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HELP--looking for reliable 50-60s family "classic".

rea98drea98d Posts: 982
Is to have only 2-5 words in the title, and save the details for the message itself.
As far as a car, My suggestion would be a 57 Chevrolet 210 sedan. It's a lower trim line of the Bel Air, so there's plenty of parts to keep it going. The only real styling differences is that the Bel Air had a gold grille and chrome on the tail fins, while the 210 had a chrome grille and painted tail fins. There were other differences, but those are the only ones a layman will notice, and the car is a lot cheaper than a "real" Bel Air.


  • Longest title I've ever seen...
  • larkbilllarkbill Posts: 1
    The obvious choice for reliability and parts availability is something from Ford or Chevy, but let me make a less obvious suggestion. Studebaker. Not only are parts very available, but you also have the added attraction of driving something totally different than everyone else. There is everything from supercharged muscle cars to family style daily drivers and the largest single marque car club in the country for support. Check out and travel the web ring. You'll find everything from the roughest project cars to show-ready #1's. Just be ready to tinker, but then, that's the case with all older cars. If you are not ready to get your hands dirty then stick to the current models.
  • kinleykinley Posts: 854
    a 65,66,67,or68 Ford Country Sedan or Squire. They came with up to a 390 c.i. V8, AT, PS, PB and parts are very available. The Squire had wall paper on the sides and back whereas the Sedan was painted. Our 67 Country Sedan with the 390 was a favorite for a long time.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,847
    Chrysler is the way to go. Mopars usually had more interior room than comparable cars from Ford and GM. The upshot of this is that the cars themselves were often phyically larger, as well. For example, a '65 Dart, a compact, is about the same size inside as a '65 Chevelle, an intermediate. It's also an inch longer, so sometimes the difference between compact and intermediate can be a fine line.

    All Mopars except Imperial went to Unibody construction for 1960 (Imperial joined for '67), so rust damage can be more critical than body-on-frame cars. However, I've seen my fair share of full-frame cars with the rails rusted through. If you want bulletproof reliability though, it doesn't get much better than a Mopar slant six, smallblock or bigblock coupled to a Torqueflite transmission.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,404
    How about a nice "classic" GM (Chevy, Buick, Olds) full size station wagon from the 1960s? They are practical and reliable and going up in value, and easily more attractive than wagons offered by Ford or the "orphan" makes (Studebaker or Rambler). Much better cars, too.

    Owning an older car has enough hassles, you don't need to be scrounging for parts for the orphan makes, and nothing beats GM cars of the 60s for parts availability and junk cars to use in restoration work. They will also hold their value better than the competitors from that era.

    Second choice would be a 60s Jeep Station Wagon (NOT Wagoneer!) or a 60s full size convertible or two door hardtop from GM. You can shop for sedans, since they are the cheapest body style to buy, but they are also not as attractive and will not retain value as well as the other types.


  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,847
    If you have a Chevy, parts are a breeze, but it seems like anything else (Buick, Olds, a non-GTO Pontiac) is an orphan by comparison. Not as bad of an orpan as a DeSoto (I can't even find a molded radiator hose for mine!), Edsel, Studebaker, Kaiser, Nash, Hudson, etc, but still can be a hassle.

    GM had a tendency to change their parts every couple of years. For example, when I needed ball joints for my '67 Catalina, I found out that the only ones that were compatible were '67-68 Pontiacs. Not Chevy, Olds, or Buick. And not a '66 Pontiac, nor a '69.

    OTOH, if I need ball joints for my '68 Dart, the ball joints for any '67-76 drum-brake A-body will fit. I know on the disk brake setup, one of the ball joints (can't remember if it's upper or lower) is different.

    I agree with Shifty, though, on GM wagons. I may prefer Mopars, but I think GM (Pontiac especially) made some of the best looking wagons in the 60's!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,404
    And I much prefer the 60s. American cars from the late 50s were generally pretty badly built all across the board. Very crude and clunky. 60s cars are more harmonious, more modern and better engineered I think.


  • ndancendance Posts: 323
    The parts situation is obviously way better + less mysterious interchange. For a larger car, if push came to shove, I'd look for an Impala convertible (73 or prior, to avoid smog here in CA). You get the whole small block chevy, turbo 400, 12 bolt enchilada...decent looks...and I think convertibles are really the way to go as far as fun and cost/benefits.

    I admit that ragtops cost more from the get-go, but I would prefer to invest money in paint, mechanical stuff, etc in a convertible than a wagon (as an example).
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    but Chevy and Ford ragtops are really expensive compared to other brands. Of course, there's an upside to that--they're more expensive because more people like them so they're better investments, have more parts available and are easier to sell.

    But if you're looking for bang for the buck, then a Buick, Olds or Mercury convertible from the '60s is the way to go. You're actually getting more car (or at least more stuff) than a Chevy or Ford and for less money. You get a Turbo 400 instead of a Powerglide, a 400 CID engine instead of a 283 or 327, better quality interiors and more options.

    I've had three four-speed Impalas over the years so I like Chevies but for a relatively low-cost collectible I think the Buick-Olds-Pontiac cars are the way to go.

    Just my two cents.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,847
    I'd have to second Speedshift's choice ;-)
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Pontiacs are great too but they have much more of a following than the Buick, Olds, Mercury or the full-size Mopars. So you're going to pay more for a Pontiac although I think it's money well spent. These were really nicely styled cars, both inside and out, with plenty of performance.

    But they're huge. Probably a GM intermediate would be a more practical choice, not a musclecar convertible but something with a small V8. LeMans, Skylark or Cutlass, preferably with the Turbo 350.

    Early Fairlanes and Comets don't seem to have caught on with collectors and the 289 is a great, durable engine. A few years ago I saw a mint red-on-red '63 Comet convertible, 260 four speed, buckets and console, for sale for I think $4500 that I thought would make a great fun car for not much money. Back in the day I would have laughed at the car--heck, when I was in high school that was a $500 car--but now it looks like lots of cheap fun.

    And the great thing about early Comets is that they're easy to work on because they're crude--no moving parts.
  • ndancendance Posts: 323
    Specifically I'd say a good deal for the money is a 1968-1972 Cutlass convertible. Cars with 455's would go for a premium but the 350 cars don't run too badly.

    I've always been a big fan of GM A-bodies. They really handle and stop pretty well (even by modern standards), hold a lot of stuff/people, and really 'feel' pretty decent when driven.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Personally I think the '68-72 GM intermediates are maybe the highpoint of Detroit iron, before or since. Not that they're world beaters, but they're good cars in many ways.

    Great styling, quality interiors, nice instrument layouts, competant drivetrains, not too big or too small, hundreds of thousands sold and many still around, ready availability of parts and buyers, interesting options, good ride and handling.

    The Cutlass convertible is a great choice. It was a big seller and there should be plenty still around. Even a Vista Cruiser would be interesting. That's the wagon with windows in the raised roof over the rear. Maybe the sharpest wagon around except for the Nomad/Safari. You could pack plenty of people into one, especially with the rear seat option.

    For a family car I'd go with the 350. The 455 was available on non-442s toward the end and has a lot more torque but I'd be concerned about mpg.

    I will say that these convertibles probably aren't for people who demand that their cars feel as solid as a bank vault. I had '65 Tempest and '67 Le Mans convertibles and they felt a little limp even by '60s standards. Maybe the later ones are better.

    The GM intermediate hardtops and especially the sedans feel tight and more refined than the competition. Maybe they were designed better or maybe they just had more sound deadening material--they are heavy.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,847
    I've always liked the style of them, but didn't like the split wheelbase. The coupes and convertibles were on a short 112" wheelbase, and I actually find them to be kind of tight inside. Now, if you're not 6'3" like me, you won't have a problem. Still, they're a better choice than the '73-77 intermediates, which were on the same wheelbase, but for the most part underpowered and even heavier.

    I think my favorites, just going by style, are the '64-67 intermediates. I especially liked the Pontiac and Olds...just something about their styling made them look a lot bigger than they really were.

    I wonder if the reason the GM mid-sizers back then felt more solid an refined than the competition had to do with their full-perimeter frames. Chrysler and Ford were using unitized bodies at that time for their intermediates, although I think Ford switched back to full-frame around 1972. From about 1966 to '71, though, the Falcon and Fairlane/Comet/Montego/Torino shared the same platform.
  • ndancendance Posts: 323
    I'm going to guess its the difference between a Chevelle and a Monte Carlo (which is what, 3 inches or so?, maybe more).

    For what it's worth, A body convertibles have different frames than non-convertibles. I imagine there's scads of frame reinforcing gizmos in the aftermarket which would significantly stiffen one of those cars.

    They (A-bodies) are all sort of flexi-flyers. On an LS6 Chevelle, for instance, I swear you can see the car twist when really hammered (the car that is). Supposedly, the car twists enough to cause the stock Muncie linkage to bind, although I've never had that happen.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,847
    refers to platforms where they'd put the coupes and convertibles on a shorter wheelbase than the sedans to give them a sportier, more nimble look. GM started the trend in 1968 with the A-bodies, having a 116" wb for the sedans and 112" for the coupes and 'verts. Chrysler followed suit for 1971 with its intermediates, and Ford in '72, I think, with the Montego/Torino.

    Cars like the Monte Carlo and A-body Grand Prix were on the longer 116" wb (I think the Grand Prix was actually 118-119 for its first few years as an intermediate), but I believe the additional length was all ahead of the firewall. It gave you a nice, long hood, but no more interior room than a Malibu or Tempest coupe.

    Are you sure the A-body convertibles actually have a different frame? I've never paid much attention to the A-bodies in particular, but most 'verts, from what I've seen, have an X-member that connects the outer frame rails and cradles the driveshaft, and sometimes a bulkhead that runs under the back seat, connecting the sides of the car. I'd always thought it was the same frame though, just with some reinforcements added.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    I seem to remember that the convertible frame was boxed, with no X member.
  • ndancendance Posts: 323
    It never occurred to me that 4 door Chevelles are a longer wheelbase (I just think of them as parts cars anyway). El Caminos are also boxed and are the longer (116") variety, I think.

    I guess to a restorer it probably gets hairier yet (oddballs like Z16 for instance).
  • ndancendance Posts: 323
    Checking out a '1970 Chevelle, Monte Carlo, and El Camino Assembly Manual'. This shows three possible frames (3960739 for all models except 13857 and 13867, 3960625 for model 13857, 3967787 for model 13867 ) with two possible 'support arms' (a kind of cross member) (3949149 normally vs 3949150 for convertible and pickup). The convertible/pickup part seems to be bolted in about 6 inches further back for some reason.
  • If your careful with your choice this can be a fun way to invest money. Most vehicles on the market are depreciating as they sit, but the 50-60 Classics are increasing in value. If your careful about what you purchase do your research and don't sink to much money into restoration. Your vehicle can be a daily driver as well as an investment in your families future. See more at
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