Automotive History: 1963 Days – Popular Science Tests the Hot Compacts


(first posted 10/16/2013)      We keep coming back to this topic, first with yesterday’s Comet and then today’s Falcon Sprint.  That era was indeed the beginning of a new generation of potent compact cars.  In May of 1963, Popular Science Magazine got onto this topic too and tested five of them.  In addition to the Falcon Sprint, they checked out the turbocharged Corvair Monza Spyder, the turbocharged Olds Jetfire, the Pontiac Tempest and (of course!) the supercharged Super Lark.  Alright, you are on to me – this is just another thinly disguised excuse to flail you all with the complete superiority of my favorite car of the moment, the Super Lark.

If you have a few minutes, read the article.  It is a fascinating step back into time when these hot new cars were really new cars.

A couple of notes.  First, I combined two pages due to a table which was impossible to read otherwise.  Unfortunately, the way the pages lined up, the data on the right page is a line down from the label on the left page.   Second, there is a wide variety of engine types: 2 normally aspirated V8s (Falcon and Tempest), a turbo 6 (Corvair) a turbo V8 (Olds) and a supercharged V8 (Lark).

I hope this is not a plot spoiler, but when looking at the results of the acceleration tests, note that the Tempest had the highest (numerical) axle ratio of all, by far, with a 3.90.  All others ranged from 3.26 to 3.55.  Pontiac Chief Engineer John DeLorean was plainly ready to race.  And one of these cars topped out at 132 mph.  Also, the car with the tallest rear axle was also the one with the lowest top speed.  Read on to see which one.

So which one of these hot little numbers would you choose?  You probably already know my answer.  If you want the full-immersion time machine experience, the entire magazine can be found here.