10 Most Popular Cars in the 1960s (With Pictures)
One thing about cars is that technology and design are always changing. However, even with fancy new vehicles coming out today, there are still some that are forever etched in our minds. A great span of years for the vehicle industry was the 1960s. It was a time of innovation and advancement.
Some of the best-selling cars in the 1960s are no longer available, making them more iconic and classic for those who enjoy a classic car.
The 10 Most Popular Cars in the 1960s
1. Ford Mustang
|First production year:||1964½|
While still in concept, the Ford Mustang actually had several other potential names, such as Cougar, Thunderbird 2, and Torino. John Najjar, a huge fan of World War II fighter planes, suggested Mustang after the P-51 Mustang fighter plane.
The first prototypes were developed in 1962 and 1963. The car started as a two-seater compact car, then turned into a four-seater one. Finally, in 1964, approximately five months before the normal production for 1965 began, production started for the 1964½ model of the Ford Mustang.
2. Chevrolet Corvette
|First production year:||1953|
The Chevrolet Corvette, otherwise simply known as a ‘Vette in much of North America, is one of the original sporty, luxurious passenger cars in American history. This Chevy model began production in late 1953 as a show car. After it was widely accepted, mass production began late that year.
In the late 1950s, the ‘Vette got a nice body upgrade, which carried it through to 1962 when Chevrolet revealed the second generation of Corvette cars. In addition to a redesign, Chevy also released the Sting Ray as part of the Corvette line. This gave a few more options for what options were available. During this production generation, the car was also available as a convertible or nonconvertible.
3. Dodge Charger
|First production year:||1966|
While other brands around them were entering the market with upsized pony cars, Dodge wasn’t really producing anything like that. However, in 1966 they exploded onto the market with the Dodge Charger—another iconic car when one thinks of old American muscle cars.
Their first two generations were much shorter than the typical one at the time. This was probably due to the lack of sales in the first year. But even though the Dodge Charger was not one of the best-selling cars in the 1960s doesn’t change how iconic it is.
The first generation ran from 1966 to 1967, and then the second generation from 1968 to 1970. This gave fans of Dodge two different redesigns to enjoy in the 1960s. Throughout these models, Dodge offered several engines, such as their 5.2L V8 and the Hemi V8.
4. Ford Bronco
|First production year:||1960|
Chevy had the Bronco, Jeep its Cherokee, and International had the Scout. So, Ford answered with the Ford Bronco. The Bronco is such an iconic vehicle that even though production stopped in 1996, it was revived and brought back in 2021.
The 1960s Ford Bronco was available in three styles: two-door wagon, open-body roadster, and half-cab pickup. Originally it was only offered in a three-speed manual transmission, which helped keep the costs lower. The first models were equipped with Ford’s 170 cubic-inch inline-six engine. Then in 1966, Ford put the 200 horsepower V8 engine in the Bronco.
5. Chevrolet Camaro
|First production year:||1967|
The Ford Mustang exploded in popularity with its 1964½ release. So, a few years later, Chevrolet answered the competition with their pony car, the Camaro. And it held its own. To this day, Chevy is still producing the Camaro.
The first styles available in the Camaro were a two-door coupe and a convertible model. The standard engine option was a 3.8L inline-six. However, several other V8 options were available if someone wanted the extra jam. Another great feature of the early Camaros was that they could borrow parts from the Chevy Nova, making it convenient for both vehicles’ owners.
6. Buick Riviera
|First production year:||1963|
The Buick Riviera was General Motors’ (GM) first dive into the luxury car segment. And they sure made a splash with this iconic car. One thing that stood out about the Riviera is that it was a fairly substantial departure from what GM typically produced.
The Riviera was available as a hardtop, two-door coupe for the entirety of its production run (through to the 2010s). Although body styling and design changed significantly throughout the years, GM always maintained that classic luxury look. One thing that led to the Riviera being one of the best-selling cars in the 1960s was that production was limited to only 40,000 of Buick’s 440,000 in its first year. This was a key factor in increasing the demand for this luxury car.
7. Pontiac GTO
|First production year:||1964|
The Pontiac GTO was originally a package option for Pontiac Lemans in 1964. This package included upgrades to the engine, transmission, and suspension. Then, the following year, the Pontiac Tempest line came out, and the GTO was an option again. Due to its popularity, the Pontiac GTO finally became its own model in 1966.
The GTO was available in three styles: hardtop, sport coupe, and convertible. The hardtop was the most popular style by a long shot. When the second generation of GTO was released in 1968, the car was transformed. The hard, sharp lines of the first-generation body style became much softer and rounder, giving it a whole new look. Even with fierce competition from other brands like Ford, Dodge, and Plymouth, the GTO won the Car of the Year award in 1968.
8. Ford Thunderbird
|First production year:||1954|
One of the best-selling cars in the 1960s is the Ford Thunderbird, or as many people know it, the T-Bird. Even people who are not super knowledgeable about older vehicles would likely be able to point out a Thunderbird.
Production on the Thunderbird began in the 1950s, but the third generation kicked off in the 1960s with a unique bullet-like shape with sleek, sharp lines. It was a loved design because, in its first year of the third gen, sales were over 70,000 for the year. Later in the 1960s, the T-Bird underwent another redesign that brought back some of those boxy lines that had made it famous in the first place.
9. Lincoln Continental
|First production year:||1940|
Due to declining sales, Continental discontinued production after the 2020 model year. However, that doesn’t mean that the Lincoln Continental wasn’t one of the best-selling cars in the 1960s. This car had three generations before the 1960s to get the car perfect. Then the fourth generation lasted nearly a decade, from 1961 to 1969.
For its 1961 model year, Lincoln consolidated all their lines into one car: the Continental. At first, it was only available as a sedan. But a few years later, when the generation got a mid-cycle refresh, you could get it as a coupe and a four-door convertible.
One fun fact about the Continental was that from 1964 to 1965, the car featured a vertical steering wheel adjustment. For the time, this was an unusual feature for a vehicle to have. That and the rear doors opened backward, known as “suicide doors.”
10. Chevrolet Impala
|First production year:||1958|
The Impala got its start in 1958. However, it was in its third generation by 1961. But the release of the Impala SS marked a solid new leap for the car. It featured several upgrades over previous Impalas, such as improved suspension, bigger engine options, and upgraded wheels and brakes.
The fourth generation Impala started in 1965 and was another generation of improvement and redesign. One significant addition to these Impalas was a luxury package called “Caprice.” This upgrade included wood grain accents, tufted upholstery, and specialty interior door handles.
As different car manufacturers fought to find their own niche in a quickly crowded market, many vehicles shared a lot of similarities, and competition was fierce. But the best-selling cars in the 1960s sold that well for a reason: each one offered something that was just a little bit unique compared to its competitor.
- Related Read: The 10 Most Popular Classic Cars
Featured Image Credit: Alkhalidi, Pixabay