Unique 1960's Cars

There was a lot of innovation back in the sixties. The Corvair was probably the biggest departure from normal American car configuration, but some other innovations include the rear transaxle in the 63 Pontiac Tempest and the OHC inline 6 of the 67 Tempest. The all aluminum Oldsmobile 215 cu in V8, the Buick V6 are a couple more.

Unfortunately, these innovations disappeared in the 1960s. The Corvair, introduced in 1960, produced its last model in 1969. The aluminum 215 cubic inch V-8 was introduced in the Buick Special and Oldsmobile F-85 in 1961 and was replaced by a conventional cast iron engine for the 1964 models. The Pontiac transaxle was introduced in 1961 and disappeared in 1964. The Pontiac OHC 6 I think first appeared in 1966 and disappeared in 1969. This engine used a rubber timing belt.
I am probably the only one on the planet that liked the style of the 1962 Dodge. It was more an intermediate, but had seating for 6 people.

I grew up with a '62 Dart. Here’s an article in the NYT about a recent restoration:

Y’all might be interested in the following link. Postwar Europe was large;y dessimated both economically and physically, and there were countless variations of tiny, weird cars produced (both three and four wheelers) to provide basic, cheap transport. Some examples have survived the decade, many have not. These cars seem odd by tday’s standards, but they were a part of life in war-torn Europe.


“… the car was unstable at speed due to the soft suspension and really drank gas.”

Just like my Mom’s 1964 Cadillac Series 62 hard top. I was afraid to drive over 70 MPH. The front end seemed to get light over 70; the car darted left or right with far less effort than usual. It stalled when I took a corner at 20 MPH. Darned carburetor - and soft shocks!

Let’s not forget that the 1960s brought completely different sized cars under the same nameplate. The Chevrolets were all the same but different trimlines (with the exception of the Corvette) until 1960 when the Chevrolet Corvair was introduced, then the compact Chevy II was added in 1962, the intermediate sized Chevelle was added in 1964, and so on. Buick, Olds and Pontiac added compact cars in 1961 which grew to intermediates in 1964, Ford added the compact Falcon in 1960 to its full size lineup and the Thunderbird, and then the intermediate Fairlane in 1962. Mercury did something similar with the Comet and the Meteor. Plymouth added the Valiant in 1960. Dodge had two sizes in 1960, but added the compact Lancer in 1961. Ford gained the Mustang in 1964 and Plymouth added the Barracuda in 1965.

“Let’s not forget that the 1960s brought completely different sized cars under the same nameplate.”

Kind of like Ford naming everything under the sun “Explorer” in recent times because the Explorer name had market value?

I also remember some imports that came and left in the 1960s. The Simca, Borgward, Morris Minor, and DKW to name a few. The DKW had a 2 stroke engine much like the SAAB. There were also some captive imports. Pontiac dealers sold the Vauxhall for a while and the Buick dealers had the Opel.

When my parents wanted to replace the '62 Dart we went shopping, looked at the Kadett and the Dauphine (just for fun, I guess). Thank goodness they went with a '68 Valiant, that ran for another 15 years.

“The DKW had a 2 stroke engine much like the SAAB”

There was a good reason for that, Dag!

When Saab engineers cobbled together the first Saab model 92, it was essentially based on the pre-war DKW! Even though they applied aeronautical engineering expertise, and came up with a car that was superior to the DKW, the heart of that first Saab was a 2-cylinder, 2-cycle engine that was a copy of the DKW engine. Later, the engine was expanded to 3 cylinders, but it retained the original DKW design elements.

This project had actually begun in 1939, but was put on hold as a result of a need for aircraft production in Sweden. The Saab automotive project was revived–in 1945–and their first DKW-derived car was unveiled in 1949.

Sticking to domestics, there was also the early 60s Super Duty Pontiacs. These were 2 doors that looked like a normal passenger car on the surface but were actually drag cars that could be street driven.
Big block engines, no radio or heater core, etc, etc. and frame rails that had even been given the Swiss cheese treatment by drilling them out with large hole saws to shave weight.

The Lotus Europa was an unusual car. The rear was kinda ugly but the nose looked great.

Edit: side view. Notice how the rear totally doesn’t belong on this car.

The 60’s porsches were nice looking. Here’s a 1960 356.

The NSU Prince was an unusual car in that it had a Wankel engine, which was way ahead of its time.
It was oooogly too, though.

They had a sports version. Still ugly, imo, but also the first production car with a Wankel.

Remco-W thanks for the links about the NSU Prinz. I attended a small private college in the midwest in the early 1960s. There were several students from the east coast that had cars that were unusual to our part of the nation. One student had an NSU Prinz with the Wankel engine. There was also a Skoda. There were two SAAB automobiles, a couple of Renault Dauphines and numerous VWs. I didn’t have a car–couldn’t afford one at the time.
I did look at a Porsche at a dealer where my dad traded. This dealer had originally had the DeSoto/Plymouth frnachise, but then had the franchise for British cars, the Checker, and Studebaker. My dad had traded with this dealer for a long time. I was looking (not seriously) at the Porsche after I had completed my undergraduate work and was preparing to go to graduate school. The owner of the agency came over and said “You don’t want a Porsche. It wll take all your assistantship money and then some to keep it running”.
THe 1960s were interesting times. The finned monsters of the late 1950s shrunk in size and were shorn of their fins. In my opinion, the 1961 Chevrolet was much nicer looking than the 1959-60 models. I thought the Ford had improved its styling over the models made through 1960. The 1961 Lincoln had one of the most pleasing designs to me of any car up to that time period. Unfortunately, by the end of the 1960s, most of the cars became bloated again.

The first new car my dad ever bought was a 60’s era Mercury. It was a 2 door blue with black vinyl top '68 Mercury Montego MX (rebadged Ford Torino) with a 302 CI 2BBL and automatic transmission, sticker price was $3600. he negotiated the price and paid $3200. for it brand new off the showroom floor. Prior to buying the Mercury dad had been driving a '61 Ford Falcon with a 144 CI inline 6 with three on the tree. I remember as we were bringing the Mercury home the day we got it, dad noticed he was running between 70-80 MPH and commenting he had no idea he was going this fast and how quite and smooth the ride was. After the car got some age/miles on it dad started driving it as a daily driver and one morning as he was waiting to make a left turn into where he worked someone rear ended it and totaled it. The other drivers insurance company offered dad book value of $650. and they take the car or $550. and he keep the car. Since the car was still driveable and still in good mechanical condition dad took the $550. and the car. Dad and I ended up driving it until it had 168K miles on it. Several years after the accident there were a few things that needed attention and we didn’t want to spend the money on fixing a car of it’s age and condition so dad parked it in the driveway and just let it sit there. One day someone stopped by and ask if the car ran and if he wanted to sell it, dad told him it ran and if he wanted it he could have it for $100., the man bought it and for quite some time afterward we would see it going up and down the road in front of the house. This was the car I learned how to drive on and even after I bought a new Buick Regal in '77 I used the Montego most of the time for my 50 mile a day work commute to keep the mileage down on the Regal and keep it from getting beat up in the parking lot, plus the 302 in the Mercury got about 2-3MPG better gas mileage than the 350 in my Buick.

I guess if I could have any '60’s era car I wanted it would probably be a '63 Corvette split window coupe. This has been my dream car for 20+ years.

Triedaq, you reminded me of a couple other cars from my old neighborhood back in Delaware. I remember an early 1970’s red Opel GT coupe, with hidden headlights; it looked like a baby Corvette Stingray from the same era. The father of a couple of kids I grew up with had an early 1960’s black Morris Minor. And my Aunt in Eastern-shore Maryland had an Opel Kadett wagon. I also remember a VW Karmann Ghia 2-seater and a 1968 Olds Toronado (front-wheel-drive, with a big-block V8) from the old neighborhood. And speaking of innovations, GMC had a V6 of their own in the 1960’s, it was a big V6 of 305 cubic inches that they used in their 1/2-ton and 3/4-ton pickups.

I kinda like this vintage Ford truck
It is so ugly it is pretty.

Almost bought one recently but it had too much rust. Bought a 52 Dodge truck instead.

My favorite slightly odd 60s car was my 1963 Buick Invicta Station Wagon. It was the first full-size wagon I had ever seen with factory bucket seats, and a console!
It came equipped with a 401 Nail-Valve Engine, and a Dynaflo transmission. The car would go from 0 to about 110, and never shift.
It could pass just about anything on the road except a gas station! That beast, nicknamed Moby Dick, since it was a White Whale, was fun to drive.

You mentioned the Morris Minor. My first car was a 1960 Morris Minor. It was beat to heck and needed engine work, trans work, brakes, etc. I bought it for $125 in 1966. I put larger tires on the back, changed the interior to black and painted it GM mellow yellow. I made a deal with a local body shop that agreed to shoot it for $20 if I did all the sanding and prep work. It would have been a fun car if it would have run decently but my budget was $250 and when I reached that, I sold it instead of spending more money on it. More than once I had to push it out of the gas station in my restaurant whites trying to get it started to go to work. A little embarrasing for a kid. Bought a 59 VW bug with a sun roof after that. When I got T boned in that, I went to a full sized 59 Pontiac for $125. Them were the days my friend.

1968 cougar XR7, hideaway headlamps, walnut grain dashboard, foot pedal wind shield washer, leather seats, style and these sequential turn signals! My favorite, I need one if you have one to sell!

it is strange when we realize a 1962 car is 50 years old. In 1962, I owned for a while a 1936 Chevrolet. I actually loved it, but sometimes it wouldn’t start. It was 25 years old, and I thought it was ancient.

Of course, the difference is in myself. That 1936 Chevrolet was five years older than I was, and a 1962 car is 20 years younger than I am.

I have no real desire to have any older car. When they were new, they could give reasonable service. I remember reading about a WWII pilot who in flight school was driving his Ford every weekend from Florida to visit for an hour or so his girl friend in New England. I mean he drove all weekend, except for that hour. Week after week. One time, it broke, and he got back late, expecting to be washed out and go to the stockade. For some reason they were shut down that day, and no one noticed he was late…

But, when that metal ages, they aren’t as reliable as new.

My own memory of that era was cars that too often didn’t! Constant work on them; constant problems of some sort. Just to start, you had to grind a second or two. Oil changes every 1,000 miles. Points to adjust. Carburetors to struggle with.

Maybe not that bad, but my 2002 Sienna is the best car I have ever owned. It just starts and runs. A few years ago, I left our home in Mexico, and returned 59 days later, having driven 11,000 miles. My friend, the local doctor, asked how many repairs it needed while I was gone. I laughed at him; he has a VW Jetta, I think, so there would have been plenty of repairs for 11,000 miles. I did maintenance, such as oil change and drain and fill 3 quarts of ATF. He was absolutely amazed.

it did need repairs this last trip in October, but I knew months ahead they were needed, yet it kept on running perfectly, but I want everything to work as good as new.

I had new tires put on, and in spite of driving on primitive, rocky roads for the last 5 years, not only didn’t the suspension need repairs, the front end didn’t even need alignment with the new tires.