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#1 of 118 The Best Cars From The '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s
Sep 24, 2011 (9:37 pm)
Considering prices and positioning in the marketplace, which three cars or brands excelled, in your opinion?
My choices for the '50s would be Chevrolet, VW Beetle and Chrysler.
For the '60s Ford (Falcon, Fairlane and Mustang were strong entries in new segments, and the '55-'58 Galaxies and LTDs competed well with Chevy and Mopar), Pontiac (affordable performance) and Lincoln (beginning with the '61, it featured elegant design over glitz).
For the '70s, Toyota, Nissan and Honda were the most significant new entries, squeezing the domestics and VW. The Japanese demonstrated that quality and reliability didn't have to be sacrificed for price in economy cars. It was a new business model, or, maybe, one that the automotive world had forgotten. GM deserves credit for their excellent downsized '77 and '78 models, but I'd still give the trophy to the Japanese for this decade.
In the '80s, BMW and Mercedes as the new standards of the luxury market. In the mid-priced field, Volvo made strong inroads with safety features. Chrysler Corp. deserves credit for reinventing the minivan, but important as this was, if forced to choose I think that the dethroning of Cadillac and Lincoln were more significant events.
For the decade of the '90s, Acura (introduced in the '80s), Lexus and, to a lesser degree, Infiniti, took the wind out of the European luxury brands, by excelling in quality, reliabiliy and value. They also delivered a hard punch to Detroit's most profitable models.
#2 of 118 Re: The Best Cars From The '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s [hpmctorque]
Sep 25, 2011 (11:34 am)
50s: 1. Cadillac 2. Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa 3. 1959 Austin Mini
The standard of the world, the ultimate red head and icon of style, baby.
60s: 1. GM 2. Jaguar E-type 3. Ford GT40 MkII 4. Honorable mention to Chrysler. Thanks for the Hemis.
In the market place the General was in command, so much so that the feds were dragging them off to court with anti-trust actions. We should have such worries today. Jaguar E-type. Ultimate love gun in movies, myth and real life? Shag-uar...In racing, Ford beat Ferrari in the 24 Hours of Le Mans when no other domestic could. But racing at home on the drag strip? Mopar put everything else on the trailer.
'70s: 1. GM 2.Mercedes 3. A distant blip on the radar called Japan.
Detroit would never find itself building so many cars in the face of so much competition again. But again, it was mostly the GM Show in the market place. GM stuff from that era is still collectible and a few are considered "classic." Early 70s big block muscle cars and Vettes, etc. still bring heavy hammer prices. Even a '74 Trans Am SD455 will draw crazy bids. Later bandit Trans Ams get minor-collectible attention. And Chevy will never sell as many Corvettes as they did in the late 70s.
The mother of all 70s imports was Mercedes Benz. Priced for the affluent and positioned in the coveted market once seen as Cadillac's gated community, Mercedes showed the Japanese that they had much to learn about taking it to the house.
Japanese imports from that era were reinventing themselves as they went along and in later decades became bigger, better and more like the nameplates we recognize today. Toyota stretched and reinvented products and market positions better than others. People collect FJ40s and mock the Celica Supras (with plastic hubcaps) from the same 70s era.
80s: 1. The domestic SUV. 2. Voluntary restraint widgets from Japan imported in staggering numbers regardless. 3. Honorable mention Honda.
Aside from healthy German brands in the 80s, I remember when Detroit began swallowing up all manner of sick, aging, cash-poor euro marques for reasons I never fully understood. And then the news was official: Japan Inc was a world-beater at entry level, family sedans, and positioned to crack into the luxury market. Domestic news? GM wanted to build Saab, Ford wanted to build Jaguar, and Chrysler want to build Lamborghini...WTF?! Where in the name of William Crapo Durant did Detroit get this kind of cash to burn anyway? The SUV affliction had begun...Honda starts building Accords in Marysville, Ohio.
If you are what you eat, then...Turns out that rebuilding old, euro luxury marques is not fun and unprofitable at the same time. The era of voluntary restraints was over and "all your (market) base are belonging to us." German brands reformulated their "Old World" image to reflect a "New Order" of hip hop influence. It wasn't and still isn't pretty. But Germans did become very adept at packaging their products in attractive leasing terms. Japan became shockingly accurate in hitting more price/product tiers with bull's eyes. pwnage.
Sep 25, 2011 (12:21 pm)
50s and 60s - GM led in so many ways. The others had some cool products too, but GM did very little wrong for an insanely long time.
70s Europe slowly enters the luxo class, but GM retains the lead, albeit slipping away, for reliability the Japanese make themselves known.
Best car of the 80s - MB W126. It enabled Lexus to exist. In drier climates, the Japanese start owning the mass market.
90s Toyota took over, but lost their soul at the same time.
#5 of 118 Re: The Best Cars From The '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s [omarman]
Sep 25, 2011 (12:38 pm)
I put Chrysler in the '50s because the first generation hemi was introduced in '51, and by '53 it was used in Chrysler, Imperial, DeSoto and Dodge. Chryslers were also the first to offer power steering. Then there was torsion bar suspensions and push-button automatic transmission controls. As for styling, all Chrysler Corp. cars featured new, advanced styling for '55. Finally, dramatic, all-new styling was introduced for the '57 model year, and Torque-Flyte was also introduced that year. The styling was so striking that it stole the leadership from GM, and prompted GM, mainly, to rush to restyle its cars.
I think all those reasons trump the introduction of Chrysler's second generation hemi, in the '60s, mighty as it was.
I agree with you regarding the Mini. It set the standard for configuration efficiency that still stands.
#6 of 118 Re: The Best Cars From The '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s [hpmctorque]
Sep 26, 2011 (4:21 am)
For the 70s I would add a Datsun 240Z. A stunning demonstration that Japan could produce something besides a cheap tin can.
#7 of 118 Re: The Best Cars From The '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s [wevk]
by MrShift@Edmunds HOST
Sep 26, 2011 (5:37 am)
Boy that 240Z certainly took a wrong turn real fast. From the poor man's Jaguar XK it became a parody of an Avanti II automatic in a couple of years.
I'd have to throw in the original Datsun 510 as a remarkable car. It is STILL out there on the race tracks, competing in SCCA, so that tells you something.
#8 of 118 Re: The Best Cars From The '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s [wevk]
Sep 26, 2011 (6:14 am)
I had an old Z. I really liked it. It was still a cheap tin cap, but it was reliable, decent looking and fun to drive.
#9 of 118 Re: The Best Cars From The '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s [lemmer]
by MrShift@Edmunds HOST
Sep 26, 2011 (6:40 am)
yeah, Japanese cars of those days were none too sturdily built. But the mechanicals were great. Just keep replacing the body!
#10 of 118 Re: The Best Cars From The '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s [Mr_Shiftright]
Sep 26, 2011 (7:24 am)
"... that 240Z certainly took a wrong turn real fast."
Yes and no. I know what you're saying, and even agree with you, but there's another side to the Z story. Here's my take on it:
The Z began going soft and straying from its original roots with the 280s (the 260s didn't run well). However, sales of the third generation, the ZX300 ('84-'89), were the highest ever attained for Datsun/Nissan Zs. While it was no longer true to the spirit of the 240, since it was softened and transformed into more of a cruiser, it was a good cruiser. Comfortable, reliable, well constructed. I've got a '88 2+2 with 190,000 miles that runs great. It'll never be worth more than old car value, even though it's been well maintained, but it's been a low maintenance, nice driver. Kind of like a Japanese 4-passenger Thunderbird. And like the 'Birds, the '55-'57s are the most desireable collectibles, but the '58 and later 4-passengers outsold the 2-seaters by huge margins.
The all-new '90 300Z was a terrific car for its day. I think it was an attempt to return to the original, sporty roots of the original 240, except that it was no longer low priced.