Monday, September 29, 2014
Friday, September 26, 2014
A second generation Fairlane was introduced in 1957 and like a lot of the cars of that era, it was presented a lower, wider silhouette with sleeker lines and, yes, tail fins. It also saw its engines grow with big block 332 and 352 cubic inch V 8s.
The third generation came in 1960 and the fourth in 1962. Each saw significant styling changes as well as more muscle under the hood. By 1965 you could get a 4.2 liter V 8. This huge power plant no longer throwing a full sized luxury car down the road. The Fairlane had been downsized to be Ford's intermediate car. In fact they measured out at 197 inches with a 115 inch wheelbase.
For the 1966 and 1967 years, Ford introduced a fifth generation of the Fairlane. The car seen here is from this generation. Though still considered a mid-sized car, the styling was updated to look like the full size Fords. Engine options ranged from the base 200 cubic inch inline six all the way up to the fearsome R-Code 427 cubic inch V 8 that had a whopping 425 horse power. Yes, this was true Dearborn muscle.
Two more generations were rolled out in the late 1960s and for the 1970 year. For 1971 the Fairlane name, along with that of the Falcon, were dropped. All of Ford's intermediate cars took the Torino handle. The car named after Henry Ford's magnificent estate that had turned into a prized muscle car was no more.
Thursday, September 25, 2014
While GM and Ford held onto the top spots, Chrysler and it's lines worked hard to grow their sales as well. For the likes of Plymouth, this meant trying to find ways to stand out in a highly competitive and saturated market.
As the decade turned to the 1950s, Plymouth introduced a high trim level car very similar to its other models. Called the Cranbrook it was accepted as the top of the line Plymouth. Though sales were decent, Plymouth was only rolling about one-quarter of these cars off the lots compared to the rival Chevy Bel Air. So to set it further above the rest of the line in 1953 they christened the Cranbrook Belvedere. The following year, as part of a complete line re-design, the Belvedere became a stand-alone model of its own.
Equipped with Plymouth's venerable 217 cubic inch L Head six cylinder engine that generated 100 horse power and a standard three speed transmission, the Belevedere may have been sold as Plymouth's top of the line car but it was squarely aimed at the middle classes.
In 1955 the line of Chrysler cars began projecting an image of future design. A complete "forward look" design and campaign was run for all Chrysler, Plymouth, De Soto, and Dodge cars. The ploy worked with cars getting longer, sleeker lines and larger engines. That year Plymouth sold 670,000 with the Belvedere accounting for 270,000 of them.
For 1957 the slogan became "Suddenly it's 1960" and while almost true, it helped propel the Belvedere further along. Now with a lower stance, even sleeker lines, curved glass and beautiful fins, the Belvedere also further upgrades under the hood. While a V 8 option had been added in 1956, the engines got bigger and more powerful.
The car shown here is a 1958 model that featured the popular 218 cubic inch V 8 with a two barrel carburetor and the Torque Flight three speed push button transmission. There were also a 340 cubic inch V 8 option as well as the top of the line 351 cubic inch V 8 with a twin four barrel carb.
While the Belvedere ran well and looked pretty good with its futuristic designs, sales for it and all Chrysler cars began to slip. By 1961 fewer than 200,000 Chryslers sold with Belvederes making up fewer than 68,000 of those.
The Belvedere name stuck until 1970 when it was dropped for the Satellite which had been the Belvedere's top end trim. Still, the cars never re-captured the sales or the grandeur of the mid 1950s era cars when "Suddenly it's 1960" was a statement about the future.