Home Cars 30 Memorable American Cars Produced In The 1960s

30 Memorable American Cars Produced In The 1960s

Vukasin HerbezMay 29, 2019

The 1960s in America was arguably the defining decade of the 20th century. Never before or since has one society endured such vast social, technical, and cultural changes in such a short period of time. In just 10 short years, the political and constitutional climate changed and the country was never the same.

America went from an idea to the realization in the space race and landed on the moon by the end of the decade. The radio stations promoted new music and the streets were full of angry young people demanding justice and an immediate stop to the Vietnam War. But behind all those events, the American car industry was thriving and delivering fantastic cars in all segments. From those innovative, interesting compacts to those regular family sedans and to those sublime muscle and sports cars, Detroit was the car capital of the world.

So here are 18 of the most legendary and memorable American cars from the ’60s. The only criteria for this list are that they originally introduced these cars between 1960 and 1969. Also, these are the cars that made an everlasting impression on the market. So, be sure to look for your favorite among these legendary machines.

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30. Checker Marathon

One of the most characteristic American sedans of the ’60s is the legendary Checker Marathon, better known as the New York Taxi. They introduced the Marathon in 1960, selling it through 1982. It was available with a straight-six or V8 engine from Chevrolet and designed and built as an absolutely dependable and tough machine.

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That is why they used and abused it as the definitive taxi vehicle for decades, and not only in New York but in other cities, as well. The Marathon was available as a sedan, wagon, and the interesting and rare 12-seater Aerowagon. Although it didn’t sell in big numbers, the Marathon became iconic for being the icon of the Big Apple. But most of all, it was one of the most durable vehicles they ever produced.

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29. Lincoln Continental

Back in the late ’50s, Ford’s luxury division, Lincoln, was much behind Cadillac in sales numbers, as well as popularity and style. Despite building big, luxurious cruisers with powerful engines, those late ’50s Lincolns just weren’t good enough or as nice looking as those comparable Cadillacs. But when Ford decided this has to change, the 1961 Lincoln Continental was born. When Lincoln revealed their new model, the automotive public was stunned. The beautiful elegance, conservative use of chrome, straight lines, and futuristic design transformed the four-door luxury model into a work of modern art.

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All of a sudden, their sales doubled. The new Continental even became the official car of the White House because of its stately appearance and restrained elegance. The best exterior feature was the suicide doors, with the rear doors opening towards the traffic. Of course, this wasn’t the best solution, but it added to the charm of the Continental. Interestingly, Lincoln offered a cool-looking four-door convertible model that proved to be extremely popular and unique in the market.

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28. Ford Falcon

After seeing how those compact cars, both domestic and imported, were having an increasingly bigger market share, the Ford Motor Company changed its stand on small vehicles. So, in 1960, they presented the Falcon. In those days, Ford was nervous about presenting a new model in a new class since the Edsel debacle was so painful for the company accountants. However, with strong backing from the Ford top managers, the Falcon project got the green light. The immediate success and strong sales proved that Ford hit a home run with the compact yet roomy Falcon. However, the car was nothing special or innovative in terms of design or technology. It had a unibody construction, a leaf spring suspension in the back, drum brakes, and a standard three-speed manual transmission.

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But the secret of the Falcon’s success was its affordability and a long list of options. Despite the fact the standard model only had a 2.4-liter 90 HP engine, you could get the bigger six-cylinder or 260 V8. Also, the Falcon was available in several body styles including convertible, sedan, delivery, and a three or five-door station wagon, which broadened its appeal. In 1964, the Falcon received its first redesign and in the same year, they introduced the Mustang, which they based entirely on the Falcon’s underpinnings. The automotive press called the Mustang a “well-dressed Falcon” when the car first arrived. However, the Falcon was still a strong seller on the American market as the most affordable Ford product.

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27. Jeep Wagoneer

Nobody expected the Wagoneer to be such a success when Jeep presented it in 1963. Jeep wanted a comfortable, well-equipped car but without sacrificing its off-road capabilities. And the Wagoneer was just that. It was an all-terrain wagon that handled and rode like a car. However, the market loved the concept, so Jeep created the SUV in 1963. And it is a concept that is extremely popular today. At first, the Wagoneer was available as a two-door or four-door SUV, or a two-door panel truck.

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But as the model progressed, it became available with more luxury features, one of which was wooden side panels. An interesting fact about the Wagoneer is that a compass was available as standard equipment. That proved they never meant this vehicle to be a car for the streets, but rather a luxurious land barge for navigating through ranches, fields, and mountain trails. The Wagoneer was powered by numerous inline-six and V8 engines. It had both rear-wheel and all-wheel drive. However, the most coveted models came from the 1987 to 1991 Chrysler era, when the car went through a series of upgrades. With air conditioning, high-quality audio, comfortable power seats, lots of chrome, and optional woodwork, the Wagoneer was a well-equipped car. This was the first proper SUV and the daddy of all modern SUVs, too.

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26. Ford Mustang

The love affair between car fans and the Ford Mustang has lasted for over 50 years. Ever since they unveiled the first Mustang in April 1964, people all across the world can’t get enough of Detroit’s favorite pony car. Over the years, Ford has produced over nine million Mustangs, making it one of the most successful nameplates in the entire global car industry. So what is the secret of the Mustang’s appeal? Ford mixed a good amount of performance with the V8 engine rumble. Next, they added a touch of luxury and good looks. And finally, they packed it in an affordable package with a long list of options.

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Also, don’t forget the image and the legend that was an integral part of the Mustang’s appeal since day one. The first Mustang was so successful, it started a new class of cars they called pony cars. Also, the Mustang entered the history books as one of the best first-year sales of all-time. Over the years, the Mustang has become the automotive symbol of America. And it is one of the finest and most respected products worldwide.

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25. Buick Riviera

Back in the early ’60s, Buick had some tough times on the market. Sadly, it seemed like the combination of affordable luxury and elegant styling was not interesting to car buyers. The sales were declining so GM knew Buick needed help, but not in the engineering department as much as in the marketing department. The answer was logical. They would introduce an upscale modern luxury model that would attract attention. But most of all, it would draw people back into Buick’s showrooms. GM intended for Cadillac to introduce a flagship coupe. But since Buick needed help and Cadillac was doing well at the moment, they green-lighted Buick for the development of the Riviera. And they based it on a successful concept car they called the Silver Arrow.

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The production model debuted in 1963. Immediately, it became a sales hit and one of the best cars of the early ‘60s. Buick built the Riviera on a special frame, and it didn’t share its chassis with any other GM products. It had an advanced, sophisticated design and interior with a central console, which was unheard of at the time. The power came from the Buick 425 Wildcat engine. In addition to the spectacular looks, the Rivera provided impressive performance, especially in GS trim.

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24. Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

A full 10 years after introducing the original Corvette in 1963, Chevrolet introduced the second generation. Since the Corvette was an established sports car contender and a halo car for GM, lots of effort and money went into the research and development of the second generation. With a new platform, independent rear suspension, engines and most importantly, a stunning new body, the 1963 Corvette was one of the best looking cars of the ‘60s. The Stingray marked the introduction of the Corvette as a world-class sports car.

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It put American performance on the map in the best possible way. But best of all, it established the legend of the Chevrolet sports car for decades to come. The Corvette Stingray got its name from the GM 1961 Stingray concept and the visual resemblance to a stingray shark. With closed headlights, split rear window, bulged fenders, and a round cabin, the Stingray was one of the most fascinating examples of the famed Googie design language.

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23. Shelby Cobra 289

The story of the Shelby Cobra 289 is a widely known one, but it’s still interesting enough to be told again. In 1962, Shelby heard that AC Cars from England was planning to shut down the production of their Ace sports roadster since Bristol engines weren’t available anymore. In just a couple of days, he managed to get several engineless bodies on a transport ship to his Venice Beach shop where he had Ford’s 260 V8 engines waiting for installation. The small but powerful American V8 in a light and nimble body proved to be a match made in heaven. soon, Shelby installed the 289 V8 with 271 HP, which brought some serious performance to this little roadster. But since Shelby’s main goal was racing, it was obvious that the Cobra was a racetrack terror. In fact, it dominated the domestic championships, beating all the Corvettes, Ferraris, and Jaguars.

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However, Shelby wanted to go to Europe to prove his concept. So in 1963/64, with immense help from Ford, Shelby campaigned with his Cobras all over Europe’s finest racing tracks, repeating the success. The small V8 roadster proved extremely capable, dominating the GT class. The Ford V8 was a durable and reliable unit. But Shelby’s knowledge and racing know-how were crucial in setting the car right for the different tracks. Also, Shelby sold factory-prepared “Competition” Cobras to private teams and numerous amateur races enjoyed success with this fierce car, too.

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22. Chevrolet Impala

Chevrolet always battled Ford in the full-size sedan market. So, in 1962 they took a gamble by introducing an elegant generation of the Impala that departed from the design standards of the day. Similar to the 1961 Lincoln Continental, the 1962 to 1964 Impala had a restrained, elegant style with straight lines. Also, it had the signature six taillights in the back and four headlights in the front. Chevrolet wanted to dominate the extremely lucrative full-size sedan market, so they equipped the Impala with everything they had. The new model featured five body styles, six engines including six and eight-cylinder units, three transmission choices, and a long list of optional equipment.

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But there was one influential and innovative version, the Impala SS they presented in 1961. However, in 1962, the Impala SS returned in a new body style with the same engine, the mighty 409 V8 producing up to 409 HP. The car and the engine itself proved to be so iconic that the Beach Boys even had a hit single with the song, 409. Yet today, those ’62 to ’64 Impalas are quite popular. Luckily, Chevy produced them in large quantities. Most car fans consider those to be the best generations of Impalas ever. Thankfully, during its three-year model span, the design endured subtle changes without affecting the elegance and classic proportions of this timeless model.

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21. Ford Bronco

It all started in the mid-60s when Ford realized the market for compact and off-road capable SUVs was emerging. So, Ford invested a lot of effort and money into constructing the Bronco, giving it its own platform, suspension and drivetrain components. Finally, Ford equipped it with straight-six and V8 engines, giving it enough power as well as decent performance.

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The Bronco was compact, which helped it to be maneuverable on and off the road. And that made this Ford quite capable when the asphalt ended and the trails began. The small dimensions meant that the interior was cramped, but the buyers loved it nonetheless. In fact, the sales numbers went through the roof. Better still, the second and third generations were even more successful. But, they were also bigger, more comfortable vehicles with a longer list of options and updated equipment.

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20. Pontiac GTO

In the early ’60s, Pontiac had great success on the drag strips all across America. Little by little, the performance aspect became a powerful marketing tool since the new generation of buyers wanted powerful, fast cars. Pontiac wanted to capitalize on its success. But they were reluctant to invest in a sports car they would have to build from scratch since all their production models were big, heavy vehicles. But then, a young engineer named John Z. DeLorean thought of a genius idea. He wanted to install the big, powerful 396 V8 into a light, intermediate Tempest two-door body. It was an easy and affordable way to create a true performance machine.

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The result was the Tempest GTO, as they called it, an option on the Tempest intermediate model. For just $295, buyers would get a high-performance 396 V8 with 325 HP in standard or 348 HP in the famous Tri-Power form. A manual transmission, unique trim, GTO decals, and dual exhaust were all part of the package. Since the car was light, the Tempest GTO delivered a convincing performance. Interestingly, in 1964 it was one of the quickest American cars on the market. Even the Corvette owners weren’t safe from the Tempest GTOs lurking at stoplights across the country. The Pontiac sales manager wasn’t particularly fond of the model. He thought the GTO package didn’t have any perspective. However, the official sales figures of over 32,000 drastically surpassed his estimate of a maximum of 5,000 examples per year. It was clear the GTO was a hit among younger buyers and that a star was born.

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19. Dodge Charger

The Charger name first appeared as a 1964 show car. But back then, it was just a re-bodied Dodge Polara with a roadster look and powerful 426 Wedge engine. However, the name gained some attention. With the rising muscle car popularity, the Pontiac GTO was grabbing all the headlines. Dodge knew they needed a new, exciting model to attract customers looking for exciting sporty models. So in 1966, they presented the new Dodge Charger as a mid-year offering and the newest model in the muscle car class. They based the Charger on the Chrysler B-Body platform. Also, it shared much of its mechanics and chassis components with other less interesting Dodge models like the Coronet. However, the Charger came with fresh new sheet metal and a cool-looking fastback roofline.

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They completed the design of the 1966 Charger with hideaway headlights and a big chrome grille. And all that was what gave the car its menacing, aggressive looks. The interior was also quite modern with a cool-looking dashboard and four bucket seats. But best of all, owners could fold the rear seats down to create enormous trunk space. Under the hood, Dodge offered various engines starting with a modest 318 V8 unit. The step-up was the 383, which could be had with up to 325 HP. However, the best and most powerful option was the mighty 426 Hemi. This was the first year for the street-going 426 Hemi. One of the models to receive this legendary powerplant was the Charger. It produced 425 HP and they installed it in just under 500 cars in 1966.

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18. Oldsmobile Toronado

Back in the day, Oldsmobile represented the cutting-edge division of GM. At one point in time, they presented models that were far ahead of their time, displaying their power and style on the global market. And one such car is the Oldsmobile Toronado from 1966. It was a big, powerful personal luxury coupe with a twist since it was front-wheel drive. In those days, only a few imports were front-wheel drive while all domestic cars, regardless of the class or engine, were rear-wheel drive. However, Oldsmobile wanted to introduce something different, so they constructed an ingenious FWD system.

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Their designers drew a fantastic-looking shape with a low roof and hidden headlights, while the power came from a big block 455 V8 with 385 HP. The Toronado was a success since it introduced superb driving characteristics, leaving the competitors in the dust. With 385 HP on tap and superb handling, the Oldsmobile Toronado is a full-size muscle car. The first out of the two generations was the best, while the later Toronado was just a Cadillac Eldorado with a different grille.

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17. Chevrolet Camaro

In September 1967, Chevrolet unveiled the Camaro to an eager audience. The motoring journalists and the automotive public had the chance to see the new, elegant coupe and convertible with a modern design. It came with a classic long hood and short deck proportions, a sporty stance, and nicely executed details and trim. Chevrolet chose to abandon the third body style like the Mustang or Barracuda. And from this standpoint, it was a good decision.

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The new Camaro came with a selection of straight-six and V8 engines. They started from a small 230 six-cylinder all the way to the mighty 396 V8 delivering 325 HP. The idea was to offer a wider range of more powerful engines than Ford to attract sporty buyers. And that’s why Chevrolet offered the SS, RS, and Z/28 models, three performance versions of the Camaro. You could call the 1967 Camaro a success since they sold over 220,000 of them. Also, performance versions were well received by car enthusiasts. However, it was not enough to catch up to the Mustang, which sold 400,000 cars in 1967.

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16. Cadillac Eldorado

The 1967 model year marked a revolution for the Eldorado model. And it was not just in terms of the new design but in terms of new technology and the drivetrain, as well. And for years, the Eldorado served as the top-of-the-line personal luxury model from Cadillac. But by the mid-60s, almost all the other GM brands developed similar cars that competed with the Eldorado on the market. So Cadillac needed a new model and something to make a statement to keep the Eldorado on top of the segment.

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The car for the job was the 1967 model. It featured gorgeous new coupe styling with hide-away headlights, a long hood, and an elegant rear end. The new Eldorado looked gorgeous. So even though they discontinued the convertible option, sales went through the roof. But the biggest change was a switch to the front-wheel-drive layout. In those days, FWD cars were rare foreign models. When Oldsmobile introduced front-wheel drive on its 1966 Toronado, Cadillac took the patent and slightly improved it for use on the Eldorado. With this feature, the Eldorado got almost perfect handling and better driving dynamics. Yet it still retained the mighty 340 HP engine and all those classic Cadillac characteristics.

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15. Studebaker Avanti

Once successful and popular, Studebaker is now a long-forgotten American brand. Studebaker closed its doors in 1966 after suffering poor sales for over a decade and losing ground to Detroit’s Big Three. However, just before this legendary brand left the market, it produced one interesting and highly sought-after luxury model with muscle car credentials, the Studebaker Avanti R2. In the early ’60s, the Studebaker management decided to invest in a luxury coupe to fight their poor sales. They thought that a new, fancy upscale model would attract customers and turn the attention of the automotive public back to Studebaker.

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So in 1962, they presented the sleek and modern-looking Avanti. The innovative design, construction, and technology were interesting, so the car received praise from the motoring press. The base version was not powerful, but soon Studebaker introduced a supercharged R2 option that delivered 289 HP. Unfortunately, the Avanti didn’t manage to pull Studebaker out of financial troubles. However, it remained one of the most iconic American cars from the ‘60s as well as a true modern classic.

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The AMX or American Motors Experimental was a big surprise when they unveiled it, as well as a brave move for AMC. They built it on a shortened Javelin platform featuring new styling and lower weight. However, it had one interesting feature: just two seats. In fact, it was the only American production car except for the Corvette they offered only as a two-seater. With the same engine as in the Javelin, the smaller weight meant slightly better performance.

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If you optioned for the top of the line 390 V8 with 320 HP, the AMX was a rapid machine, so it was popular on the drag strips. Although the production was relatively small, this brave move from AMC showed that the company could surprise the market and introduce innovative models. However, people will always remember the AMX as one of the stranger muscle cars from the golden period.

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13. Pontiac Firebird

The new Pontiac debuted in February 1967 and immediately became one of the top muscle cars in its class. Pontiac equipped the Firebird with lots of options and five engines, two inline sixes, and three V8s. Buyers could get a coupé or a convertible. Also, there was a choice of automatic or manual transmissions.

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Interestingly, the Pontiac had a bit higher price tag than the Camaro and a few more options, too. And all that put the Firebird a bit above the Camaro on the market. With the first-year sales at 82,000 cars, it was less than the Ford Mustang or Chevrolet Camaro. But, it was still respectable in contrast to the Plymouth Barracuda or other similar models.

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12. 1963 Mercury Monterey Breezeway

Although Mercury is now gone, for decades it was Ford’s affordable luxury division. They placed Mercury between their inexpensive Ford products and high-class Lincolns. During the 1960s, this brand offered class and style for reasonable prices, making it a formidable opponent to Oldsmobile, Buick, and Chrysler. Learning from the Continental, Mercury decided to offer something new to customers, hoping to raise the sales numbers.

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So in 1963, they introduced the innovative, interesting Breezeway option as their top model. Mercury used a reverse C pillar design for the concave profile of the car and a retractable tilted rear glass window. It was an innovative solution resulting in more space in the interior and a cool design. However, it proved to be somewhat of an impractical feature since the passengers could smell the exhaust fumes at low speeds. Mercury kept the Breezeway option for selected models up to the 1968 model year when they retired it. Despite being not so popular or influential, the Breezeway still is one of the coolest U.S. sedans of the ’60s.

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11. Pontiac Grand Prix

Back in the ’60s, Pontiac was GM’s performance brand, so it is no coincidence that they conceived the GTO. The allure of powerful engines and aggressive designs was Pontiac’s trademark. However, their management wanted to widen their appeal beyond regular muscle cars like the GTO and the Firebird. To enter the world of luxury muscle cars, Pontiac had a perfect candidate in form of the Grand Prix. The Grand Prix was a personal luxury car they introduced in 1962 in a coupe body style with powerful engines and a long list of options. This model was put against the Ford Thunderbird and Oldsmobile 98 as a so-called gentleman’s express. However, with the restyling of the Grand Prix for the 1969 model year, Pontiac introduced a special car. First, there was a cool-looking new design with a long hood and short rear end and an interesting, driver-oriented dashboard.

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The 1969 Grand Prix looked different than the competitors, so sales immediately jumped. Second, there was a cool trim option they called the SJ which featured a high output 428 V8 engine delivering 390 HP and a host of other performance options. They borrowed the moniker, “SJ” from the legendary Duesenberg brand. The SJ insignia was on the most powerful Duesenberg cars back then so Pontiac wanted to get a piece of that legend with the Grand Prix SJ. This personal luxury car was popular with the automotive press and car fans, so the Grand Prix sold well. The powerful V8 propelled this big coupe to some respectable acceleration times and despite being an executive transport, the Grand Prix SJ was a respectable street machine.

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10. 1967 Ford Thunderbird Landau

You’re probably wondering why the Ford Thunderbird is on this list of the best ’60s sedans. The T-Bird is a two-door coupe, but for a few years starting in 1967, Ford offered it as a four-door sedan. It came with Lincoln-style suicide rear doors. The success of the Mustang forced the Thunderbird to move upscale as a luxury car rather than a sporty coupe.

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This change meant Ford had to attract a whole new sector of buyers looking for comfort. So, to do that, Ford had to offer a four-door alternative. They gave the Thunderbird the interesting four-door coupe variant. Under the hood, the standard engine was 390 V8 but the buyers could opt for the mighty 428 V8. This 428 was a standard engine and not to be confused with 428 Cobra Jet which was reserved for Mustang and other muscle cars.

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9. 1968 Imperial

Chrysler’s luxury division Imperial always offered a quality alternative to the Cadillac and Lincoln models. With powerful engines, plush interiors, and upscale styling, Imperials were a good choice if you were looking for an exclusive sedan or a two-door coupe. However, by the late ’60s, it looked like the Imperial was losing the race against its competitors. So 1968 was the last year this brand featured a significantly different design than the rest of Chrysler’s lineup with its unique interior styling and appointments.

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In 1967, Imperial switched to the unibody construction in a cost-cutting measure from Chrysler. This didn’t affect the comfort, but it saved some money during production. For 1968, they made some slight changes to the Imperial, but no major changes to its mechanics. The 440 V8 was standard and delivered 350 HP. After 1968, Imperial continued to be the top of Chrysler’s model lineup, but it lost its exclusivity and uniqueness.

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8. Lincoln Continental Mark III

The Lincoln division of the Ford Motor Company was enjoying considerable success during the ’60s. This was mostly thanks to the Continental sedan, which they introduced in 1961. It was a landmark model in many aspects. With healthy sales numbers, Lincoln turned to the personal luxury market with the innovative, advanced 1969 Mark III Coupe. It proved to be one of the best personal luxury cars Ford Motor Company ever made.

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Ford introduced the Continental in late 1968, Mark III, building it on a Thunderbird chassis. It also had a new and powerful 460 V8 engine. Since the new model used most of the existing mechanics, Lincoln concentrated on the design and equipment. The front had a big chrome grille, reminiscent of Rolls Royce models and hideaway headlights. The trunk had a cool-looking spare wheel hump with Continental lettering. In combination with the vinyl top, the wheel hump made Mark III’s design unique and special. Buyers had a long list of optional extras to choose from, too. This was also the first U.S.-made car with standard radial tires. Ford replaced Mark III with Mark IV in 1972. It remains one of the finest personal luxury automobiles of the period.

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7. 1960 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham

Even though most enthusiasts recognize the 1957 to 58 Eldorado Broughams, Cadillac made some exclusive 1959 to 60 models car fans consider the finest Cadillacs they ever built. The production wasn’t performed by Cadillac at all, but by Italy’s famous Pininfarina coachbuilder.

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But the price was three times the price of a standard Cadillac. So in its two-year production run, they only built 200 cars. The 1959 to 60 Eldorado Brougham featured updated equipment, an air suspension, and a 389 V8 engine. It had styling similar to the regular Cadillacs, but with some different details.

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6. 1961 Pontiac Tempest

In the early ’60s, all major U.S. car makers introduced compact models. Chevrolet had the Corvair, Ford had the Falcon, Plymouth had the Valiant, and Pontiac presented the Tempest. In most cases, those compact models were just smaller versions of bigger cars, sharing design cues and mechanicals. But Pontiac went a different route and presented one of the most advanced, most interesting American cars of the era. The new Tempest had an independent suspension all around in a time when all cars used a live rear axle. It also featured an economical four-cylinder engine that was a cut down V8 when all competitors had six cylinders. The most interesting thing is the Tempest used a rear-mounted gearbox in the transaxle design, which is something unheard of at the time.

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Also, the Tempest didn’t have a conventional driveshaft that connected the engine in the front with the transmission in the back. Instead, it used a torque tube with the cable inside. This layout gave the little Tempest the ideal weight distribution and handling. It also had enough room for six passengers since there wasn’t any transmission tunnel in the cabin. Compared to the rest of the compact car field, the 1961 Pontiac Tempest was from another planet. During its lifespan, Pontiac sold over 200,000 Tempests, making this model a solid success. But in 1964, the company introduced a bigger, more conventional Tempest. Despite its revolutionary mechanics, perfect driving dynamics and some motorsport success, the first-generation Tempest is only remembered by diehard Pontiac fans today. Car fans rarely see it in car shows and the parts are scarce.

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5. Ford 7-Litre

Ford introduced a new full-size model for 1966 they named the 7-Litre. The “7” stood for displacement and the “Litre” spelling provided charm to the ordinary Galaxie. Under the hood was a 428 V8 providing a respectable 345 HP and convincing performance.

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Ford put everything into the 7-Litre, such as A/C and bucket seats, which were standard. They used a heavy-duty suspension and added power everything. Buyers had a choice of special colors and the 7-Litre badges that identified the model. This became a one-year-only car because, in 1967, the 428 was back. However, Ford only offered it as an option on the Galaxie, not as a standalone model.

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4. Ford GT40

The story of the Ford GT40 is a saga of enormous effort and incredible support. It took a meeting involving several talented people in one place to create automotive history. After a failed attempt to buy Ferrari in the early ’60s, Ford was angry at Enzo Ferrari for his childish behavior. They decided to beat him on the race track to prove who the boss was. At the moment, Ford didn’t have a racing program or even someone to manage it. So the company looked for talented, outsourced individuals who could make things happen. They found the base for the Ferrari-beating race car in England. It was the Lola Mk6 that they gave a new racing 289 V8 engine, turning it into the first Ford GT40 in 1964.

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The car didn’t look promising at the beginning, but meticulous work and money transformed the GT40 into a world-conquering machine in several months. Ferrari was humiliated between 1966 and 1969 when the GT40 won the 24 Hours of Le Mans four times in a row. It was an amazing success and an incredible achievement for a company that never appeared in Le Mans before the mid-’60s. The GT40 became an outright legend and the symbol of the American race car by dominating the European racing scene.

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3. Mercury Cougar

When the Ford Motor Company introduced the Mustang in 1964, it became a global hit. It even started a revolution among Detroit’s major players. Three years later, almost everybody had a pony car in their lineup. Chevrolet introduced the Camaro, Pontiac presented the Firebird and Mercury had their new Cougar. Since Mercury was a luxury division of Ford Motor Company, it was obvious the Mustang and the Cougar would have much in common. But Mercury tried its best to hide its plebian roots, introducing a true luxury GT model. They built the Cougar on the Mustang platform, but they made it a couple of inches longer to add comfort and achieve better ride quality. Also, the Mercury Cougar was available with V8 engines only, while they reserved the small six-cylinder units for entry-level Mustangs. The body panels were unique, as well as the front fascia with hidden headlights. In the interior, Mercury offered a wood-trimmed dash, leather seats, and all kinds of creature comforts.

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Some people say the Cougar was a luxury Mustang. But in fact, it was an independent model and a success on its own. However, until 1969, they didn’t offer convertibles, just coupes. So the ultimate version was the combination of muscle car power and luxury – the mighty Cougar XR-7. This model had a 390 V8 engine with 320 HP. Buyers could also opt for the GT package, which included a beefed-up suspension, and stronger brakes and steering. The XR-7 was so popular, they made over 27,000 in 1967. But only a little over 2,600 came with the GT package. Over the years, the Mercury Cougar sat in the shadow of the Mustang. But recently, the popularity has gone up for this classic luxury muscle car.

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2. Mercury Marauder X100

Today, the Mercury brand is as defunct as a cost-cutting measure by Ford. But back in the 1960s, it was a luxury division above the working-class Fords and below the blue-blooded Lincolns. With their Cougars and Cyclones, Mercury was well embedded in the muscle car segment. However, luxury performance models were scarce until 1969 when Mercury introduced the next generation of the Marauder. Mercury imagined it as a luxury coupe, giving the Marauder a fresh design with some interesting features. They included concealed headlights, a massive front end, and a sloping rear end with concave rear glass. And it was a big, heavy car for cruising, rather than street racing. However, Mercury needed something to fight the Pontiac Grand Prix and Buick Riviera GS.

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They knew they needed to upgrade the Marauder to higher specifications if they wanted a piece of the action. So, they presented the Marauder X100. Behind the strange name was a regular 1969 Marauder, but with a 360-HP, 429 V8 engine. It also came with bucket seats, a heavy-duty suspension, blackout rear trim, and fender skirts. The performance was respectable, but it was still a massive car, so compared to some bare-bones smaller and lighter muscle models, it was significantly slower. The Marauder line was relatively popular, but the X100 didn’t become a best-seller. In two years of production, Mercury made just over 8,000 of them.

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1. Pontiac Catalina 2+2

In the mid-60s, the Pontiac GTO was at the forefront of the exciting new muscle car movement. With its performance, powerful engine, and great Pontiac styling, the GTO was the perfect car for the moment. But, it wasn’t the only stellar performance machine coming from Pontiac. In 1965, there was another pure muscle car icon in the form of the Catalina 2+2.

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Behind this strange name, they hid a full-size Catalina model available as a coupe or a convertible, but with a performance twist. The regular Catalina was a great-looking and decent-selling model, but in 2+2 form, it transformed into a true Gran Turismo with a luxury interior and fire-breathing engine. Since the Catalina was a full-size model, it was eligible for engines over 400 CID according to GM rules of the time. This meant the Catalina 2+2 came with the famous 421 V8. You could also get the Tri-Power intake system, which was the same as in the GTO. It boosted your car’s power to 376 HP. In addition to that, buyers could order limited-slip differentials, heavy-duty steering and brakes, and a lot more. And all that made the Catalina 2+2 well-appointed, but unfortunately, quite expensive too.

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