Vintage Reviews: Motor Trend’s 1967 New Cars Issue – Intermediates

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In 1967, the Intermediate category was still a relatively new one: FoMoCo was credited with “creating” the segment in 1962 with the Ford Fairlane and Mercury Meteor.  The category soon exploded, with GM jumping in for 1964, including kicking off the Muscle Car craze with the Pontiac GTO.  While the 1967 model year did not see much in the way of major product changes, it was a large and popular segment nonetheless.  Let’s take a look a Motor Trend’s highlights for the Intermediate players.

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Minor detail and engineering changes marked Oldsmobile’s mid size offerings for 1967.  The most unusual new option was the Turnpike Cruising Package geared for more efficient operation at highway speeds.  The Cutlass popularity phenomenon had not yet fully gotten underway, but notably the Olds was the only car line in the Intermediate category that maintained it sales volume from 1966–mid sizers from all other makes were down for 1967.

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The Chrysler B-Body had been introduced for 1962 as “full size” for Dodge and Plymouth, but in reality the platform was more “mid size” by 1960’s standards.  Thus, the B-bodies officially became Intermediates for 1965, when the full size Dodge and Plymouth adopted the larger C-Body shell.  A major restyle occurred for B-Bodies in 1966, creating the square-cut lines that carried over for 1967.

The biggest news for the 1967 Plymouth intermediate was the introduction of the GTX series, targeting the booming Muscle Car market.  The GTX was rather pricey for a mid size Plymouth, however, starting at $3,178 ($22,898 adjusted)–the same as a full size Fury VIP hardtop.  Of course, by the 1968 model year, Plymouth’s Muscle Car pricing problem would be rectified as fast as a desert roadrunner…

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The quiet Comet was essentially a carryover for 1967.  The new Cougar took the lion’s share of excitement in Mercury showrooms, while the Comet endured a 53% drop in sales.

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Pontiac really was building excitement in the 1960s, and the mid size Tempest/LeMans/GTO certainly delivered.  While the intermediates received minimal trim changes from 1966, there were still new engine upgrades, including the 400 CID V8 and the introduction of Ram Air, all of which further burnished Pontiac’s performance image.

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The one Intermediate that was thoroughly revamped for 1967 was the AMC Rambler Rebel.  The new mid size offering from American Motors was larger with more contemporary styling (looked rather Chrysler-like to me…) and offered new-for-1967 “Typhoon” V8 engines.  Even the old-fashioned “Classic” moniker was dropped as the Rebel name was applied to all Intermediates, not just the top-dog high performance model as in 1966.  Sadly for AMC, however, all the effort failed to provide the desired sales lift–unit volume dropped 24% for 1967.

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Chevrolet served up minimal changes for the Chevelle line in 1967, but apparently not much else was needed–the mid size Chevy was the top selling Intermediate for the year.

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The big news at Buick for 1967 was the arrival of the “Big Block” 400 CID V8, replacing the old “nail head”-based 401 V8.  This was the standard motor for the GS400 Muscle Car.  Other news for the “softer side” of Buick Intermediates included new grilles and standard fender skirts for the Skylark.  Those changes were enough to tempt my paternal grandmother–a serial Buick buyer–she got a 1967 Skylark 4-door hardtop in Champagne Mist with a black vinyl top and Dove (off white) vinyl interior.

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The biggest shock in the Intermediate segment occurred at Ford: the Fairlane, which had been the second-best seller in the category for 1966, suffered the biggest drop for 1967, with sales plunging 54%.  The car was basically the same as the 1966 version and price hikes were minimal, but for whatever reason, Ford’s mid sizer lost its appeal with buyers and fell to 3rd place in the competitive set.

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Like sister-division Plymouth, Dodge also tried adding a more “pure” Muscle Car variant to spice up sales. The Coronet R/T was launched in an attempt to grab some of the Pontiac GTO “magic” and bring it to Dodge.  Other than this new model, however, changes to the mid size Coronet line were minimal.

Given the sales pressure from the booming Specialty segment (+43%), along with competition from revamped full size cars, Intermediates sales were down 25% overall (total U.S. car sales were down 14% year-over-year).  Therefore, the segment lost some share-of-sales compared to 1966, declining from 28% to 24% of the market.  Here are the sales results by model:

Chevrolet Chevelle  369,106
Pontiac Tempest/LeMans/GTO  301,069
Ford Fairlane  239,688
Oldsmobile F-85/Cutlass  229,522
Buick Special/Skylark  188,591
Dodge Coronet  184,200
Plymouth Belvedere  148,080
AMC Rebel  95,170
Mercury Comet  81,133

 

GM was clearly the leader in the segment with over 1 million Intermediates sold for 1967.  This dominance would serve The General well, as the Intermediate segment would continue to grow as buyers shifted to more rationally proportioned cars.  In spite of the Intermediate segment sales hiccup for 1967, mid size would ultimately prove to be right size for American buyers.