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1964 Cars


The Sixties
1960s Classic Cars

1964 Cars

THE U.S. auto industry was hampered by strikes and parts shortages in 1964 but finished the calendar year with near-record production and sales figures. According to final, unofficial tabulations by Automotive News, 7,746,000 passenger cars rolled off the lines. That made it the second best calendar year in U.S. automotive history, second only to the 7,941,538 cars built and 7,920,186 sold in 1955. In 1963, the figures were 7,644,377 and 7, 637,728 respectively.

At the start of the year, practically every automotive executive confidently predicted U.S. assembly plants would built and sell a new record of 8,000,000 cars. The industry’s negotiations with the AFL-CIO United Auto Workers (UAW) on new three-year contracts running until September, 1967, threw some major roadblocks in the path to that goal.

General Motors (GM) was hit September 25 by a nationwide strike. Ten days later, terms on a national settlement were reached. But unsettled local issues kept GM plants shut down until October 27. Similar local strikes later plagued Ford. It was not until November 23 that the industry’s main labor troubles ended. On that date the national Ford-UAW contract was signed. Chrysler, the first of the Big Three–GM,Ford, and Chrysler–to come to terms with the UAW, escaped with practically no labor trouble for the year. The GM settlement came after President Lyndon B. Johnson had said that a continuation of the strike would not be in the national interest. American Motors Corporation (AMC), the fourth largest U.S. auto maker, was hampered by some local plant strikes but escaped a company-wide shutdown. It worked out an agreement with the UAW on modifications and continuation of the profit-sharing plan adopted in 1961 by AMC and the UA.

Loss of Production from the strikes cost GM and Ford over 400,000 units. But when labor peace was restored, both companies used overtime operations generously to recoup as much as possible of the lost production before year’send. The industry’s December factory assemblies exceeded 870,000 cars, a new high for any month on record.

Amid the labor turmoil, Chrysler was able to push ahead strongly,continuing its spectacular comeback of 1963. For the full calendar year, it expanded its share of total assemblies of passenger cars from 13.6 per cent in the 1963 period to 16.0 per cent. Ford gained from 25.6 to 25.6 to 27.7; GM dropped to 51.1 from 53.4; and AMC fell to 5.1 from 6.3 per cent in 196.

In the Showrooms, a late November-December selling push by U.S. dealers was aimed at sending retail sales to a new calendar year high of 7,550,000 cars.The record of 7,408,000 domestically made cars sold in the U.S. market had been set in 1955.

While domestic car makers had their troubles, imports fared well.U.S. dealers in foreign cars predicted sales of over 480,000 well ahead of the 386,000 they sold in 1963, but not up to record 1959 when they sold 614,000 imports. Combined domestic and import car retail sales were expected to top out at about 8,030,000 cars– a new high.

The 1965 Line in general was described as “the year of the stylist.”In the minds of the motoring public, engineering changes were subordinated to changes in the overall appearance of the cars. Engines got a bit more power. But car warranties were basically unchanged.

U.S. auto makers offered buyers a choice of 343 new models. GM cars presented softer, curving lines and a racy look; Ford featured sharp,crisp shapes; Chrysler and American Motors added a bit more sweep and roundness to their cars’ sharp contours. Most models grew in length.

If any new model deserved a “car of the year” title, it was Ford’s Mustang. From the day of its off-season introduction on April 17, until year’s end, Ford had turned out 303,275 of the sporty models. Plymouth, too, was well pleased with the reception of its racy Barracuda.

Overseas Activity. Chrysler Corporation,which already controlled Simca in France, bought a $35,000,000 minority interest in Rootes Motors, Ltd., of England in June. Chrysler said it would not increase its 30 per cent stake in the British firm. General Motors and Ford also continued their overseas expansion.

All of the Free World’s auto factories were busy. Their 1964 production, U.S. included, was estimated at 16,200,000 cars. Thus,for the second year in a row, foreign production exceeded that of the U.S. auto maker.

A “Poor Man’s Rolls” was offered the motoring public during the summer, the result of a bit of British industrial teamwork. Rolls-Royce, Ltd., supplied the aluminum, six-cylinder engine, and British Motor Corporation built the body of the new car, the Vanden Plas Princess R. Its selling price was a shade under $5,600, against $15,400 for a Rolls Silver Cloud III. The Princess R was about the size of a Mercedes-Benz, with atop speed of 112 miles an hour.


“Automobile (1964).” Online Table. World Book Advanced. World Book, 2015. Web. 9 June 2015..

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