We now move solidly into the 1960s with this automotive issue of Consumer Reports. The winged, chromed monsters of the ’50s are now heading into the junkyard en masse, and a whole new crop of Detroit iron has been produced. But how do we separate the wheat from the chaff . . . ?
With this, of course:
Compared to previous years, there is more uniformity–few cars are outstandingly good or bad. Foreign cars (to my knowledge, last rated in the October 1964 issue) still are not included. However, we now have ratings for vehicles that have not been listed before: Checker, Chevy Van and Suburban, Dodge Sportsman Wagon, Ford Club Wagon, and Jeep.
–Most reliable used car (full-size): 1965 Plymouth Belvedere with a six. Valiants and Darts from the same era also continue their winning ways.
–Most reliable new car: 1970 Ford Maverick. Really??? (You could knock me over with a feather!)
–Least reliable used car: 1968 Corvette. Also bad: Thunderbirds (all years) and Chevrolet, once the quality King of the low-priced field, has a lot of black circles. (What’s up with Chevelles in particular? Body, exterior [paint, rust, corrosion] much worse than average.)
As one Ralph Caplan, writing in the April 1965 issue of CR stated: “The cars of [this era] are not ugly; they are merely boring and charmless.” “A world full of Volkswagens could be a pretty dull place, but the 1965 American models have found other ways of achieving the same sort of anonymity.” That’s a completely understandable position given what had come before: the Magic, Rocketing ’50s; the Art Deco/Airdreme 1935-40s; and the revered Classics of the 1920s-early ’30s. Typical cars from 1964-70 are boxy and plain, although there were a few sparks of inspiration seen in various specialty models. Caplan singles out the 1965 Corvair as “far and away the best looking car of this year’s lot. Sculptured to a restrained swell, it combines voluptuousness with an air of intelligence and some conviction; it looks well thought out, as if it were designed from an idea instead of from pressure.”
In other news . . .
1964-70 was really “the calm before the storm.” The next decade would see the emergence of gas shortages, hyper-inflation, plunging product quality and low morale at U.S. auto assembly plants; “Deadly Sins” (GM’s and others’), market fragmentation, the rise of imports, increasing regulation, the Great Brougham Epoch, and a general sense of alienation and defeatism broadly defined as “Malaise”. We’ll see what Consumer Reports had to say about those cars in our next installment.