1950s Classic Cars
“The small car made big news in the automobile field in 1959. After long planning and study, the industry’s “Big Three”-General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler–decided to fight for a share of the growing small-car market. Late in the year, they introduced their”compact cars.” The move opened a three-way battle for sales among the Big Three, the independent U.S. producers of small cars,and foreign manufacturers. Chrysler’s Valiant and Ford’s Falcon both featured conventional six-cylinder front engines. General Motors powered its Corvair with an aluminum six-cylinder rear engine.The compact cars ranged in price from $1,830 to $2,100.
The public appeared to like the small cars. But only a limited number of the new models could be produced, because of the steel strike.Each of the Big Three announced plans to unveil a luxury line of compact cars in 1960.
Small-car producers were undisturbed by Big Three competition. Volkswagen and Renault, the two largest-selling imported cars, reported increased sales in the first months after the Detroit models appeared. But a small drop in the sales of foreign cars was noted late in the year.
American Motors regarded the new competition as an endorsement of its own product, the Rambler. The Studebaker-Packard Corporation announced the addition of a new convertible and station wagon to its 1960 Larks.
Shattered Hopes. Manufacturers, frustrated by the nationwide steel strike, marked off 1959 as the year of “lost opportunity.” The industry’s hopes were buoyed when, contrary to the two previous years, sales spurted upward in the spring. The automobile makers appeared headed for one of their best years. Sales stayed well ahead of the previous year’s levels until the 1960 models appeared. These new models caught the public’s fancy, and dealers reported more orders than they could fill. Then the steel strike cut into steel supplies for the industry.
Auto makers gradually were forced to cut back production. General Motors Corporation shut down operations completely for several weeks.By the end of the year, there was a real shortage of many new models,just when demand was high. Because of this, both production and sales fell well below expectations. Even so, the industry produced about 5,500,000 units, 30 per cent ahead of the previous year. In addition,some 600,000 imported foreign cars were sol.
End of the Edsel. On November 19, the Ford Motor Company discontinued its Edsel line.The line had been developed over a three-year period at a cost of some $250,000,000. Discouraging sales, combined with steel shortages,led to the company’s decision.
The 1960 Superba, a new entry in the passenger car field, was introduced in December. The car will be offered in both sedan and station wagon models by the Checker Motors Corporation of Kalamazoo, Mich. The company’s production previously was limited to taxicabs.”
“Automobile (1959).” Online Table. World Book Advanced. World Book, 2015. Web. 9 June 2015..