(first posted 9/19/2016) For the 1967 Buyer’s Guide Issue, Motor Trend grouped the cars by market segment, rather than by manufacturer. First up was the group listed as Specialty Cars, which covered the booming “personal” segment, whether that was personal luxury, or smaller style-oriented 2-doors (Pony Cars) or even a genuine sports car (Corvette). These profit-laden expressions of individualized taste would account for 16% of total 1967 sales, so it was an critical emerging segment that attracted a lot of buyer attention. Let’s have a look.
Since the Corvette continued to be the only sports car offered by an American maker, it simply got lumped into the Specialty Car category, though it was quite different than all other cars in this segment. GM deserves credit for the continuous improvement brought to the Corvette–they provided meaningful updates to the car annually through the 1960s. Sharp-eyed readers may have caught the funny typo in the article: I can’t even imagine a ’67 Corvette running on 6-inch wheels… The editors should have clarified they were talking about width, as the actual wheel size was 15″ x 6″.
In days gone by, it was impressive to see the amount of differentiation GM could bake into cars sharing the same platform. The Riviera, Eldorado and Toronado all used the E-body, but the latter two were front-wheel-drive and all three had their own unique engines along with well-differentiated interior and exterior styling.
Ford did offer up an interesting idea within the new 1967 Thunderbird line-up. The new 4-door body style, in a category otherwise filled with only 2-doors, would seem to have been a counterintuitive move. But, with center-opening doors and a blocked-out Landau roof, the 4-door ‘Bird did convey specialty style, and it did outsell the convertible body style it replaced in the roster (24,967 ’67 sedans versus 5,049 ’66 convertibles). Nonetheless, Ford’s iteration of the 4-door personal luxury car concept proved to be short-lived, ending in the early 1970s. Recently, however, the idea re-emerged, thanks to the German makes, with their 4-door “Coupes” (mis-named I know) like the Mercedes-Benz CLS, BMW 4- and 6-Series Gran Coupes, and the VW CC.
Jumbo fastbacks were not what the Specialty Car market wanted in 1967. While the style worked on smaller bodies, when stretched to large mid-sized dimensions, looks got rather peculiar from some angles. Granted, the bigger ’67 Marlin looked better than the ’65-’66 versions, but still…
Pony Cars! That nickname obviously came from one place–the phenomenally successful Mustang, and Ford worked to ensure that their filly would stay on top for 1967, even as many new competitors would arrive seeking a piece of the action. The cars were restyled inside and out and gained significantly more performance with optional engines.
I have to admit this is my personal favorite of all the Mustang design generations. It is a great blending of the original Pony Car style and attributes with a bit more edge and attitude. Plus, unlike the too-big fastbacks from Dodge and AMC, the ’67 version of the Mustang fastback looks just about perfectly proportioned to me.
1967 was also the year that the Pony Car wars, still raging today, got underway. GM knew a “better idea” when they saw one, and so 2 1/2 years after the Mustang started a frenzy, Chevrolet was ready with its challenger. “More” seemed to be Chevy’s theme with its Pony Car–more engine choices, more trim choices, more options–the only thing the Camaro lacked that Mustang had was a fastback body style. Whichever Pony is your pick, you have admit that the Ford versus Chevy fight was–and is–great fun to behold.
Unlike later years, when Mercury products were indistinguishable from Fords save for grilles and trim bits, the Cougar was a truly differentiated offering. Whether you viewed the Cougar as an extra-nice Mustang or a smaller, sportier Thunderbird, it filled a nice niche in FoMoCo’s Specialty Car line-up and gave Mercury a unique and desirable product to sell. It also captured “move-up” buyers wanting something fancier than a Mustang, but not wanting a full size personal luxury car. That logic certainly worked on my family: my Pop traded in his ’64 1/2 Mustang on a ’68 Cougar XR-7. (Some of my earliest childhood automotive memories are tied to that Augusta Green beauty–even though I was a barely more than a toddler, I still remember the thrill of watching the sequential tail lights operate and listening for the “clunk” of the headlamp covers opening).
So we’ve seen the new products, now let’s take a look at the sales success of the Specialty Car players for 1967:
No surprise that the Mustang was tops in the Specialty Car sales race–Pony Cars were the rage for 1967, and the originator of the breed was still the leader. But new entrants also came on strong, with the freshly-introduced Camaro and Cougar rounding out the top 3 segment sellers. There were even two more Pony Car entrants not covered in the November 1966 Motor Trend, since they were released to the market later than the rest: the Plymouth Barracuda (62,534 sold) and the Pontiac Firebird (82,560 sold). These smaller Specialty Cars were white hot for 1967!
The personal luxury players were also doing well. Thunderbird sales climbed 13% compared with 1966, while the stylish and expensive new Eldorado sold well and fattened GM’s bottom line nicely. Chrysler and AMC continued to miss the boat, however, and it wouldn’t be until 1968 that their sales figures in the Specialty Car segment would improve, with the arrival of the revamped Charger and the new Javelin.
1967 was a good year for the Specialty Cars, whether you considered it as one big category, or really two (Pony Cars and personal luxury cars). Either way, the success of the segment would not wane for decades to come.
Interesting, lumping personal luxury coupes and pony cars under one heading, most car magazines would have stretched that out for 2 issues….or at least 2 separate articles.
Among these cars, my choices would be Riviera and Thunderbird for large coupe and a Cougar XR7 for a smaller coupe.
As for that Corvette “typo”, they must have forgotten the word WIDE as narrow wheels were still part of many car’s base specifications.
Exactly right on the Corvette typo–I just made my text a bit more clear to point that out.
I think they meant 6 inch wide wheels on the corvette…
Good point! But they should have said 15 x 6…
Back in the days when 6 inches was wide!
Very interesting. My folks had a ’68 Landau T-Bird with the first year 385 series 429 “Thunderjet” engine. I mostly remember the unique (for its time) factory 8-track and the soothing hushed mechanical sounds. A very 60’s car before all the changes in the 70’s, mostly good (better brakes, suspension and rust control, higher comfort) and some bad (higher weight and lower assembly quality) in terms of luxury cars.
The top shot of the new for 67 T-bird shows how good they look without the vinyl top. I see a hint of the 83 aero bird in the c pillar. Wouldn’t have been great if the 83 had been a real hardtop. Tbird really was on dangerous ground with the unique luxury platform going away and the Cougars nipping away from below. With the Mark !!! coming, it is like the business is being turned over to Lincoln.
1967 was sure a good year to buy a car. Even though I was quite young at the time, I remember a consensus among adults in my life that the Thunderbird had been ruined and that the Cougar was gorgeous.
It’s easy to forget how poorly the 67 Charger sold, with how beloved they are in muscle car circles today. It is not easy to forget how unsuccessful the Marlin was.
It’s a shame, the 1967 Marlin was a noticeable improvement over the earlier version but it was just not what the market wanted. Sales were a little over 10,000 in 1965 and dropped by about 50% each subsequent model year. The original compact Tarpon concept probably would have sold a lot better. Another missed opportunity.
I’ve driven Marlins and they’re really not bad cars. The first year they even came with standard power front disc brakes. They were just not what buyers were looking for.
IIRC from previous Marlin CCs, the choice to produce the Marlin instead of the Tarpon had to do with not having a V8 that would fit in the Tarpon’s engine bay; the only engine would have been a six-cylinder. They didn’t sell very many Marlins, but they likely would have sold even fewer Tarpons. It’s not like Chrysler sold boatloads of six-cylinder Barracudas, a car that would have been very similar to the Tarpon.
It was a judgement call but, really, AMC should have skipped the Marlin, altogether, and either waited until they had the money and/or concentrated on getting the Javelin to market sooner. I doubt they sold enough Marlins to recoup even the meager investment in R&D.
True in 1965, but by 1966 AMC had their new series V8 engines and those were available in Rambler Americans. (Years ago a friend had a ’66 Rambler American wagon with a factory 290 V8.) I would think that when the Marlin was being developed company planners knew the compact V8 was on its way.
Another factor is that head of the company, Roy Abernethy, was a “big car” guy and wanted the car to be a six-seater. He also had designers raise the roofline by about an inch and a half for more rear headroom, which made it look even more ungainly.
The guy who does my inspections has two Marlins V8 four speed manuals he loves them apart from the underwhelming drum brakes.
Hot Rod magazine published a very favorable 3000-mile road test of the Marlin in their June 1965 issue.
Having had the opportunity to drive a Marlin on a long trip I would concur with their observations. The Marlin is a very comfortable and quiet cruiser with features such as coil-sprung reclining seats and interior appointments well above what one would expect in a Rambler. (Those only familiar with AMC’s bargain-basement 1970s interiors should check out the older Ramblers, at least in the higher trim levels.) With the 327 V8 it’s not a racer but has plenty of power for just about any driving conditions and the power front disc brakes (standard in 1965) were given high praise.
Of course one could have optioned out a Classic or Ambassador to give pretty much the same driving experience.
What a year for hidden headlamps in this segment, also. T-bird, Riviera, Toronado, Eldorado, Charger, Cougar, and optional on the Camaro.
Interesting by how much the Riviera outsold the Toronado. I can’t imagine their price points were that far apart…was it the more conventional layout? Both were beautiful.
What a great year for styling overall. Maybe the peak year for sixties styling?
I always liked the clean, unembellished styling of the early Camaros. A coupe in diamond blue with 327 and disc brakes would suit me down to my boots. And now that I’ve become lazy, I’d check the box for Powerglide.
Yes, that really is a good-looking car; the stylists got it exactly right. You can even see out of that model, unlike the current edition with its Robocop-visor windows.
I wonder if the reason the Riviera outsold the Toronado was because by then the Riviera was an established nameplate AND had conventional mechanicals? Were “typical” Olds buyers looking for a Toronado type of large car?
BTW, why was the Grand Prix left out? While it wasn’t on a “special” platform, it could be argued that it competed with the Thunderbird.
Interestingly, it barely outsold the Riviera and had the unique distinction of offering a convertible in it’s size class.
Space considerations most likely – the fact that from a technical standpoint the GP was a Full-Size Pontiac trim level meant it could be easily lumped in with those and a separate page for it would be repetitive.
The Grand Prix being offered as a convertible wasn’t that great a distinction in 1967 – which, despite the absence of the Thunderbird convertible, was probably the peak year for different model names of convertibles among the Big Four. Besides the Grand Prix, Pontiac also offered Catalina, Ventura, 2+2, Bonneville, GTO, LeMans, Tempest, and Firebird as convertibles that year.
It IS odd that the GP was left out. The Charger and Marlin were on “regular” platforms as well.
The GP was really a trim level on the full size Pontiac, not a separate body shell, at this time. Was in same class as Impala SS and Mercury Marauder, sporty full size, which was fading. Hence the change to A-Special body in ’69.
Marlin and Charger had unique roofs, enough to try to make them specialty, but they flopped.
I love my Mustang but sometimes I wish a Thunderbird or a Cougar had been the car that got passed around the family.
Gorgeous creatures they all are.
Had a friend with a ’68 XR7 Cougar 390 auto. It was built before Jan, ’67 as it had no shoulder belts, so it could have been purchased in late ’67, and very little difference between the 2. People say the 390 is a boat anchor, but his car’s original was quite quick. When he blew up this engine, the junkyard replacement 390 really was a slow boat anchor. It was a beautiful car, which got traded in (by his dad) for a stripper ’74 Pinto, a gift to him, which he owned for over 10 years. Sadly, he passed at a too young 57, the same age as his dad who passed in 1987.
Really enjoying these old articles.
What a wonderful year for automobile styling!
So the Corvair wasn’t considered a specialty car? (yeah, you could get it as a 4 door, but not many people did, and the T-Bird offered a 4 door too but was included here).
I agree that the ’67 is the best looking Mustang. It is clearly what Ford designers were looking at when they added retro cues to the 2005 and later Mustangs.
MT, always on guard as to not risk advertising revenue, neglected to mention the ‘Bunkie Knudsen bloat’ when talking about FOMOCO design which set the table for a decade or so of excess.
Considering Bunkie was still with GM in 1967 Motor Trend would be right in not pointing that out.
In the capsule report on the Oldsmobile Toronado, Motor Trend claims that a “completely unfounded report, in one of the widely circulated consumer testing publications that questioned the Toronado’s handling capability” sparked a mid-year decline in sales.
I’m guessing the reference is to Consumer Reports? Most of the criticism I’ve read of that first Toronado centered on its completely inadequate all-drum brakes, not its handling, which was decent for the time.
The AMC Marlin’s sales record is pathetic. Was that even one car per dealer?
The blurring of Personal Luxury cars and Pony cars into a specialty car category in this issue raises an eyebrow at first but at their core(with the exception of the Vette) they are all essentially birds of the same feather. Special bodies on sedan chassis. In a lot of ways They essentially used the same themes, including long hood/short deck, the only difference was the sizes, and with the dawn of the midsize Personal Luxury car like the 1969 Grand Prix the line was blurred even further with bigger Ponycars like the 69-73 Cougar and Dodge Challenger, which were edging quite close to intermediate dimensions.
Of these cars the Riviera and the Cougar I find the most beautiful. The Camaro I like the shape of, it’s “notchback” only profile may have been the sole bodystyle but it was a much happier medium than the Mustang, whose hardtop roof looked too chunky and tall and the Fastback (while great looking) had abysmal visibility. The Mustang looked way better at either end though, but for my money the 1969 fastback was the pinnacle.
I pretty much would take any of them. They are all very interesting and offer a lot of style. Problem would be – feeding them. The gas mileage on these vehicles is abysmal. Then there would be the repair. Perhaps the 6 cylinder pony cars could be easy care, but those luxury personal cars have more things to go wrong on them than a Space Shuttle. My personal favorite would be a 6 cylinder Cougar, without the freaking nasty vinyl roof. I can handle the problems with the flip headlights.
The Cougars was not offered with a six cylinder. Two more plugs and the 289 was easily serviced in that chassis. Now put that FE lump 390 in there and plug changing is more challenging.
“The Standard of the World” and disc brakes are *optional* on a nose heavy FWD car. Harumph.
Weird that Chevrolet offered a standard 230 six and an optional 250 six. It may have made financial or marketing sense at the time, but was 20 cubic inches worth the hassle on manufacturing lines or in parts departments?
I assume the rationale was that Chevrolet still wanted the smaller engines for the Chevy II/Nova (which still used the small-bore 194 through 1967) and Chevelle/Malibu while acknowledging that the 230 no longer had enough torque for full-size cars. Throughout the fifties, Chevrolet had built several different versions of the old Stovebolt Six for similar reasons, although the bigger ones weren’t necessarily offered as step-up options.
Can anyone enlighten me as what a GTA shift pattern is, as described for the Mustang? Does it mean 1st behind Reverse? If so, the article says that in the automatic it also had the GTA pattern.
Nope — they’re referring to what Ford called SelectShift, which had a P-R-N-D-2-1 pattern that let you shift gears manually. Regular Ford Cruise-O-Matic transmissions had dual Drive ranges, the one causing the transmission to start in second, the other starting in first and shifting through all three speeds, plus Low range, which would would hold either 2nd or 1st depending on how fast you were going. This gave you some options about how the transmission would behave, but not really direct control over selection of the lower gears, which SelectShift was supposed to.
The reason Motor Trend describes it as “the GTA pattern” was that it was initially exclusive to the 1966 Fairlane GTA, where Ford described it as “Sport Shift.”