The styling and performance of American cars have always historically reflected the mood of their times. The art deco vehicles of the 1930s represented optimism during the Great Depression, the huge cars of the 1950s were a symbol of post-WWII prosperity and the muscle cars of the 1960s illustrated the fascination America was developing with pure performance. Courtesy of McLoughlin of Milwaukie, OR, a full service Chevrolet dealer, we survey some examples of vehicles that perfectly represented the mood of the times.
Sporty 2-door cars were made before Lee Iacocca’s Mustang but nothing has ever matched its level of popularity. Introduced at 1964 World’s Fair, the Ford Mustang tapped into the youth market of the times perfectly. It kicked off a great pony car battle. By 1967, the Mustang had been joined the Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac Firebird and the Plymouth Barracuda but it. Ford sold 1.7 million Mustangs in its first 36 months.
World War II ended in 1945 and the nation’s car builders went back to making civilian vehicles. While most of the cars that were produced were warmed-over versions of pre-war models, the 1948 Tucker offered futuristic features. The Tuckers came standard with padded dashes, rear mounted engines and a third headlight that turned in the direction that the wheels were pointed. The brainchild of automotive visionary Preston Tucker, the company earned national attention but only build 51 cars built before it ran out of money. By 1950, Tucker’s collapse became a national scandal and the federal government indicted the company’s executives for fraud. With just 51 cars built, Tuckers have become one of the most valuable collector cars available.
The Cadillac Eldorado was launched in 1953 and was designed to be General Motor’s flagship vehicle. By the end of the 1950s, the redesigned four-door Eldorado cost more than a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud and was considered one of the most elegant cars in the world. In 1967, the Eldorado was became a two-door “personal luxury coupe,” and the second front-wheel drive car ever built by General Motors.
By the late 1940s, America desired more than just basic transportation and the desire for sports cars began to emerge. The problem was that no American automaker was offering them. In 1953, Chevrolet jumped in the ring with Corvette. The first Corvettes were powered by a 6 cylinder-powered engine that made the car slow but it was very pretty. By 1955, Chevrolet had perfected their new 235 CI V-8 engine and this made the Corvette a real sports machine.
The Roadrunner Superbird was built by Plymouth for one reason, to compete at the 1970 NASCAR series. While its pointed beak and large rear wing made a difference on the track, its looks were considered goofy by the average car buyer and it didn’t sell very well. However, driven by Richard Petty at the 1970 NASCAR series, the car won many races and firmly established Plymouth as a manufacturer of serious racecars. Today, the collector market just loves the ostentatious Superbirds and they routinely sell for over $100,000.