The 60s – as many people say, “you had to be there”, or perhaps more appropriately, “you had to be there…..and lucid.” It was a special time, and maybe it’s just something about the number 6, but as I enter the sixth decade of my life with a birthday this month, I find myself looking back ever more fondly at the 60s.
Tumultuous is certainly one word to describe it. Social change, political change….it was marked by highs (civil rights, The Beatles, the Apollo moon landing) and lows (losing John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, and the Vietnam War), but I keep coming back to the realization of how thankful I am for the opportunity to experience that decade. The 50s, 70s, 80s, 90s, the “aughts”, …..those were all interesting, but they just don’t come anywhere close to the excitement and energy that was “the 60s.”
And that was certainly true if you were an automotive enthusiast and had a passion for cars. While memories of other things are fading with age, I still thankfully have clear, crisp recollections of some of the more memorable automotive experiences from that decade – it’s hard to narrow them all down, but let me share with you three “jaw-droppers” – three cars from the 60s that just absolutely left me mesmerized the first time I saw them – and still emotionally resonate even today.
1963 Studebaker Avanti – “Other Worldly”
The first time I saw an Avanti I could hardly find my jaw, let alone pick it up off the floor. This car was different – I mean real different. I happen to find the design absolutely striking – though there were other opinions at the time that were more critical. Why was it so striking? Well, it’s probably tough for younger folks to understand, but prior to the Avanti, almost all cars had grilles – grilles being a major styling element of the car; essentially the car’s “face.” The Avanti had no grille – and that just made for a totally unique design. The rest of the car was just as breathtaking. Line up a sample of cars from 1963 – then pick the one that looks like it came off the assembly line twenty years later…… Timelessly beautiful.
1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray – “Lithe muscularity”
Prior to the ‘63 Sting Ray, European cars tended to be “lithe” – sleek, graceful…… US cars were “muscular” – think Hudson Hornets and Olds 88s, later Chrysler 300s, and early 60s Chevy 409s, Pontiac 421s, and Dodge 413s. The 63 Sting Ray was the first car to successfully combine those two philosophies – in an utterly perfect and arresting design. The sharp edged front end with hidden headlights, the graceful low beltline leading over the flared “hips” to the edged rear that mimics the front. Of seven generations of Corvettes, it’s my clear favorite – and collectors too. Stunning.
1966 Oldsmobile Toronado – “Presence”
What’s presence? Let’s just define it as the ability of a car to initially attract and hold your attention. Many cars from the 60s had presence – 60s slab-sided Lincolns all had it, so did various Cadillac’s and the 64-66 Chrysler Imperial. But no large car had more presence than the 66 Toro. A beautifully balanced design that just screams “concept car” – something from the future that you could actually purchase and drive today. The fact that it was so innovative from a mechanical and technical perspective just added to its allure. GM’s best large car design, ever.
So, what cars from the sixties have dropped your jaw the most?