and agreed upon enemies. Life was good.

  • avatar
    SilverCoupe

    Aww, you did this one just for me, didn’t you?

    Buy the Riviera – we had a silver one, and held on to it for 31 years. If I had a place to keep it, I would be happy to have it back.

    Since I have already spent years driving the Riviera, I will vote to drive the Thunderbird.

    That leaves the Chrysler to be burnt, not that I have anything against it.

  • avatar
    redgolf

    Buy – the Riveria
    Drive the T Bird (weekends only)
    Burn the Chrysler, to me that was a grandpa car back in the day!So here it was 1966 my brother owned a 64 T Bird same color as above with a black vinyl top, he let me clean it up and take it to the prom, a 16 year old punk kid driving around all day in a very cool head turning car! The memories have never left me, thank you George

  • avatar
    MoparRocker74

    I could buy/drive the Chrysler and the Buick just about interchangeably. The Buick is prettier—arguably GM’s best looking car of all time. But I do like the funky style of these Chryslers. It’s definitely the hotrod of the 3 and obviously I love a Mopar so the 300 wins the buy at a TINY margin.

    Burn the T-bird since one has to go. But it’s tough to burn ANYTHING with 2 doors..,

  • avatar
    Damian P.

    The Riviera looks best, the 300 likely drives best. I love classic Thunderbirds, but this one has to go into the furnace.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    Certainly burn the Ford, because Ford.
    The tough part is the other two. The Buick is positively beautiful, the first true 60’s car styling-wise. Consider how different cars looked just five years earlier. Within a few years every car was aping it.
    But that Mopar has one hell of an engine, and is loaded with all kinds of Chrysler engineering goodness. Unfortunately, when this car was penned, Chrysler’s styling department was hanging out with Dr. Timothy Leary, and it shows.
    I’d say but the 300 because it’s rare, and the butt-ugly stuff on it is now cool. But drive the Riv, there’s not a person alive who doesn’t look better driving one.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    Buy and drive the Chrysler.

    Burn the Ford.

    really REALLY buy the Grand Prix.

  • avatar
    apl

    Buy the Thunderbird, Drive the 300J, Burn the Riviera.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    These are all boring – what you really need is a supercharged Studebaker – either the Avanti or the Gran Turismo – both available with a nice 4 speed and disc brakes.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      The poor Avanti never gets enough credit for being the spectacular car that it was. This is why to me 1963 is one of the most iconic years ever in auto design. Can you imagine the Stingray split-window coupe, the Riviera and the Avanti all coming out in the same year? With the Mustang a year later it was a great time for cars

      • 0 avatar
        jatz

        I think the Avanti’s odd front clip dampened sales.

        It was like.. “Draw a Martian face!”

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          Maybe, but I think it might of been that Studebaker was breathing it’s last breaths and people had just lost interest in them as a car company. Had Ford, GM or even Chrysler come out with the Avanti it might have been more of a success although it was VERY pricey for 1963

          • 0 avatar
            jatz

            True,one of my earliest memories of stuff in my older bros’ car mags is of the contemporary astonishment over the Avanti’s price tag,

            Plus, the new Stingray was generating so much excitement that everything else was cast in a deep, deep shadow.

  • avatar

    Buy the Riviera.
    Drive the Chrysler – ’cause when will you ever again get the chance?
    Burn the T-Bird. A total baroque hog.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Man I got to bookmark your dealership so I can head there occasionally and checkout the inventory in “oldest” first fashion.

      I was digging on that W-body Regal Coupe until I saw the rust…

  • avatar
    DEVILLE88

    Your out of your mind if you think i am going to burn any of these cars. But if we were in 1963…………buy the Riviera,drive the T-bird and burn the Chrysler.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Buy: Thunderbird-I have a soft spot for these since an uncle of mine owned a red on red one. Swing a way wheel,wraparound cockpit, Jetsons styling that influenced the Chrysler turbine, and the FE Block 390.

    Drive: Riviera-The Bill Mitchell styling is timeless.
    Plus hidden headlights.

    Burn: Chrysler 300J- Never big on the post Exner Aunt Edna cat eyes glasses styling.

    Honorable mention: Studebaker Hawk Grand Turismo.
    Pontiac Grand Prix, Oldsmobile Starfire.

    • 0 avatar
      gottacook

      No hidden headlamps on the Riviera until the 1965 model year (although they were planned from the start). The T-bird and 300 had to wait a few more generations to get headlamp doors: 1967 and 1968, respectively.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Buy the Thunderbird. One of my favorite interiors ever put in a car. The Jet age was in full swing

    Drive the Riv. Its the one you want to be seen in and is a beautiful car.

    Burn the Chrysler. These things are ugly IMHO.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    1963? My parents would have checked if my perambulator would fit in the trunk. A British-built, heavy chromed steel, solid rubber wheels pram; it’s still being passed around throughout my extended family. Oh and dad had a ’63 Bonneville convertible. My kids got to ride in their dad’s pram and grand-dad’s Caddy’s.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Sorry I can’t burn any of these I love them all. One of my all time favorite cars is the 63 Rivera and after that the 63 Grand Prix.

  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    Buy the Buick – Because I’m a Buick guy
    Drive the Chrysler – Because of the rarity
    Burn the Ford – Because the rules say I have to burn one.

  • avatar
    Vanillasludge

    There are no burns to be found here. Drive any of these and feel what made American cars the best in the world in 1963. Best interiors, best style, best power and best value.

    My updated 64 T-bird was a magnificent, long nosed land yacht that chewed up miles, gas and vacuum lines with ease. Cornering is by far the most overrated dynamic capability. Give me a glassy ride any day, I’ll get there when I get there.

  • avatar
    probert

    That Chrysler is a beauty – color is right too. Looks oddly out of date relative to the others – but that’s what I’d take. The Riviera is a classic, but maybe overplayed by this point – I’ll wait for a GS boat tail.

  • avatar
    WildcatMatt

    Clearly the only way to win here is not to play.

  • avatar

    burn them all: first the buick, then the chrysler, and finally the ford.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Buy the T-bird.
    Drive the Riv.
    Burn the ugly Chrysler.

  • avatar
    Masterofalltimespaceanddimension, sort of

    WOW, this is a tough one! But rules are rules…
    Buy the Chrysler. It has the best powertrain, and I am guessing best handling too. This was the one to be seen in back then.
    Drive the Riviera. SOOOO pretty, best looking of the 3 choices by far.
    Burn the Tbird. I don’t wanna do this, but it is easily outclassed by the other two choices.

  • avatar
    Marty S

    Loved them all. I think the 62 Chrysler 300 was better and cleaner looking than the 63, which looked bloated to me, but the 300’s were considered really fast and luxurious “executive express” cars. The T-Bird was super sleek and futuristic and, as has been mentioned, was placed in a lot of tv series and movies. A very striking car, and made a great convertible.

    My personal favorite is the Riviera. I remember seeing my first one in 63 and it was relatively small in comparison to most standard size cars and very classy and sporty looking. My dad bought a 65 model, which looked even more custom by removing the side vents and adding the very cool hidden headlights. I drove it a lot and it was a great driving car. I think it was one of the best looking cars ever produced, and know I am not alone in this. By the way, the 66 Riviera, which was an unnecessary, but pretty good redesign, continued as rear wheel drive while the 66 Toronado was front wheel drive. But the 63-65 Riviera’s were the true classics.

  • avatar
    Jagboi

    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.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    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.


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