1966 was a big year for the intermediates from the Big Three, as all of them sported brand new styling. The curvaceous A-Bodies with the tunnel-back roofs were the undisputed style-setters, after their big brothers had been in 1965. GM design was on a roll, and rarely had Ford and Chrysler looked so far behind in comparison.
Ford’s new Fairlane and Comet showed up with some token curves of their own, but were still outclassed in that department by GM. And Chrysler showed up with new cars that would have looked great in 1963, but were now hopelessly behind in the fashion parade. Good thing beauty is only skin deep, as there was still much to love under that boxy epidermis layer.
It wasn’t just the styling that set the GM intermediates apart either; starting with the 1964 Pontiac GTO, GM had jump-started a whole new class of cars, and by 1966, all the GM divisions were all-in. None more so than the Chevelle SS396, the most affordable of the bunch as well as the one with the greatest upgrade potential, thanks to the new 396/427 big block engine family interchangeability.
Ford did have the GT/GTA version of the Fairlane, but it generated extremely little interest. It came with the staid FE-390 V8, an engine that was much better suited to the Country Squire than red light races against GTO’s and SS396’s. In 1967, Ford upped the ante with the 427, but even that rare and price mill ended up laying very much an outsider role.
The Belvedere (and Coronet) were available with the four barrel 383, rated at 325 hp, so it wasn’t exactly a slouch. But there was no model trim specifically tailored to the go-fast crowd; you just had to order your choice of Belvedere trim and body style with the preferred engine (and transmission).
Meanwhile Pontiac was killing it with its third year of the GTO, selling just a whisker under 100k units. Standard 335 hp; optional 360 hp. And dripping with image and street creds.
These numbers tell the story better than I can: GM’s intermediates outsold Ford’s and Chrysler’s combined.
Chrysler saw the writing on the wall, and for 1967 shot back with the hottest intermediate muscle cars: the Plymouth GTX and Dodge R/T with standard Commando 440 V8s and the optional 426 Hemi. Take that!
They were hot all right, but they still sold in fairly modest numbers. Of course that all changed in 1968 with Plymouth’s Road Runner, but that’s a story for a different day, one we haven’t actually done full justice to here yet. One of these days.
Back to 1966. And the styling and detailing that was already several years out of date. But who cares? It’s still an attractive package.