The '60s was a good time for cars, as the auto industry was unaware of the upcoming oil embargo of the next decade. Everyone was busy making faster, more powerful cars that also guzzled like tankers. It was also a time for experimentation, so different concepts and ideas of cars were being made, setting all sorts of new records in speed, sales and coincidentally, fails.
While the '60s gave us some memorable cars, they also ended up making a few spectacular fiascos when it came to concepts. Of course, one person’s fail is another person’s favorite ride. Even then, here are five cars we thank the '60s for, and five we wonder at in horrified awe.
10 Gem: The Ford Mustang
While technically the Mustang is not the first muscle car in the market as it was preceded by many others, the Mustang still became synonymous with muscle cars. Technically, the 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 is often named as the very first muscle car, but nothing preceded the sheer popularity of the Mustang. The fact that the nameplate is still alive and well today is a testament to the fact.
The original Ford Mustang was neither very fast nor advanced, but still housed a V8. Better body options and better V8s soon took the Mustang and places and it still on a non-stop ride.
9 Dud: The Ford Edsel
The Edsel marque was a disaster that ate up some $250 million and gave nothing in return. This was perhaps Ford’s biggest fiasco ever, and an unprecedented failure that dented Ford’s standing in the market. Named after Edsel Ford, the Edsel cars were heavy and sported rather weak engines.
While the 200-300 horsepower numbers sound adequate, they proved too little to pull the cars with any real semblance of power. The design proved all over the place as well, 1960 proved to be the killing year, with a total sale number of around 100,000. Sad for the marque that was supposed to fill that sliver of a gap between Ford and Mercury.
8 Gem: Ferrari 250 GTO
The Ferraro 250 GTO was one of Enzo Ferrari’s best designs and is highly valued to date. At the time, it was twice the price of the existing Corvette model and killed all its competition at the race tracks. It looked amazing and ran beautifully; frankly, with a 3.0-liter V12 engine with 300 horsepower, it decimated most roads with ease.
Of course, we mentioned highly valued at the beginning of this article. In 2018, one of these very rare beauties sold for a whopping $48.4million at an auction. Rumor is, things are going to get pricier for this very desirable classic toy of the rich and famous.
7 Dud: Lotus Elite Type 14
In the 50s, Colin Chapman, the founder of Lotus Automobiles, brought out the Lotus 14. The Coventry Climax engine jetted out a paltry 75 horsepower, but this car still managed to win its class at the Le Mans six times. Why? Because it weighed just 1,100 pounds as it was made with fiberglass.
It was a beautiful car as well, except for the fact that the car was too light and too weak to take the stress of everyday roads. Chapman did not think this one through.
6 Gem: Shelby Cobra
When Carroll Shelby, racecar driver, and entrepreneur decided to make a lightweight American sports car, he borrowed the body of the AC Ace Cobra from the UK. Then he sourced a Ford V8 engine and began to put it all together. The end product was the Shelby Cobra, a darling of the auto enthusiasts and collectors alike.
Often dubbed as the ultimate muscle car, the Cobra’s light body and power 7.0-liter engine made it run like the wind. No wonder Mustang hopped onto the Cobra bandwagon, producing some legendary collaborative cars in the process. Of course, some of these were pure race cars, while some were street legal.
5 Dud: Subaru 360
When the Subaru 360 arrived in America, after being pretty successful in Japan, its luck turned 360. Or maybe it was 180 because America did not like or accept this car. Priced dirt cheap at $1,297 – its marketing slogan of “cheap and ugly does it” curried no favor with the audience.
Add to that the fact that this was bulbously ugly, and took 37.5 seconds to go 0-60mph. Crash testing, at a very slow 30mph, also proved disastrous as its bumpers could not take anything more than a huff and a puff to blow themselves down. One of the worst ideas Subaru hit the American market with.
4 Gem: Chevrolet Corvette
The '60s Vette is the C2 – the 1963 Chevrolet Corvette was based on the Mako shark concept car and managed to own the inspiration completely. At the time, this was an affordable car; nowadays considered a classic, the prices have gone skywards and can be afforded only by the ones who have Mariana Trench-sized deep pockets.
Another famous Vette was the C3 one, which succeeded the C2. This one was all about the American dream of reaching the moon and was painted in NASA stripes and colors. To add more patriotic fervor, it was gifted to the Apollo astronauts.
3 Dud: Chevrolet Corvair
At the time of its launch, the Corvair was lauded for just about everything and anything. That is until Ralph Nader waxed eloquent about it in a book titled Unsafe At Any Speed. And that was the beginning of the end of the Corvair. The car’s rear-engine design, coupled with a swing-axle rear suspension, caused it to fishtail even on straight roads.
After several highway accidents and enough blood being shed, more than 100 lawsuits were filed against Chevy (GM) for making an unsafe car. To cost-cut, GM did not include suspension upgrades, and the Corvair died an ignominious death.
2 Gem: Pontiac GTO
Ah, the Goat! Brings back pleasant memories, at least for its '60s version. The latter version is best left alone since the second generation Pontiac GTO was so un-GTO-like, it might as well have never been made. In the '60s, there was a ban on factory-backed racing, so GTO had to rack its brain to find a loophole.
Technically, the Pontiac GTO was just an optional trim, with its 6.3-liter punchy V8 that made 325 horses jump with power. The GTO was an instant hit. This was like more than 100 horses more than the other cars of its time, and the Goat launched the muscle wars.
1 Dud: Peel Trident
While we don’t get the car, at all, we don’t get the name as well. Why name an oyster-sized car the Trident? It’s like naming a Chihuahua, the Hulk. Anyhow, at 50-inches in length, this was, at the time, the world’s smallest car.
Designed for a future that never arrived, the Trident was just plain weird. The Plexiglas roof was also not very comfortable on a sunny day. Cars like these are not popular because they defy what a buyer expects from his car. Forget the '60s, this may not work even in the congested traffic of today.