Curbside Classic Capsule: 1960 Chrysler Saratoga Hardtop–Peak American Space Age?

Imagine my surprise when, while driving along a local street in my town, I spotted this sleek white beauty!  It’s a 1960 Chrysler Saratoga 4-door hardtop, one of only 4,099 produced.  Actually, about 77,000 Chryslers (of all models) were made in 1960, and you kind of wonder what happened to them all.  A similar Saratoga sedan was previously written up by CC’s own Laurence Jones, but considering the fact that–at this point–you may only see one or two ’60 Chryslers in your lifetime, I think this pristine example is worth a closer look.

The first thing that strikes you about this car is, “This is big!”  And the fins give the body a dynamic sense of forward thrust–and they do it beautifully!  This is a Saratoga, mind you, 4″ longer than the lower priced Windsor (as if you needed more length!)

Such beautiful penmanship, formal with just a little bit of lively flair. That thrusting spear, the golden medieval crest…


How many lions and crowns are there on this car? You’re truly King of the Road in this Chrysler!


Here’s another one, at the back of the trunk lid. Part of the thrill of seeing cars like this in person is discovering all these little finely wrought details that you miss just looking at photographs.


These delta taillights EMERGE from the fins. Is there a purer form of ’50s “Googie” design than this? You can buy the car just for the taillights!


The front end looks like it’s “smiling” at you. I actually prefer the ’61 front with the diagonal headlights, but this is nice too.  Let’s get a closer view…


Look at that leaping golden lion! Another masterpiece by an unknown and unheralded Detroit sculptor.  Chrysler should resurrect this design and place it on the grilles of all new models. I predict sales will increase by 20%!


From every angle, this car says “Whoooosh!”


Of course we have to mention the “Astra-Dome” instrument cluster–lighted at night by painted florescent numbers and letters, which glow an unearthly green.


The interior? Lush!!


So there it is–as the great Charles Phoenix would say, “Behold the glory!”  But the glory was all-too short lived.  It always amazes me that cars like this (and other contenders for peak Space Age, like the ’59 Dodge, Cadillac, Mercury, Chevy, and others from 1957-61) were not exotic one-offs, but mass produced, “ordinary” cars driven by ordinary people.  What were once common sights on American streets and highways rapidly disappeared from view as the ’60s became the ’70s. And I, for one, miss seeing them.

This Chrysler reminded me of a 1960 De Soto model kit I had as a teen.


Nor do I see too many cars like this at car shows.  It seems to me a car of this kind would be highly desirable by collectors.  The sleek style…the 383 cubic inches of V-8 power…the push button TorqueFlite transmission…the unibody construction…the super-light power steering with torsion bar suspension which makes for such easy handling.  Why haven’t more of these been preserved?   The old car hobby has a lot of “meatballism” in it and is, in my view, too monolithic–at shows one typically sees the same specific high-profile models again and again–often hot-rodded or customized in some way.  While everyone has his own tastes and desires, I think the real gold is right here.