Welcome To 1959 Week

There really is something to the changes from one decade to the next, especially with cars, even if it tends to happen a year or so early. 1949 was a watershed year, when the Big Three finally stepped into the post war era. 1969 – 1970 was the apogee of the sixties muscle/pony car era. 1980 – 1981 ushered in the new wave of FWD compacts from GM, Ford and Chrysler. 1990? The ascent of the SUV and the Camry? And 2000? Among other things, it ushered in the first hybrids. Just as 2010 saw the first viable electrics hit the road. So that leaves 1959 – 1960, perhaps the most significant of them all.

There’s no way we can try to do a complete global survey of all the profound changes that happened into that gateway year of the dynamic sixties, so we’ll have to do some random samples, and pick the winners and losers of the that pivotal year. And what a year it was indeed…the new frontier was space.

And the influence of supersonic jets and spacecraft on the cars of 1959 is all too evident, in America at least.

It’s too soon to re-run, but if you missed the 1959 Cadillac CC “False Prophet Of A New Era”, it’s all about the significant changes that 1959 – 1960 ushered in, at least from Detroit.

So what prompted this impromptu theme? (BTW, my apologies to the other CC Contributors, but a theme week doesn’t exclude other subjects). The Mini CC I just put up an hour earlier again brought home to me the significance of 1959; which was the year the little midget first appeared.

I realize 1959 is a long time ago, for all of us and especially younger readers. A lot has changed since then, so we’ll try to focus as much as possible on the lasting implications of what was happening that year, rather than just nostalgia.

There are so many brands that are long history, and some that shouldn’t have made it into the sixties.

Or others that survived or morphed in ways that would have been unimaginable in 1959, like the Skoda.

If anyone had even dreamed that Volvo would end up being owned by the Chinese, they would have been sent for a nice round of electro-shock therapy, or worse.

Well, at least the outcome is better than Saab. We’ll come back to its sad tale.

I pulled up a few random pictures from google images for the year 1959, and none of them captured the American spirit of the times better than this one. Can you imagine someone pulling over on the freeway in LA in order to have their picture taken in front of it? And of course the 1959 Chevy is the perfect backdrop, especially since its hood emblem tells us its packing a 348. As in cubic inches, or 5.7 liters. That’s a number that was unfathomably large, at a time when the biggest Mercedes had a 3 liter six, and  Rolls Royce was just finally superseding their ancient 4.9 liter F-head six with a new V8.

Yes, heady times indeed. But who had the right ideas in 1959? And who didn’t? Stay tuned.