The Year in Cars: 1960

1960 DeSotoComing or going? The 1960 model year marked an important change in direction for the American auto industry. Here’s the story with lots of great facts and rare images.  

 

 

Two key developments of the 1960 new car season:

+  After nearly a decade of longer, wider, and lower in automotive design, with more chrome and taller tail fins every year, by 1960 American consumers had begun to cry enough. Public opinion was now pushing back against the absurd and often comical excesses, in the press, on television, and in popular books like The Insolent Chariots. The acme for chrome trim arrived in 1958 (Buick, Oldsmobile) while fins reached their maximum height with the 1959 Cadillac. For 1960, the Motor City was retreating into quieter, less ostentatious design.

+   In a related trend, the Detroit Three introduced their first compact cars to the American postwar market: the straightforward Ford Falcon, the innovative Chevrolet Corvair, and Chrysler’s boldly styled Valiant. (Mercury also got a compact for 1960 with the Comet, which was designed as an Edsel.) At the time, the appearance of imports on American roads was only part of the perceived threat. Foreign cars, as they were then called, held 8 percent of the new vehicle market in 1958, with Volkswagen leading the category by a fair margin and the Renault Dauphine in second place.

The more obvious threat to the classic American land yacht came from American Motors, where chief executive George Romney had embraced the compact concept a few years earlier with the petite, practical Rambler line. And now Rambler was rushing up the sales charts, from 12th in 1957 with 91,000 units to fourth place in 1960 with nearly 459,000 units—bested only by Ford, Chevy, and Plymouth. The little Rambler was outselling the popular premium brands including Pontiac, Dodge, and Oldsmobile.

While the new car market was growing overall, the mid-luxury market was actually shrinking. The Edsel, introduced to the category with great fanfare in 1958, was discontinued in 1960 with fewer than 3000 units sold. On November 30, 1960, only 47 days into the 1961 model run, Chrysler killed off the DeSoto brand with only 2123 units assembled. And as Buick slid from fourth place in 1957 down to ninth in 1960, General Motors briefly studied ending the historic brand.

For the moment at least, the new compacts were the Motor City’s hot item. You can find a few examples, along with all the flavors of the day, in the gallery below.

 

1960 Chevrolet panel
1960 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible
1960 Lincoln Landau
1960 Plymouth Fury Convertible
1960 Pontiac Star Chief Sedan
1960 Chrysler Imperial LeBaron Southampton
1960 Ford Falcon Ranchero
1960 DeSoto
1960 Rambler American two-door sedan
1960 Buick Electra 225 four-door hardtop
1960 Stuebaker Lark 4D sedan
1960 Volkswagen
1960 Checker Superba Station Wagon
1960 Chrysler Valiant
1960 Pontiac Bonneville Convertible
1960 AMC Metropolitan Convertible
1960 Willys Station Wagon
1960 Renault Dauphine
1960 Chevrolet El Camino
1960 Rambler Ambassador Hardtop Station Wagon
1960 Plymouth Fury Hardtop
1960 Edsel Ranger four-door sedan
1960 Cadillac 62 Series Convertible
1960 Ford Starliner Fred Lorenzen
1960 Studebaker Champ 4x4 pickup
1960 Lincoln Landau and Coupe
1960 Studebaker Hawk
1960 Oldsmobile Indy 500 pace car
1960 Corvair 700 Sedan
1960 Chevrolet Bel Air two-door sedan
1960 Mercury Colony Park Wagon
1960 Mercury Park Lane four-door hardtop
1960 Chevrolet Bel Air Sport Coupe
1960 Ford Thunderbird Convertible
1960 Valiant
1960 Buick Invicta Sport Coupe
1960 Dodge Sweptline Pickup
1960 Willys Jeep Gala
1960 Chrysler 300F
1960 DeSoto Canada
1960 Ford Station Wagon
1960 Dodge Matador Hardtop Sedan
1960 Mercury Comet
1960 International Travelall
1960 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Sport Sedan
1960 Ford Falcon two-door sedan
1960 Chrysler New Yorker two-door hardtop

1960 Chevrolet panel

1960 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible

1960 Lincoln Landau

1960 Plymouth Fury Convertible

1960 Pontiac Star Chief Sedan

1960 Chrysler Imperial LeBaron Southampton

1960 Ford Falcon Ranchero

1960 DeSoto

1960 Rambler American two-door sedan

1960 Buick Electra 225 four-door hardtop

1960 Stuebaker Lark 4D sedan

1960 Volkswagen

1960 Checker Superba Station Wagon

1960 Chrysler Valiant

1960 Pontiac Bonneville Convertible

1960 AMC Metropolitan Convertible

1960 Willys Station Wagon

1960 Renault Dauphine

1960 Chevrolet El Camino

1960 Rambler Ambassador Hardtop Station Wagon

1960 Plymouth Fury Hardtop

1960 Edsel Ranger four-door sedan

1960 Cadillac 62 Series Convertible

1960 Ford Starliner Fred Lorenzen

1960 Studebaker Champ 4x4 pickup

1960 Lincoln Landau and Coupe

1960 Studebaker Hawk

1960 Oldsmobile Indy 500 pace car

1960 Corvair 700 Sedan

1960 Chevrolet Bel Air two-door sedan

1960 Mercury Colony Park Wagon

1960 Mercury Park Lane four-door hardtop

1960 Chevrolet Bel Air Sport Coupe

1960 Ford Thunderbird Convertible

1960 Valiant

1960 Buick Invicta Sport Coupe

1960 Dodge Sweptline Pickup

1960 Willys Jeep Gala

1960 Chrysler 300F

1960 DeSoto Canada

1960 Ford Station Wagon

1960 Dodge Matador Hardtop Sedan

1960 Mercury Comet

1960 International Travelall

1960 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Sport Sedan

1960 Ford Falcon two-door sedan

1960 Chrysler New Yorker two-door hardtop

5 thoughts on “The Year in Cars: 1960

  1. Thanks MCG. I think this era of cars is most important to me, growing up at this time. I can’t think of any other time in history, where there were so many choices. I just think how hard it was to make a choice, unlike today, where a car is just a car.
    Just a note on the Renault, and why it was so popular. There was still a huge anti WW2 sentiment towards cars from Italy, Germany, or Japan. My old man, who fought in Germany and France, wouldn’t buy one of those cars to save his soul, and had several Renault’s, even though, the VW was clearly a better small car.( not that there was anything wrong with the Renault) It wasn’t until the children of those that fought in WW2 were able to drive and buy cars, did that sentiment begin to dissolve.

  2. I love the 1960 Chrysler and DeSoto but I’ve always felt that 1960 and 1961 were bad years for automotive design. 1959 was a radical years of design change but still carried over some of the excess of the Fifties. After that, cars were confused looking or exceptionally bland as designers tried to figure out what to do with this new lower, slimmer profile. By 1962, things started to come together.

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