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I am doing a short two page essay for a book. The gist of what I need to cover is cars from 1954-the mid 60's. What were the most popular cars of their time and why? What made them desireable. Are they still the same cars that are desireable today. There are some very obvious cars to talk about but I sure would appreciate some additional thoughts and ideas from the rest of you. Afterall, I was a just a youngster back then! <img src="http://www.aaca.org/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />

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The '57 Chrysler products sent the GM stylists back to the studio on crash programs. And the resulting excesses that ensued in 58 - 59.

The end of flathead straight eights with the 54 Pontiacs and Packards.

The 55 Chevy introducing a cheap OHV V8.

But contrary to their status today, the 57 Chevy was a facelift competing(with mediocre results) with the new designs from Ford and Plymouth.

Pushbutton automatics

The Edsel

The end of Packard

The begining of AMC

Technologies not yet ready for prime time, but seen in production - fuel injection, air suspension, autoleveling, retractable hardtops

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Buick Centurys of the 54-56 model years were popular with those of my generation looking to step up from Chevy-Ford-Plymouth. I personally liked the styling of the Chryslers of the same period, but opted for the Buick. I have a '55 Century in my collection today.


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Steve, Do not forget the introduction of the Corvette. This was to be America's sport car.

My I add sir, that we have an outstanding AACA library available to you at reduced rates since you are an AACA member. This wonderful Library will provide you with a surplus of information that you can use in your writing.

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57 Chevies only became desirable as used cars, when they caught on with the teenagers and after that became the most desirable cars since the teen years of people who came up as teenagers when the Model A was their most popular car. The 57 Chevy was the car of the 1960's teenager, and that's why it is so popular today.

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In my opinion, 1955 was the most exciting year of the period. Chevrolet and Plymouth introduced their first V8s that year and Plymouth its first real automatic transmission. Packard and Pontiac introduced their first V8. It was the year that all of the new designs appeared, and every one of them was exciting. I was 16 years old, and the whole field just leaped out at me, and it was the first year since 1941 when every american automobile was attractive. This pheonena continued through 1957, but the 1956 and 1957 cars were basically a continuation of the 1955 theme. Buicks were prettier in 1956, but their quality slipped in 1957, especially their steering gear as they introduced their first ball joints that were loose when they were new. The four-door hardtops were the big news of 1955 with the higher level cars, and in 1956 Ford and Chevrolet joined that design feature. The Lincoln Continental came back in 1956 and the field really began to thin. Hudson had merged with Nash in 1954 and now in 1956 Packard merged with Studebaker. Packard had introduced its V8 and an all new and pleasing design in 1955 but there wasn't anything left to sustain the company after years of dwindling sales. Packard continued as a Studebaker design in 1956 through 1958 that just wasn't a Packard. Hudson had the same fate with what some people call a "Hash". The 1955-56 Dodge cars were exciting as were the DeSotos and Chryslers. They were very colorful and pretty. I personally thought the 1955 Plymouth was Plymouth's prettiest ever. Plymouth introduced the Fury in 1956 with great power and gold trim. Certainly the Chrysler products introduced in 1957 strictly appealed to certain tastes. The Buick and Olds of 1958 tried to hold on with the most massive amounts of chrome ever on a car, while the Pontiac was somewhat more subdued. The 1957 Pontiac had held onto graceful design that was their prettiest of the three years, although the 56 Pontiac was also very pretty, however the big news was for Pontiac, who introduced a limited production fuel injection that probably propelled Pontiac into it's most successful years in the 1960's with Judges and GTO's. The 57 Oldsmobile certainly tied the 55 Olds for beauty in the Olds lind during the three year period. Vettes in 1954 and TBirds in 1955 put American into the gentleman's sportscar field and some 57 Vettes had fuel injection. In 1953-54 Buick, Packard and Oldsmobile had tried "gentleman's roadsters" with the Skylark, Carribean and Fiesta, but with limited appeal. Chrysler tried the 300 in during that period separated Imperial from Chrysler for some years to come. Personally, I "got off the train" after 1958 and really had little interest in new cars again until 1971. The 1971 Buick Riviera reminded me of the old Auburns of the 30s and I fell in love with them. My view of 1960s cars was a personal thing, maybe driven by my own personal circumstances and activist interest in antique cars, something I'd always loved since I could walk......old cars. Actually the 1955-58 period was the only time in my life that I had great interest in "new cars" rather than "old cars".

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The time frame, of which, you are researching was exciting then, and, lost today for the most part. Just my fond memories.

I recall the excitement from grade school-through-highschool, wondering what new cars would be unvailed in October.

Most marques within this time period, would completely resdesign the car from year to year. (Body styling, amenities, engine, etc.) Sort of like Christmas memories to me.

Today, most cars look the same as we have discussed on the forum. Today's car's tout more of what knick-knacks the car can offer versus styling changes every year.

Most cars, in my opinion, have a 7 year "manufacturing/engineering cost of tooling" life. In the 50's-60's, auto companies would shut down the plants for 6-8 weeks to re-tool, basically gut the plant, to be geared up for the new style changes. Of important note is the trickle down effect. All "vendors" of the auto companies went through the same "shut the plant down, lay off work force for 6-8 weeks, re-tool, re-vamp the facilities in order to ramp up production".

Obviously today, we see body styling last for 7, or, so years from a cost standpoint versus year-to-year of the '50's-60's.

Today, buy an auto in its 1st year and the style will be in vogue for 7 on average.

In answer to your thread topic: The excitent and anticipation of what the "new year" model designs came first. Opinions after viewing them came shortly after the unveilings. Hard for me to determine a particular marque, as I favor all of the time period simply due to year-to-year design changes.

My opinion and feeling...

Regards, Peter J.

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Peter: Can you tell the difference between a 1991 Buick Park Avenue and a 2004 Buick Park Avenue? And they wonder what happened to Plymouth and Oldsmobile, and why nobody wants to buy a new car unless the old one is worn out. It IS unfortunate the way the design of American automobiles has deterioriated. I can remember getting on the bus and street car to go into Washington, DC from Virginia with my buddy to attend the auto show. Those were surely days of excitement. True, in the last couple of years there have been some new, awful car designs by Pontiac, Buick, Chrysler products, but the only glimmer of imagination came with the Chevy truck, the Ford TBird and The PT Cruiser, and all of them look like a bad artist rendition of the "old" 1930s or 1950s vehicle they appear to be updating

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Re; "<span style="font-weight: bold">all of them look like a bad artist rendition of the "old" 1930s or 1950s vehicle they appear to be updating </span>"

Earl, I think they're trying to recapture the excitement of the old days with the new styling exercise automobiles of today. My most exciting memory is sneaking the peaks behind all of the "newspaper curtains" on every showroom of the 60's. <img src="http://www.aaca.org/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/confused.gif" alt="" /> I was just starting to drive the big trucks in those days. So, a 2 hour trip on the highway took forever as I stopped at every dealer on the way down the road, if I thought I had a chance to see the new "stuff". <img src="http://www.aaca.org/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/laugh.gif" alt="" /> Great memories, guys. Wayne

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I hope you'll give some consideration to the emergence of the smaller cars as a real force in the American market. (Ok, I'm partial to small cars)

As someone mentioned earlier the VW was coming into its own. And the Rambler American was there in the 50s' also. The big 3 all introduced small cars for 1960.

It's interesting that the big three were all reading at least parts of the same page with the introduction of the smaller cars, and the publics appetite for them.

It's also fascinating to see the different routes they chose with the introduction of the Corvair, Falcon and Valiant.

Corvar, with the rear engine and subdued styling overall. The 4 doors bearing the "flat top" roof styling similar to some larger GM cars.

The Falcon arrived as undoubtably the most traditional of the three. A small car that that would be comfortable to own for those not wishing to make to big a splash.

The Valiant with its rather exotic styling courtesy. They definitely made a statement about style.

What a time that was in the auto industry, man, there was something for everyone!

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<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body"> The gist of what I need to cover is cars from 1954-the mid 60's. What were the most popular cars of their time and why? What made them desireable. Are they still the same cars that are desireable today. </div></div>

A few obvious choices:

<span style="font-weight: bold">Mustang</span>: a youthful/sport yet affordable car. Still the same in that respect, but no longer the highly adaptable platform that it once was (Does <span style="font-style: italic">anybody</span> offer that many options any more?)

<span style="font-weight: bold">Falcon</span>: Basic, inexpensive transportation. Set sales record largely forgotten after Mustang broke it. Limited option pallet (in early years) much like today's cars.

<span style="font-weight: bold">VW Bug</span>: Made dependability and quality a factor in lower priced cars, ushering in the modern car market.

<span style="font-weight: bold">1957 & 1959 Ford</span>: It's largely forgotten today that these cars outsold Chevy, and that the 1957 Chevy became popular only as a used car by virtue of it's superior build and economy. The late 50's Fords demonstrate the power of design at their time. Both the '57 and '59 were knockout lookers compared to the Chevy, and probably beat that Chevy based solely on that factor. What car do you know that sells in high volume today based solely on good looks?

<span style="font-weight: bold">1954 Chevy</span>: Solid dependability's last stand unitil VW reinstated it. It took 40 years for GM to see what it was losing here.

<span style="font-weight: bold">1955 Chevy</span>: The power of a revolutionary new model, and again knockout good looks.

<span style="font-weight: bold">Any Thunderbird/Riviera</span>: Remember when looks meant something and practicality didn't? <span style="font-weight: bold">These cars define what has changed in car marketing.</span>

And finally <span style="font-weight: bold">1958-1962 Rambler</span>: In the age of space style and massive horsepower, boring/practical/banal but reliable sedans with great economy and superior assembly rise to number 3 in the U.S. Where was that lesson in 1974? <span style="font-style: italic">Being stolen from VW by Japan!</span> <span style="font-weight: bold">These cars define what hasn't changed in car marketing today!</span>

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Thanks everyone!! I still am trying to find the hook I need for this story but most of you re-affirmed some of my choices and gave me others to think about. This is not an article where they want a lot of facts, figures and technical data.

My thoughts are to use some of the "lifestyle" items of the era. Snap lock shoes, Elvis, cigarettes rolled in the sleeves, Ike, JFK, etc. and try to weave a story about life in that period and the cars people loved. Those that aspired to own Cadillacs, the emergence of the american sports car, etc.

Fran, tell me more about the library! I seem to have heard about it before, maybe I should walk down the other end of the hall and find out! Of course, I plan on spending some time at our great Library but I knew the regulars on this site would have an opinion. I did not just want to write about my favorite Oldsmobiles! <img src="http://www.aaca.org/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />

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