We’ve been pointing out for years here about how the longer, lower, wider mantra as applied to American cars turned out to be a dead end, in more ways than one. It’s not just because there was a point where the trend was inherently self-defeating, but also because it sparked such a strong negative reaction from the market. As we detailed in “Who Killed The Big American Car?“, the full-sized car’s market share started to plummet in 1957, the year that the trend went into overdrive. The result was that the Big Three were forced to develop and build compacts for 1960, which we’re going to look at in detail in the coming days, which ironically had better interior dimensions in some/many metrics than the full size cars. The result was cannibalization, and further drops in the market share of big cars.
But just which big American cars were the worst offenders, in terms of being the lowest, widest and longest?
Lowest large standard production sedans/coupes:
1961 – 1963 Lincoln Continental: 53.5″
This should not be too surprising, given that the ’61 Conti started out life as a concept for the ’61 Thunderbird, and shares elements of its inner body structure with the actual ’61 T-Bird. The ’61-’63 Continental is really more of a four-door coupe than a sedan, which it properly became in 1964 when it got a longer wheelbase and taller roof, making its rear seat room more in line with the competition.
1960 Oldsmobile: 53.7″
My guess was that GM’s 1959-1960 cars would be the lowest of the more common mass-produced lines by the majors (the Conti slipped by). And that includes the ’53 and up Studebaker coupes, which ranged between 54.6″ (’58 Golden Hawk) and 56.4″ (’53 Coupe). Anyway, they’re a bit out of our survey, being coupe-only bodies.
I was kind of hoping it would be the Cadillac, since given its extra length and dramatic styling, it certainly tends to look the lowest. It is only four-tenths of an inch taller, at 54.1″. Why the Olds is a tick lower than the other GM cars of that vintage is not exactly known, but probably because of slight variations in suspension settings and such. Although these ’59-’60 GM cars all shared the same basic body, they all had their own unique frames and suspensions.
Through the gauzy lens of time, it’s common to think of these ’59-’60 GM cars as giant land yachts, and with expansive interior accommodations. They were certainly long and wide, but their interiors were shockingly cramped in proportion. I had the chance to spend some time inside this ’59 Cadillac that I wrote up, and it was a rude awakening. These cars sit high on frames, and even the ones with the X-Frame only provide a rather modest foot well in the rear. The front floor is high and flat, and with the low roof, there is precious little headroom, and one feels quite hemmed in, exacerbated by the big steering wheel.
It’s utterly unlike any modern car; something like a Camry is vastly roomier and more comfortable. And the shocking truth is that the Corvair, despite being a couple of inches lower, had more interior space in several metrics, including headroom. The ’59-’60 GM cars came in for a lot of criticism, and not just for their ridiculous styling. As functional cars, they were the absolute nadir, with their excessive length, terrible interior space utilization, and all of that glass creating an interior environment that was brutal unless one could afford the expensive air conditioning. Which most buyers couldn’t.
No wonder these are the whipping boys of the big car critics of the time. And that time, 1958-1961 was a period book-ended by two sharp recessions, which really fueled the demand for compact cars, especially since they generally accommodated their passengers more commodiously or considerately.
Not surprisingly, GM saw the error of its ways, and the new 1961 cars all were a couple of inches taller, a few inches shorter, and a bit trimmer in the waist, allowing for more upright seating and (somewhat) better accommodations. It was a modest concession to reality.
Widest large standard production sedans/coupes:
1960 Ford: 81.3″
It’s hard to reconcile why Ford thought that building the widest car ever, one that was so wide it exceeded the maximum allowable width in several states, was a good idea (they had to scramble to get temporary approval).
Yes, the ’60 Ford is a full 1.2″ wider than the legendary ’58-’60 Lincolns, which somehow managed to look longer, lower and wider than they actually were, thanks to the magic of their styling.
It was also something of a flop, as sales dropped quite sharply from 1959.
And the ’60 Falcon was the most obvious reason why, as it offered a vastly more efficient way to carry the typical family. Unless one was carrying six adults regularly, the Falcon was a much better proposition. And as a result, it was the biggest selling new car in history.
Widest large standard production sedans/coupes:
1973 Imperial: 235.3″
When it comes to length, the combination of Brougham Era excess and mandated 5-mile bumpers resulted in the longest cars all coming during the 1973-1976 era. And ironically, the longest of them all, the 1973 Imperial, didn’t even have full 5-mile bumpers front and rear. It just had gobs of that excess.
GM’s C-Bodies and the big Lincoln of the 1974-1978 era all fought hard for the title, but none could top the Imperial. We covered this shoot-out here a few years back, if you want the details.
As to the earlier era, the ’58-’60 Lincoln does win that one, with a whopping 229″, but looking at least a couple of feet longer.
Note: I have omitted the Cadillac Fleetwood 75 Limo/Sedan for this exercise. It was the only regular production extended length limo, but obviously in a league of its own.
It’s interesting as we now look back and see just how inefficient the packaging of these cars were. They still look good. “It’s not how you feel, it’s how you look” (Billy Crystal) seems to have been a ploy to make people feel good by looking good. On the hand, modern cars may have more efficient packaging, but with (IMO) INTRUSIVE, large consoles, some of the efficiency is negated. I understand the reasoning, no center passenger, no center airbag. What I don’t understand, though is why, with FWD there is a need for the console to be so large?! Styling is subjective, of course, but the wild pendulum swing from blobby, melted soap bars to weirdly creased exercises in origami will eventually run its course, hopefully. 🙂
Agreed. You’ll get no argument from me that space efficiency in the cars I vastly prefer were substandard, but at least you could move around and reach the all locks and window cranks all by yourself in the days before those were on central electric switches. Center consoles in modern interiors are to me akin to giant islands in big McMansion kitchens – a massive room, but you have to follow a designated path to maneuver around it.
I think the whole point is that having “to move around” is already its own inefficiency that begat the whole move toward electrification of the doors and windows and the center console then appeared, doubling the inefficiency but being less noticeable since the stone was able to kill two birds at once.
You see it in large pickups nowadays where the center console option is always the extra cost one over having the fold down center (6th seat) even though the seat is likely the more expensive version to build necessitating more fabric/foam, a sturdier frame structure and a seat belt as compared to some molded plastic pieces. That console is generally not available on trucks with manual windows.
Could it be the demand for increasing amounts of luxury stuff creates a need for more enclosed space to fit it into?
I wonder how many owners of cars with bench seats actually use that centre portion of the seat? Dad was a salesman, and always used the centre portion of the bench seat for sitting his brochures and order books. Nobody ever sat front centre. Storage space under a centre armrest would’ve worked fine for him. But with the shift lever on the column, and empty spaces and blanking plates on the dash for options we didn’t have, there was no need for a console back then. (mid 60s).
It is interesting what tricks the styling plays in our perceptions of these cars. The Imperial never looked as big to me as the 70s Lincolns, but it was and more.
And for all the crap we sling at the 1971-76 GM B and C body cars, they weren’t the biggest in any of these dimensions.
I will say that getting into a car of that era, the width is the most noticeable difference from what we are used to (those of us not in large pickups everyday, anyhow). I still recall the day I bought my 64 Imperial and was driving it home. Our daily drivers were a Honda Accord and a Plymouth Colt (both from the 80s) but I was no stranger to big cars. The other side of the dash in that Imperial felt like it was in the next lane.
Re: the ’58 Lincoln–the brochure ad copy boldly proclaimed that this is the “longest, lowest, most spacious six passenger sedan of all time . . . It’s so low and snug to the ground (a scant 56 1/2 inches) . . . you’ll be astonished by the roominess when you step inside.” Long, low, “lithe and graceful”–Yeah, man! Where do I sign?
“And the engine is so smooth, you can balance a coin on the hood.” Really? Who writes this stuff?
Longer…lower…wider…and nobody cares.
But it wasn’t a Cadillac, and I guess in ’58 that was all that mattered to many folk.
Even though I have always liked the looks of some of the barges of the past, I have never been a fan of larger cars. Mid size and pony cars have always been my favorites. However, I did own a ’64 Galaxie coupe when I was in college. A very pretty car, but also a piece of crap. I traded my ’62 Fairlane coupe in on it because the weak 170 six banger in it was not up to my driving style. I threw a rod once and later burned a piston. I sure liked the size of that Fairlane, though and it would influence all future car purchases by me.
As to balancing the coin on the hood, my Dad could do that on the radiator support or air cleaner in his ’62 Olds wagon. Of course that was after he rebuilt the engine and did a real good tune on it. I will have to write a COAL about that car and it’s unique relationship with our family sometime.
It seems you’ve overlooked the Canyonero:
12 yards long, 2 lanes wide,
65 tons of American Pride!
But seriously… I always thought GM was the most arrogant car company, then Ford goes and makes a car that’s wider than allowed in some states. I guess the arrogance was allowed, though, since they got the waiver.
My grandmama had a 1960 Buick LeSabre coupe. She was all of five feet tall, so she could get in and out with no problem. But at the time I was 5’10” and still growing, so when I drove her from Seattle to California in 1970 I spent the entire trip hunched over trying to peer out the front windshield. My older cousin had it even harder: He’s 6’2″ and always stained the headliner with his Brylcreem hair product.
Lincoln played up the long, low thing in ’57 too. “Here is the longest, most longed-for Lincoln ever!” And, “Everything you touch turns to power!”
Harley Earl once said something like, “To me a car that is long, low, and wide looks better than one that is short, high, and narrow.” A lower, wider car should also handle better. And it cuts such a beautiful figure! Cars are a lot about fashion, and fashion is about looking good, even if it isn’t as comfortable or as practical as possible.
The death of large American sedan/coupe is not totally due to its size. In my view, it is more to do its aged mind set in engineering, vehicle design, customer taste and production/quality control l. If the weight and size are factors, why do we now see the popularity of full size SUV and truck now? Today vehicle is superior in very aspects when comparing with 1960s and 1970s US vehicles, but they remain heavy and wide. We have a 2015 Honda Odyssey van, it’s width without two mirrors is 79.2”, With two minors out, the overall width is over 90” — you can’t say it is much narrower than 1970s Chrysler full size coupe. For that reason, we have to fold the driver side mirror when we park inside the garage, this practice saves about 7”. Wide car is still fit to American taste, the North American Accord and Odyssey are wider than JDM. As we also now some basically JDM vehicles in US market like 2002 Infiniti M45, aka Nissan Gloria, are much narrower than other Nissan products in North America.
Well said. We can’t blame the auto makers for forcing longer, lower, wider cars on the consumer. People happily bought them, and heaped scorn on the few cars that bucked the trend.
From the tall hat – wearable Mopars of the early 50s to the AMC Pacer, practical taller, narrower designs became niche products, and attracted scorn and derision from typical consumers, for years.
The trend continues to this day. The efficient, practical minivan of the 90s is rejected as being too plain and boring, while the market stampedes first for SUVs and now cross overs that are, in all dimensions less efficient and worse than those minivans. Thus the compact/mid size minivan, probably the most efficiently packaged vehicle ever made disappears.
Fashion makes people willingly buy things that aren’t in their best interest. Such is the power of popular trends.
We can’t blame the auto makers for forcing longer, lower, wider cars on the consumer. People happily bought them, and heaped scorn on the few cars that bucked the trend.
Except that’s not true. Big car sales started their terminal decline in 1957, in terms of market share. Between 1956 and 1962, big cars lost almost one half of their market share!
There was a big backlash against how excessively low and long and wide they were in relation to their modest interior space. Hence the success of the Rambler, Lark and the 1960 compacts by the Big Three. And the huge success of the Mustang in 1965.And most importantly, the ever-increasing share of the imports.
Big low cars were on a death spiral starting in 1957, from which they never recovered. Sure, some buyers still bought them,older men mainly, but not the market in general. (see chart below) Note how their market share plummeted during the years 1957 – 1961. This was a clear consumer backlash against these lower, wider, longer cars.
As to minivans and SUVs, given how small the typical household is nowadays, the SUV/CUV is more than big enough. I refer you to today’s COAL on a CRV.
Fashion is part of it, but the reality is that the CUV fits today’s lifestyle very well. Upright seating is much more comfortable than sitting on the floor of low sedans from the past, especially since our society is aging, and they have more than enough room and lots of utility for what folks need.
Not everyone has use for a van, which today are hardly “mini”. A CRV is going to feel a lot more compact and handy to drive than an Odyssey.
. If the weight and size are factors, why do we now see the popularity of full size SUV and truck now?
Because they’re vastly more practical and much roomier inside. Try comparing the interior space of your Odyssey van to a ’59 Cadillac.
Yes, Americans like a lot of room, in their cars and houses. The problem was back then these cars actually weren’t very roomy at all.
“With two minors out, the overall width is over 90”
I hope you pull the kids in when you get on the highway.
While I think of it, the 1955-56 Imperials were a whopping 229.6″ overall, which is longer than the 57-58 Lincolns, but the Imperials weren’t as low:
It’s great to see the 1960 Ford here—I didn’t realize it still held the “widest” title. Evidently, in most states, the problem was that vehicles wider than 80″ (trucks, presumably) had special lighting requirements. Plenty of stories about it in the papers:
And I know even a factory-authorized continental kit doesn’t add to official stats, but I wonder how long this 1960 Ford was (and how late such an “official” kit was available):
Can we get an Honorable Mention for all those great Pontiac ads by Art Fitzpatrick?
He made the Ponchos look like you could carry a ping-pong table on the hood, crossways.
That put a smile on my face! I’ll second your nomination.
Long time posters here know I have never particularly liked enormous cars. My opinion is based on 50’s and 60’s cars that were gigantic but didn’t have much room in them. To me, a smaller car like a Volare was a much better choice for a family.
I recently parked next to a 1964 Pontiac Catalina sedan at the local mall and was shocked at how low that car sat compared to the 2017 Ford Fusion I was driving at the time. Factory specs for the Catalina indicate a height of 55.8 inches and the car I saw was in good original condition, with no visible suspension sag or other typical maladies of age. In contrast, the current Fusion sits about 58 inches high, but the seating is so much more upright in the Fusion than in the lounge-like Pontiac that the contrast is indeed much greater than the difference a couple inches would make. The attitude of the older car is much looser and more relaxed, and perhaps more confident, while the modern vehicle seems taut, purposeful and business-like. Perhaps these differences reflect the way American roads, traffic, and drivers have changed over the past 50+ years.
The real different is that import cars showed how cars can be more comfortable to sit in by using proper design and technology (unibody, FWD, IRS, etc,) Consumers prefer to sit more upright and comfortably, which they did until about 1957-1958. And they were not happy about sitting on the floor. So when more upright cars were increasingly an option, that’s what they bought. The market spoke…against low cars with frames under them.
I think we have to separate pre-war from post-war. This 1934 Cadillac Fleetwood V-16 convertible is 240″ overall, which beats that ’73 Imperial. It also beats the hell out of the ’73 car on looks.
Secondly, “the longer, lower, wider mantra as applied to American cars turned out to be a dead end.” Does that apply to the innovative 1948-54 Hudsons as well?
I’d also wager that the 73 has a vastly more roomy interior to the 36 car. More upright seats in the 30s car perhaps, but to say the longer/lower/wider trend deprived buyers from roominess is probably a misnomer. The roomy upright Interiors in early-mid 50s cars were really an anomaly, a byproduct of the Pontoon styling revolution that inherently widened passenger compartments from the previous footprints that were wasted on separate fenders and runningboards, which continued into the immediate post-war years.
I’m not sure what your point is. Of course the very conservatively designed 1930 Cadillac V16 was essentially a 1920s design, and as such a minor update on the cars of the teens and aughts. Meaning a somewhat updated 1901 Mercedes.
If you want to compare the ’73 Imperial, do it with the ’34 Chrysler Imperial Airflow, which was the first American car to break out of that mold and had drastically wider seats and an extremely roomy passenger compartment. Ever been in one?
If you’re asking me which of the two I’d rather walk (or crawl) in and sit in for a long trip, especially the back seat, it’s not even remotely close.
Yes, and yes I agree, but I’d rather look at that 36 Cadillac or the Imperial 😉
It was just to say that space efficiency standards in their own modest way did improve from those big glamorous luxury cars like that particular Cadillac, and that Imperial, which despite having an ancestral relation to the airflow, its design was more intentionally harkening back to those big “golden age” luxury cars. Even in 1973 nobody could move in any volume a car with no back seat (inside) and that narrow passenger compartment.
With post airflow(zephyr, et al) cars they trended towards far better packaging than the 20s but the bodies did naturally get wider, and depending how you look at it you can look at as the first step in the three step process towards the long/low/wide late 50s cars, once width was pulled out as far as it could(shedding separate fenders), then the lowering and lengthening got radical. That just right middle ground in the early-mid 50s were transitional in the context of the movement
It was just to say that space efficiency standards in their own modest way did improve from those big glamorous luxury cars like that particular Cadillac,
Take a good look at the back seat of this 1924 Cadillac V16 back seat. The only thing that improved over time was width. But what good is that, unless you’re so poor you have to sit three across? Which no one who owned one of the luxury cars ever had to contemplate. Most of them (like this one) had two jump seats for that emergency.
So what good was all that width in the ’73 Imperial or any of the longer, lower, wider cars? I can absolutely guarantee you that sitting three across in any of them was a colossal PIA. The antithesis of luxury. Nobody did that unless absolutely necessary. And if you made your passel of kids do it, it was in a Plymouth, not an Imperial.
My point being that all that width was utterly wasted. That explains why these were bought in minute numbers. By 1973, if you wanted true prestige from a car, you bought a Mercedes. And in LA in 1973, even a Mercedes 220D afforded more prestige than an Imperial. Seriously.
All that goes for the length too.
There’s a reason these were dinosaurs one step from their long-overdue grave.
I understand that many have some intense emotional thing with big American cars/coupes, but these were quickly becoming a bad joke. By 1973, the world had long moved on. If you bought one, you were telling the world that you were incapable of doing that. Which is not necessarily a value judgment, but just is what it is, a statement.
Those big American beasts of the sixties and seventies were increasingly out of step with the rest of the world. Sales of big American cars in Australia dropped off as we just didn’t have the room to fit them, and couldn’t afford to feed them.
Outside the US and Canada, most people did not have so much space around them that they wanted to run a vehicle that was any larger than they really needed. We looked at your ‘full-size’ cars in wonder, while acknowledging that they were totally impractical in our environment. Okay, some ridiculed them back then, I’ll admit. And I’ll sometimes comment about taking six inches off here, or a foot off there, if I think it would improve the look. The idea of wasted space purely for the sake of style and/or image – it just doesn’t make sense down here.
Dad poked fun at Uncle Ted when he bought his ’66 Bel Air; such a big car for a family of five? A Holden, Falcon or Valiant would have done the job. But that Chevy carried four adults and four children and all our gear to a picnic at Lake Burrumbeet one summer evening – “No need to take two cars, we’ll all go in the Chev.”. He was a bit more reserved after that experience.
And you know, despite dabbling in history for some fifty-odd years, I still find it hard to imagine a country with such cheap gas prices as you guys had back then; it seems so far removed from my experience.
Truly, you guys live in a different world – or did back then.
I still find it hard to imagine a country with such cheap gas prices as you guys had back then;
It was more expensive then that it is now! 35 cents a gallon in 1965 is $2.87 in today’s dollar. That’s more than the $2.00-$2.30 it is in most parts in the US.
And on top of that, cars were much less efficient back then, and most folks were trying to support a whole family on a single wage. It actually wasn’t really all that cheap.
But cheaper than most other countries, yes.
Good points, where these roadster Cadillacs may have lacked interior space the sedans provided more than enough, which can’t be countered for the four door Imperial vs the two door. The appeal in width in luxury isn’t necessarily in jamming three passengers into a bench but the perception of space in the driver’s periphery, which I think carries over to large pickups today.
But it’s not like there wasn’t other choices in 1973, I guess I’m willing to overlook the excesses of huge full size cars after the compact and intermediate segments emerged, and Plymouth had no problem selling loads of Valiants to willing customers at this time. It was only the late 50s and early 60s where the public was truly stuck with the choice of either longer/lower/wider big three, or imports/independents. Just luxury buyers were shut out by Cadillac, Lincoln, and Chrysler/Imperial only offering long low wide full size barges until 1975, it’s no wonder Mercedes was able to slip in.
For the record my intense emotional thing is more in American intermediates, PLCs and ponycars. There aren’t many full sizers after 1964 I’m particularly passionate about. Even I have my personal limits in excess.
BTW, that green Cadillac is a 1932, not 1924. FWIW.
Starting with the 1932 model year, Fleetwood Cadillacs were Fisher bodies with Fleetwood trim.
This 1934 Cadillac Fleetwood V-16 convertible is 240″ overall, which beats that ’73 Imperial.
All 4076 V16s ever built were finished to customer specifications. So FWW, it’s not a “production sedan/coupe” especially the convertible. 🙂
As to the Hudsons, you have to ask? Where are the 2020 Hudsons?
Of course they were a dead end. But they did prove that unibody designs were inherently more space efficient, and that’s undoubtedly what convinced Chrysler to go to unibodies in 1960, specifically due to the very poor space utilization of their ’57 – ’59 cars, which sat on old-school ladder frames (not perimeter) and therefore had no wells for the feet.
regarding the above comments: Cadillac’s first V16 was the 1930 model year, not 1924. Also GM/Fisher body owned Fleetwood when the V16s went into production. There were standard bodies, which could be customized to some degree, however they were steel bodies unlike the wood framed Fleetwood Body Companies bodies. Most of the V16’s were built for the 1930 model year (over 3000).
Four-door coupe: Good phrase. Similar to today’s club coupes with hidden suicide doors. In the ’30s it would have been called a Berline.
I had the misfortune to ride in one of those Conties regularly in the ’70s, traveling with the boss and his White Owl cigars. The back seat had no more legroom than a Pinto or VW. Strictly knees-up.
This is a thing I see more and more on various enthusiast sites. Viewing cars built in a time of true car enthusiasm and judging them against the modern “practical transportation module” mode. Longer lower wider LOOKS better. Jet planes, rocket ships, glorious personal chariots. Cars with style that you would turn around and look at after you parked them. Sure, they rusted, sure, they fell apart quicker, and sure, they got worse mileage. It’s been 50-70 years though. The cars of the 50s-70s worked much, much better and lasted longer than the cars of 1900-1930, too. As an enthusiast, I don’t judge cars based on “practicality uber alles”. That’s how I judge refrigerators and washing machines.
As an enthusiast, I don’t judge cars based on “practicality uber alles”. That’s how I judge refrigerators and washing machines.
You’re quite free to have your own standards on which you judge cars by, and if longer, lower and wider with jet-age styling turns you on, help yourself.
But there are also enthusiasts who actually like to drive their cars, as in enthusiastically. And these cars certainly did not lend themselves to that. They were the ultimate anti-enthusiast drivers’ cars.
There’s more than one kind of enthusiast.
the FlairBirds were so low their rear always seemed to bottom out – movie “Good Neighbor Sam” was full of it – maybe because the rear overhang was so long
neighbor had a 1970 Firebird Esprit w/ Hurst shifter and it was always bottoming out even though the owner had it raised
Back bumper scraping on turns from crowned roads into sloped (or even not-so-sloped) driveways is the top example I’d think of of a “First World Problem” that nobody has anymore.
Yeah…I remember those days. In fact if you didn’t have a back bumper scrape problem in those days your car was considered less desirable.
So I’m thinking, what is the most inefficient postwar car in terms of longer, lower, and wider (that is, combining all 3 dimensions into an index of sorts, without regard to curb weight or fuel economy)?
Let’s consider the 2020 Buick Encore as our template, as has been done in recent CC articles comparing the proportions of contemporary vs. older vehicles. With an overall length of 168.4 inches, overall width of 70.1 in. and an overall height of 65.2 in., let’s multiply length x width and divide the product by height, obtaining a result of 181.1. Let’s set this value = 1.00 and call it the inefficiency index. (Notice that I used the INVERSE of height in the calculation, so that lower height corresponds to reduced space efficiency.)
So using the following dimensions from Wikipedia for the 1973 Imperial, we get 235.3 x 79.6 / 56.2 = 333.1 for the result, which translates to an inefficiency index of 1.84, nearly twice the value of the Encore. Is there any other vehicle that scores even higher, that is, worse in terms of space inefficiency?
I tried the 1960 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight, using Wikipedia’s stated length of 220.9 inches and width of 80.6 inches (curiously the height was listed as 56.1 inches, but my guess is this is for the 4-door sedan). So substituting Paul’s stated height of 53.7 inches for the 4-door hardtop, we obtain 220.9 x 80.6 / 53.7 = 331.6, for a barely improved inefficiency index over the Imperial of 1.83.
It will be interesting to see how the early 60s compacts stack up in the next several days.
I like where you’re going with this.
Can I suggest another interesting metric would be to compare outer volume (space taken up) with interior volume (usable space available for people)? But then I guess you’d need to jiggle the formula to exclude those intrusive consoles and bulky dashes from interior room.
I don’t have the math skills for working this out, but my gut feeling is that the Issigonis designs of the sixties would be way up there for efficiency.
Agreed. I was vaguely mulling over something like this. But interior space would have to be part of the equation. The EPA classifies car by interior volume, but that doesn’t go back nearly far enough.
AMA Specifications Forms would have the data
…but who feels like crunching it?
Then again, comparing some reported specs might change everything. For example, width-with-doors-open. LoL
Just a single comparison from 1964. Cadillac DeVille and Austin 1800.
Length 223.5″ v 164.2″
Width 79.7″ v 67″
Wheelbase 129″ v 106″
Height 56.5″ v 52.5″
Front headroom 37.5″ v 37.7″
Rear headroom 33.5″ v 35.5″
Front legroom (max) 41″ v 46.2″
Rear legroom (min) 41″ v 43″
Front shoulder width 60″ v 57.7″
Rear shoulder width 60″ v 57.5″
By most interior metrics, the 1800 was the bigger car, though the extra shoulder width in the Cadilllac would be an advantage if seating three abreast.
The wider mantra had been promoted for years, images of adults riding three abreast begin appearing in the mid-30’s advertising. The idea gained impetuous with the ‘superhighway’ which while yet in place, still fired the imagination of a wonderful future.
Reality, of course, was that people had to live with streets, roads and garages built before this wider fad took hold. The other reality of riding three abreast for any more than short distances was an uncomfortable experience.
Length equated luxury from the being of the industry. Initially, the longer the wheelbase, the better the ride, more accommodating a number of passengers in comfort and presenting impressive size compared to run-of-the-mill, low-priced cars.
Low overall height simply is more pleasing to the eye, even when its contrary to function. Testing the limits to tolerate that form over function was what many of those lowest cars did. Enjoying the look is one thing, folding oneself into it and living with it is another.
I dont use Photoshop, but am trying to picture in my mind how ICC clearance lights could be added to the 1960 Ford in a stylish way.
“…their interiors were shockingly cramped in proportion.” That’s certainly news to me. I owned a 1960 Olds 98 during the 70s while at college. We’d routinely pile 6-8 of my fraternity brothers into it and nobody ever complained about being cramped! And don’t even get me started on the size of the trunk…
I know we are talking cars here, but I had an interesting “length” realization just yesterday. We were driving down the freeway and we passed an early 90s Chevy crew cab long bed dually. It had been lowered a bit, and really accentuated how long it was. And i was curiuos as to how long it actually was.
According to Edmunds.com, the crew cab long bed was 250.1″ in length.
For comparison, my 2020Ram 1500 Crew Cab short bed, it is only around 8″ shorter at 241.8″ in length!!
Not only does that not make sense, but the numbers I get for your truck are 144.5″ wheelbase and 232.9″ overall length.
Paul, you’re right. When I just googled “2020 Ram 1500 Crew Cab length”, I pulled from the autoblog article: https://www.autoblog.com/buy/2020-RAM-1500-Laramie__4x4_Crew_Cab_153.5_in._WB/specs/
Which lists the longer lenght. Mine has the short box, so it has the dimensions you put in your post.
Paul’s Ford pickup is about 204″, not counting rear bumper, based on ’66 Ford brochure. My regular cab long bed 2000 Chevy should be about the same.
I had a 1970 Dodge Polara in high school – a hand me down in a hideous shade of green and a smashed in front right corner from my older brother.
I think those were about 219 inches – not sure of the width but we used to seat 4 offensive linemen in the back – a little tight squeeze but not awful.