CC In Scale: Year Focus – 1969 (With Random Thoughts On Design)

Has there ever been a decade that has seen as much social change as the sixties? Not during my lifetime! Naturally, on a site like this we’d be thinking of car design, but consider the changes in fashion, in community attitudes, and since we do this sort of thing on CC sometimes, in popular music. Down under in 1969, this was the song that seemed to get most of the airplay. Psychedelic rock at its best! (Caution – video clip contains footage of a nasty WW2 leader for the purposes of satire.)

Unthinkable ten years earlier.

And the cars from 1969 would have been unthinkable ten years earlier, also. Consider Chevy. In 1960, for a family car you basically had this (or a Corvair);

Kinda space agey-looking, with that goldfish-bowl windshield, thin pillars, jet plane ornament on the doors with chrome strips and contrast paint trailing from it. And fins – horizontal here. All these things were gone, some long-gone, by 1969. I don’t have a ’69 big Chevy for contrast, but here’s a Chevelle;

Much thicker C-pillars, vaguely hipped rear quarters, no fins, and plainer body contours. No funky extrusions going on, or oddly-applied chrome trim. Basically clean, rational design except for some strange detailing here and there, like that quarter-window shape. Distinctive.

The Nova was similarly clean, here in base-trim fleet-car white. Only the fake louvres under the badge look odd, but they were a one-year wonder.

This Camaro has the up-and-coming vinyl roof, and also bodyside stripes. And of course Hugger Orange paint. We have hood vents, seemingly a muscle-car must-have, but the Camaro also has a return to more complex bodyside creasing with the wheel-arch flares trailing onto the doors and rear quarters.

Then there’s the Corvair. A leftover from 1965, only the thin real pillars mark it as not a 1969 design. Simple. Beautiful.

Other GM cars were similarly clean. Here’s a Pontiac GTO. At the front we have a loop-bumper, body-coloured here, with a prominent central protrusion to carry on the split-grille theme. Once again, we have bodyside graphic elements, which are multicoloured on this Judge, very much in keeping with the psychedelic ‘theme’ of the time.

On the Firebird we see the usual Pontiac cue of a split grille, complicated here by the area around the headlights being separated from the grille and surrounded by body colour. I feel it made for an overly-busy look; I preferred the cleaner ’68, but this separation of lights and grille was to spread throughout the Pontiac lineup. There’s a sharpening-up of the bodyside contours, with simple wheel-arch flares replaced by eyebrows trailing down the bodysides. This would be the beginning of some weird contouring of body sides during the seventies. Some Very weird!

From Oldsmobile, I have this ’69 442. More of a fuselage look than most Mopars! Once again you have very clean bodyside contours (which would gain prominent hips for 1970), with the black interior which because almost de rigueur for sporty cars during this period. Even if it was impractical in hotter climates, because Fashion. Black racing stripes on an Olds – who would have thought it ten years earlier?

No intermediate Buick though. I’ll show a 1969 Riviera, though really, I don’t like what they did to it.

From a lovely car in 1966, it seemed to get progressively messed up, but it shows the trend toward increasing front-end design complexity, at the expense of aesthetics.

(No, I don’t have any Cadillacs)

Moving across to Ford, here’s a Galaxie.

I’ve chosen a rear view here to highlight the Ford’s most unusual feature, the ‘tunnelback’ rear window (pinched from GM’s ’67 intermediates)—the profile of a sporty fastback with the glass slope of a regular coupe. Later to appear on the Jaguar XJ-S.

Here’s a Torino. Full fastback, though a more normal (but not ‘formal’) hardtop was also available. Fancy, a choice of coupe offerings! Clean lines, almost to the point of being nondescript. Only the bodyline crease continuing up over the wheel arches rates a mention. No stripes on this Cobra, and only a subtle hood scoop.

The Mach 1 Mustang looks to have had all the eye-grabbing stuff other Fords missed out on. Hood scoop, side scoops, side stripes, black hood panel, spoilers, quad exhaust tips… Overkill? Maybe but it certainly appealed to the teenager in me. Take away all the Mach 1’s graphic add-ons, and basic shape is nicely proportioned but unexceptional.

Over at Mercury, there was the Cougar, here an Eliminator (or two). Only a coupe or convertible but pleasantly shaped, and the graphics are more restrained than the Mustang.

Okay Mopar fans, your turn!

No big fuselage cars (don’t think they were ever done in kit form), so no Imperials or Chryslers. That means we start with this.

My love for this Charger design has nothing to do with that TV show. The style always struck me as something special. There’s almost something of a tailored look about it, which I enhanced here on this stripe-delete R/T. You could argue the sharp-edged style had run its race by 1969, but somehow this shape avoided looking dated.

In contrast, the regular Dodge intermediates sort of had a foot in the past with their visually separate roof and body, but weren’t as angular as the Charger, with more of a softer look aided by the hipped rear quarters. That turned out to be the way design was heading.

The Plymouth’s rear quarters were simpler, and I think, better for it.

If the GTX or Super Bee were too large or expensive, Dodge had you covered with the Dart. This GTS had a 383; probably not in full Road Runner tune, but did it really need it? Maybe until the 340 came along.

But this one’s my favourite though. I’ve always loved the look of these Barracudas. So here’s another.

That’s it for this time. Not sure what we’ll look at next time. Another year? A specific make, maybe Edsel? A specific model, like maybe the Nissan Skyline? Vintage commercials? Pickups? I haven’t written it yet, so who knows?