Pontiac was red hot in 1968 with a full lineup of popular models, from Firebird to GTO to Bonneville. Watch the division proudly boost its product line in this short GM promotional film.
REVISED AND EXPANDED: With sharp management by a succession of savvy, enthusiastic car guys, including Bunkie Knudsen, Pete Estes, and John DeLorean, Pontiac was on a roll in the 1960s. Knudsen laid the course for Pontiac when he took over the struggling GM division back in 1956: youth, performance, and style. “You can sell a young man’s car to an old man,” Knudsen famously said, “but you can’t sell an old man’s car to a young man.” It was a powerful insight on the postwar American car market we’ve repeated often.
By 1968, Pontiac had securely staked out the number three slot in the sales charts, trailing only market leaders Chevrolet and Ford. With red hot performance models like the GTO, Firebird, and Grand Prix, and popular family haulers including the Catalina and the Le Mans, the Pontiac brand nudged hard up against the million-unit sales mark that year. In this four-minute promotional clip entitled Off and Running, the ’68 model lineup is given a surprisingly low-key sales pitch. Low key for Pontiac, anyway—which just goes to show what confidence can do. Video follows.
Article courtesy of Mac's motor City Garage.
For 1963, Oldsmobile sailed perilously close to Cadillac waters with a new flagship model, the 98 Luxury Sedan.
This is not the typical ’60s car commercial: No brass bands, straw hats, or striped blazers. Oldsmobile took a decidedly low-key approach in this 1963 campaign, relying on understated black-and-white still photography and museum-guide narration to tell the story of the new Lansing flagship that season, the 98 Luxury Sedan.
Note also the posh setting: the Orpheus Fountain at the Cranbrook Institute of Art in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills. Motor City carmakers—Olds, Buick, Lincoln, Packard, and Hudson, to name a few—have often employed Cranbrook as a backdrop in their ad campaigns, especially when the themes include luxury and exclusivity, and the practice continues to this day.
Just one body style was offered for the 98 Luxury Sedan, also marketed as the LS: a six-window, four-door hardtop that shared its basic C-body shell with Cadillac and Buick Electra. At $4,300, the LS was solidly in the Buick price range, and with its long list of optional equipment and premium features, the new Olds was edging close to Cadillac territory as well. Sales were brisk at nearly 20,000 units, as fully loaded models in the near-luxury class continued to erode the exclusive market niche once enjoyed by the traditional luxury brands. Buyers discovered they could now obtain the same comfort and features in the lower-priced models, and this clip plays to that angle with its depictions of “the ultimate in limousine comfort” and “lush, deep-pile carpeting.” Video below.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
By the tail end of the 1960s production-based racing was big business for automakers, and the mantra of “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” was a crucial strategy for marketing road-going high-performance machines. Low-slung models like the Chevrolet Corvette and AMC Javelin duked it out on road courses while Hemi ‘Cudas and Mustang Boss 429s went toe to toe at the drag strip, many with factory backing on some level. But perhaps nowhere was the competition as heated as it was on America’s high-speed ovals.
After Chrysler had determined that the Dodge Charger 500 wasn’t going to compete in superspeedway races due to its inherent issues with aerodynamic drag, they headed back to the wind tunnel in search of a more radical design. This would result in the Charger Daytona and its Plymouth counterpart, the Superbird. These “wing cars”, as they came to be known, would immediately begin terrorizing NASCAR racing, with a Daytona winning its first race out at the Talladega 500 and achieving unprecedented top speeds.
Models like the 1969 Cyclone Spoiler homologation car shown here helped Ford and Mercury keep the winged Mopars from winning the Grand National event in 1969 – David Pearson took the title in a ’69 Talladega – but after Bobby Allison and Bobby Isaac won five of the last six races in the season between them in Dodge Charger Daytona, it was clear that the Ford camp had their work cut out for them. This was compounded by the fact the upcoming redesign of the Mercury Cyclone and Ford Tornio for 1970 was notably less aerodynamic than the outgoing machine. If the Ford and Mercury teams were going to stay competitive with this new breed of Chryslers, it was going to take more than a front splitter and a rear deck wing | Wiki Commons photo
Ford was concerned – and rightfully so. Wind tunnel testing had shown that the 1970 Torino Sportsroof wasn’t going to be as fast as the outgoing ’69 model, so it was clear some dramatic aerodynamic changes were needed if the Torino Talladega and its Mercury counterpart, the Cyclone Spoiler, were going to give Chrysler’s wing cars a run for their money.
During spring of 1969, Larry Shinoda, director of Ford’s Special Design Center, got his staff together to begin working on an aero kit for the Torino and Cyclone that would serve as a counterpunch to these wild new Mopars. Mercury’s version would be known as the 1970 Cyclone Spoiler II. It would ultimately become one of the rarest Mercury muscle cars of all time.
FoMoCo’s Answer To The Wing Cars
Shinoda’s team included stylist Harvey Winn, who had previously helped Dodge design the sheet metal for the second-generation Charger, and Ed Hall of race engineering firm, Kar Kraft. The motorsports specialists at Holman Moody were also tapped for the project to oversee the engine and suspension development on the racing side.
As had been the case with the Daytona and Superbird, in order to make the race car eligible for use in the NASCAR series, Ford and Mercury would need to produce a number of road-going examples of their new racing machines.
Like the Dodge Charger Daytona and Plymouth Superbird, the idea behind the Cyclone Spoiler II's outlandish front clip was to cut through the air with minimal drag while reducing front end lift at the speeds the race cars would see during competition. Ford and Mercury’s designers wanted to take a more comprehensive approach than Dodge and Plymouth had with their aero cars - which had their front clips essentially tacked on to a standard car - by totally designing the bodywork from the firewall forward | Photography from Legendary Collector Cars / Richard Fleener
Planned as 1970 models, these homologation specials would share much of the bodywork and fundamental design with the standard Cyclone and Torino road cars, but with an entirely new front end from the firewall forward, that was designed to cut through the air with minimal drag. The Blue oval’s Boss 429 big block would serve as the top-spec motor for the new models.
The sole surviving Cyclone Spoiler II is outfitted with a Boss 429 street motor with 10.5:1 compression, forged pistons, a dual-plane aluminium intake, and a Holley 750 CFM carburettor. The combination is said to be good for 375 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque | Legendary Collector Cars / Richard Fleener photo
The project got underway with haste in spring of 1969 and by the summer, Ford was already out testing prototypes at Daytona. While Ford and Mercury appeared to be on track to bring the race and road cars into production in time for the upcoming season, unforeseen issues quickly began to mount.
For the 1969 race season, manufacturers had been required to build a minimum of 500 road-going examples of their race car. Development of these cars was often relatively expensive and the resulting sales were often lukewarm at best – race cars rarely make for great street cars, after all. But for the OEMs it was a necessary evil – even built at a loss, these models served a larger purpose in their marketing efforts, and 500 cars wasn’t an especially tough pill to swallow for large automakers.
However, once NASCAR president Bill France caught wind of Ford and Mercury’s plan to one-up the winged Mopars, he decided he’d had enough of the automakers’ shenanigans and revised the homologation rules, raising the minimum number of production cars from 500 to 3000 in a deliberate effort to coax automakers into returning to more conventional stock car designs.
While the road-going version of the 1970 Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II would wear a unique nose, everything from the firewall back was more or less standard Cyclone Spoiler hardware. The 429 Cobra Jet with Ram Air was the standard engine for the Cyclone Spoiler production car, while the 429 Super Cobra Jet mill with Drag Pak and Super Drag Pak packages was available as well | Legendary Collector Cars / Richard Fleener photos
While that alone might have been enough to derail Ford and Mercury’s strategy to regain dominance in the series in the upcoming race season, internal shifts within FoMoCo were also working against the Cyclone Spoiler II and Torino King Cobra projects.
By the summer of 1969 internal strife was brewing between the two camps of Ford president Bunkie Knudsen and Henry Ford II. By September Ford had fired Knudsen, and with Shinoda being firmly within the Knudsen tribe, he was dismissed by the VP of design, Gene Borndinat, two weeks later.
The team working on the ’70 Cyclone Spoiler II’s Ford counterpart, the Torino King Cobra (seen here), was roughly two months ahead of the Mercury project in terms of development. As a result, a few more King Cobras managed to get assembled and out the door compared to Mercury’s aero car | RK Motors photo
With Shinoda out of the picture, his team’s projects were largely left to languish and combined with the new NASCAR homologation rule, the fate of the Cyclone Spoiler II and Torino King Cobra were in serious jeopardy.
The final nail in the coffin for the program came when Knudsen’s replacement, Lee Iacocca, decided to slash Ford’s motorsport budget by 75-percent, effectively bringing an end to the two models before production began. Just a handful of Torino King Cobra prototypes would be built – most estimates put the number at five cars.
The Cyclone Spoiler II project was roughly 60 days behind the Torino team and just two examples had been completed before they pulled the plug. According to NASCAR team owner Bud Moore – who would acquire a pair of the Torino King Cobra prototypes 1971 – one of the Cyclone Spoiler II cars was destroyed while the other came into the possession of Lincoln-Mercury vice president Mose Lane.
Steve Honnell, an engineer who had been a service specialist for Lincoln-Mercury from 1964-1974, ended up purchasing another one of the Torino King Cobra prototypes from Holman Moody shortly after the program got the axe. Years later his friend Larry Shinoda mentioned in passing that the lone surviving Cyclone Spoiler II had ended up with Mose Lane.
Steve Honnell’s painstaking efforts to rescue and restore the derelict machine, which was found in rough shape in a barn on an Amish farm in Indiana, ensured that this important piece of Mercury history wasn’t lost to the passage of time | Flickr / Richard Fleener photo
After an exhaustive search, Honnell ended up at the farm of an Amish family in Indiana that had purchased the land from Lane’s estate after he passed away. Out in a remote barn on the property was a thoroughly worn out 1970 Mercury Cyclone with an experimental VIN, along with Boss 429, four-speed, 4.57 Detroit Locker, and “429 SP” special production stickers under the hood. Honnell purchased the car and quickly set to work bringing the Mercury back to life.
He completed the five-year restoration just in time for Ford’s 100th anniversary in 2003. Today, Honnell’s Cyclone Spoiler II serves as the only original example of what Mercury’s 1970 NASCAR season could have looked like had the Aero Wars not come to an untimely end.
Article courtesy of Street Muscle Magazine, written by Bradley Iger.
With its clean lines and Corinthian leather, the Cordoba is one of the Chrysler brand’s more memorable cars, but it was originally designed as a Plymouth. Here’s the story of The New Small Car From Chrysler for 1975.
In the early 1970s, the Chrysler Corporation’s namesake Chrysler division was in real danger. From a peak of nearly 261,000 units in 1969, sales of the automaker’s senior car brand tumbled to a mere 117,000 cars in 1974—hardly enough to keep the lights on.
The division’s big luxury sedans, all based on the corporation’s massive C-body platform, weren’t selling, in a nutshell. To expand and recharge the model line, product planners took a bold step. They lifted a project from the company’s Plymouth division—a proposed personal luxury coupe based on the smaller Satellite/Sebring package. With some minor changes in trim, features, and badges, the Plymouth became the 1975 Chrysler Cordoba.
Built on the corporation’s B-body intermediate platform with a 115-inch wheelbase, the Cordoba was designed by the Chrysler B-Body Studio staff headed by Allen Kornmiller, a veteran of Ford, AMC and Chrysler. The exterior embraced all the familiar styling cues of the personal luxury category: long hood and short deck, Mercedes-style grille, formal roofline, opera windows, and crisp, cultured body lines. While the styling broke no new ground, the Cordoba’s classy execution made it one of the cleaner examples of the breed.
Introduced on September 4, 1974, the ’75 Cordoba was offered in only one body style, the Model 22 two-door coupe. Choices included two available vinyl tops, halo or landau, and three V8 engines: 318 CID, 360 CID, and a 400 CID big-block V8, all coupled to the company’s trusty TorqueFlite automatic transmission. There was also long list of comfort and luxury options, of course. With a base price of $5,072, slightly more than a Chevy Monte Carlo but significantly less than a Pontiac Grand Prix, the Cordoba flew out of the Chrysler showrooms right from the start. Billed as “the new, small Chrysler,” the model sold more than 150,000 units in its first year, accounting for 60 percent of the division’s total volume of 251,000 cars in ’75.
One of the key focus points of the red-hot personal-luxury class of the 1970s was the cabin, the driver’s seat in particular. Here the Cordoba didn’t disappoint, with instruments and controls clustered tightly around the driver and a choice of three-wide bench seating or bucket seats with console. Buyers could also choose between classic ’70s velour fabrics or the “rich Corinthian leather” of song and story, as shown above. (Watch the original Cordoba TV commercial with actor Ricardo Montalbán here.)
Thanks to the brisk demand, the Cordoba received only modest trim changes for the first several years, followed by a minor facelift in 1978 to include trendy rectangular headlamps. But by then, Cordoba sales were slipping, a trend that was not reversed by a complete redesign for 1980 on the Chrysler J-body platform (a stretched Volare/Aspen, essentially) and the Cordoba name was dropped in 1983. The industry had taken a new direction, and Chrysler, too: to K-cars, front-wheel drive, and minivans.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.