OCTOBER 3, 2013: AUTUMN IN THE 1960S–WHEN THE NEW CARS HIT THE SHOWROOM

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Those of us who were kids in the 60s hated fall for traditional reasons like the end of summer and the inevitable return to ten months of incarceration in the education system.

 

We were forced to abandon our “no more pencils, no more books” mantra and accept our grim fate.

 

One of the few redeeming features of autumn was the debut of the new models at the Big Three dealerships because the 60s were also a time of change every year for most North American cars in the 60s.

 

 

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Most of the popular car magazines used to dangle artists’ sketches of future models a year or two in advance of their actual production. We would be treated to these teasers and eventually we would see the actual photo preview of the new models in the magazines about a month before we saw them in the dealership.

 

These were exciting times for us because we could see the changes every year in an era where cosmetic surgery was a staple of the new car philosophy in Detroit. Think of the visual differences between a 1964 Chevy and a 1965 Chevy; then consider how radical a shift in appearance occurred in one model year.

 

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The same was true at Ford in 1965 when the new Blue Oval model pushed the 1964 model right out of the dealership showroom, as well as the hearts and minds of the buying public.

 

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Things were no different at Chrysler because their models also took on a brand new appearance for 1965. All of the Big Three flagship models had become less rounded and more squared-off in their body lines on their ’65 cars

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The back nine of the 60s decade concentrated on yearly cosmetic variations on the basic platform for many US car models and the sheet metal changes were more subtle than the giant change from 1964 to 1965. The 1966 Ford looked a lot like the ’65, but it was still very clearly its own car with its own identifiable look.

 

 

However, there were exceptions with models like the Dodge Charger because the 1966-67 Chargers shared much of its sheet metal with the Dodge Coronet, while the 1968 Charger blazed a brand new path for the car.

 

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None of these changes were missed by those of us who were young and impressionable junior car guys in the 60s. I can recall a very cold Saturday morning in October 1967 when we rode our pedal bikes into town to see the new 1968 cars at Miller Motors (now Southside Dodge) before they were even in the showroom.

 

 

The cars were fresh off the delivery train and still had a layer of thick dust on them. We felt like we were early guests at a huge event because we were able to see full-sized versions of the new models that were previously only available on the pages of the automotive magazines in their new car preview editions.

 

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These days we attend car shows to see those same models from the distant past that were once brand new on the pages of car magazines and the dealership lots.

 

We bonded with them a long time ago and we still love them today.

Jim Sutherland

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