In the latest edition of the Year in Cars, Mac’s Motor City Garage explores a pivotal year for the Detroit auto industry: 1965.
Three important trends in the Motor City for model year 1965:
+ After its sucesssful debut at the 1964 World’s Fair, the ’65 Ford Mustang proved to be a smash hit in the showrooms, selling an unheard-of one million units in its first 18 months of production. Plymouth, Mercury, Chevrolet, Pontiac, American Motors, and Dodge piled on with their own sporty 2+2 compacts, and the pony car category was born—which lives to this day.
+ The low-priced three—Chevrolet, Ford, and Plymouth—all introduced maxed-out, luxury versions of their full-size sedans: the Ford LTD, Chevrolet Caprice, and Plymouth VIP. These models offered posh interior trim and the full list of power accessories and convenience features, but housed in a low-cost platform with a lower entry fee than the equivalent Cadillac, Lincoln, or Imperial. These new econo-luxe full-size models blurred the traditional distinctions between family and luxury sedans, cannibalizing sales of the latter.
+ In 1964, Pontiac had developed the first true muscle car with the GTO, cramming a 389 cubic-inch V8 into an intermediate-sized chassis and striking a nerve with young, performance-obsessed buyers. The idea sold well enough that Pontiac promoted the GTO from option package to stand-alone model for 1965. Meanwhile, Chevrolet, Buick, and Oldsmobile introduced their own variations on the General Motors A-body/big-block V8 theme, and Ford, Chrysler, and even AMC would soon follow. The muscle car wars were on.
Chevrolet once again topped the charts in 1965 with 2.3 million units sold, while Ford continued to hold the number two slot with 2.1 million deliveries. But Pontiac actually held the third spot through much of the ’60s, forcing Plymouth from its traditional place just behind Chevy and Ford. Plymouth would ultimately regain third place in 1970, but in the brand’s history never reached one million in sales. Poor little Studebaker, now based in Hamilton, Ontario, could not manage 20,000 units in 1965, and would soon be gone. You can find interesting examples of all these cars and more in the gallery below.