The Swinging Sixties were known for revolutionizing the worlds of fashion, music, politics, and culture. From the Beatles and bell-bottoms to Woodstock and the anti-Vietnam war movement, the 60s clearly was a decade that was all about change.
Young people were tired of being told how to think, what to do, and what values they were expected to hold. They cast off much of what the previous generation had held dear only to create a colorful, creative, and enormously experimental culture that was diametrically opposed to the status quo.
But aside from flower power, psychedelic-fueled rock music, and political activism, the 60s also gave us some of the most iconic vehicle designs in the history of transportation.
The 60s heralded the rise of what’s known as the ‘Big Three’ – the trio of vehicle manufacturers comprised of Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors. Together, along with several other American Brands, these manufacturers absolutely dominated the market both domestically and internationally.
Economy, luxury, and power-hungry muscle cars flooded the market as the American car industry boomed. It didn’t matter who you were, what your bank account looked like, or what aesthetic you were into, there was a car for everyone!
In this video, we’re going to be taking a little trip down memory lane while looking at some of the elegant, innovative, and sporty cars from the decade that wasn’t afraid to buck tradition and experiment with bold, new ideas.
Facts Verse Presents: The Most Popular Cars From the 60s – Did you Own One?
As far as sports cars go, the Mustang arguably made the most significant impact when it debuted in the 60s. The Mustang was first showed off at the New York World Fair in 1964. Ever since, the Mustang line has continued to adapt to the ever-changing demands and desires of the sports car market.
Car lovers everywhere immediately fell in love with the long-hooded and short-decked silhouette of this iconic vehicle. The Mustang was also desirable because of how it offered consumers a ton of power and performance at a relativity affordable price.
Ford could barely keep the Mustang in stock. Demand was through the roof. Initially, Ford expected to move more than a hundred thousand units in it’s first year of being on the market, but within just three short months, they had already met that target. By the end of the decade, Ford had produced more than 2 million Mustangs.
Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow
Rolls-Royce defined what a luxury vehicle could be when they introduced their Silver Shadow in ’65. It’s name alone is something to marvel at, but beyond nomenclature, it featured a hydro-pneumatic rear suspension system much like the one featured in the Citreon DS.
The Silver Shadow also boasted groundbreaking features like electric-adjustable seats and split-level air conditioning. Underneath the hood, the Silver Shadow was equipped with a 172-horse power 6.2-liter V8 engine that was more than capable of accelerating it’s 4,650 lb body without needing to be ear-piercingly loud.
By 1980, when production of the model was ceased, Rolls-Royce had produced and sold more than 28,000 units despite it’s hefty $70,000 price tag.
This beautiful lightweight rear-engined sports car performed like a dream both on and off the road. It weighed just a little under 1,600 lbs, and thanks to it’s inline-four cylinder engine it was capable of putting out almost 140 horsepower. Since all of that power was strapped to it’s rear, this iconic French sports car liked to swing it’s tail around turns like an uber-excited dog.
The Alpine A110 featured a fiberglass body which made it esepecially lightweight and nimble. In 1973 alone, it won 6 WRC events proving that it was a force to be reckoned with. In 2017, the Alpine was revived and honestly it’s everything that it was back in it’s heydey – perhaps even a bit more!
Before Nissan took over the category, Datsun was the original creator of the fan-favorite Z-division of sports cars. The 240Z boasted a 2.4-liter inline-six engine, and used every bit of it’s 150 horsepower to maximum potential by sending it through a five-speed stick shift to the rear wheels.
While it wasn’t remarkably fast, it did have a decent 125 top speed and could go from zero to sixty in just under 8 seconds.
The Camaro was GM’s answer to their rival Ford’s Mustang, which was booming in popularity at the time. But don’t think for a second that the Camaro was just some kind of quick-to-the-market reactionary copycat. No, the Camaro was a unique beast that held it’s own.
The first Camaros were essentially clones of the Chevy Nova, borrowing several of the Nova’s mechanical designs and parts. The car hit the lot in 1966 and by the end of the year, it had sold more than 220,000 units. That’s even more impressive when you consider how the Mustang sold approximately 480,000 in the same year.
Throughout it’s history, the Camaro’s popularity continued to skyrocket partly because racing enthusiasts had taken quite a liking to it. By the end of the 60s, the Camaro had become one of the most popular vehicles on the market.
This iconic vehicle was initially conceived as an alternative to rival offerings such as the Jeep CJ and the Harvester Scout. Banking on the success of the Mustang, the Bronco rolled onto lots across America beginning in 1966. Folks had a choice of three models to choose from. You could get the Brono as a wagon, pickup, or roadster – all of which featured a 2-door layout.
The first Broncos were manuals, and their transmissions were mated to either inline-6 or V8 engines, depending on the model you wanted. The Ford Bronco’s popularity continued to increase, and today it’s considered to be one of the manufacturer’s most iconic offerings.
Buick’s iconic luxury coupe set out to conquer a segment of the market that previously was dominated by Ford’s Thunderbird. The vehicle featured distinct design aesthetics that made it instantaneously identifiable, including it’s prominent “egg-crate” grill and a series of creased lines that ran along the rear and front quarters of it’s body.
The Riviera’s interior was also quite extravagant. Because of this and it’s powerful performance, the public began to take notice of this new entry into the luxury car market and quickly began buying up all of Buick’s stock. Dealerships struggled to keep the Riviera in stock throughout it’s run which lasted from 1963 to ’65. Within that window, more than 112,000 Riviera’s were sold.
This snazzy sports car was the most popular luxury coupe of the decade. It held this distinct honor virtually unchallenged up until the unveiling of the Buick Riviera. Production started in ’57, but Ford made a few tweaks to it’s design in 1960… All of these changes, for the most part, were cosmetic. Perhaps the most noteworthy change was the addition of a third tail light.
1960 was a record-breaking year for the T-Bird, as Ford was able to move an astonishing 92,000 units. As the decade continued, Ford implemented several other modifications to the car. By ’69, three more Thunderbird iterations were introduced to the market.
This iconic vehicle has a spellbinding history. Although that’s not surprising considering that it was in production from 1938 all the way until 2003.
The most famous incarnation of the Beetle, the Type 1, sold more than 21 million units. The tiny yet surprisingly agile car was fun to drive, fairly affordable, and quite reliable. The Beetle helped pave the way for Volkswagen to offer consumers more expensive luxury cars under it’s Audi brand which they took over in 1965.
The original “Bug” was made in Mexico, and while it’s been discontinued since 2003, there are rumors floating around that the Beetle might be coming back in the near future as an electric vehicle.
If you thought that the Mercedes-Benz Smart Car was the first tiny car, then you either must not have been alive during the 60s, or your knowledge of cars is shockingly limited! The British Motor Corporation started producing this incredibly popular car in the early 60s, and throughout the decade it became a defining icon of British pop culture.
Just like the other vehicles we’ve discussed in this video so far, the Mini helped define it’s era. It featured a front-wheel drive layout and space-saving transverse engine – to which the combo of these two features allowed for 80 percent of the interior being usable for luggage and passengers.
In 1999, the Global Automotive Elections Foundation reported that the Mini was voted as the second most influential car of the 1900s, outvoted only by the Model T. The Mini was designed by the revered British automobile designer Sir Alec Issigonis, and it was produced at various plants all over the world, albeit primarily in it’s native land of England.
From 1959 to 2000, the Mini went through four different “Marks” or generations. By 2000, when the Mini’s production was halted, it had sold close to five and a half million units worldwide.
With the introduction of the GTO in 1964, Pontiac, in essence, tossed a bunch of gasoline onto the blazing muscle car craze that had swept across the United States. It remained a popular choice for muscle car buffs throughout the decade and well into the following one.
The GTO’s name had been inspired by Ferrari. When it first debuted, it was actually presented as an options package for Pontiac’s Le Mans, although it caught on quickly with public and evolved into a full-on separate model. By placing greater influence on power and performance with it’s V8 engine, Pontiac was able to offer customers a car that was capable of churning out 325 horsepower at a blistering 4,800 rotations per minute.
The first incarnation of the Charger was presented at an auto show in 1964. Two years later, it entered into production.
At first, the Charger, which was based on Dodge’s Coronet, failed to sell well. Poor sales even threatened to put an end to the Charger’s then-brief tenure on the market, but Dodge decided to keep it alive while making a series of much-needed and appreciated tweaks.
In 1968, after undergoing a major redesign, everything changed! No longer was the Charger struggling to stay afloat, but it, in fact, quickly became one of the most sought-after vehicles on the market. Dodge initially intended to produce 35,000 units, but they tripled that number to keep up with the sudden influx in sales.
Well, there you have it! We’ve just covered some of the most popular cars of the 1960s, but chances are one of your favorites didn’t make it into the video. Time constraints obviously limit how many car models we can cover in a single video. That, however, just means it’s your turn to let your voice be heard!
What were a few of your favorite cars of the 1960s, and did you happen to own any of the cars that we discussed in this video? If so, let us know in the comments. And while you’re at it, feel free to debate about what you think was the most iconic car of the decade!