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60s-70s big Chevrolets vs. big Fords
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I have a pic of this car somewhere...I'll scan it in sometime if I can find it.
Also, when I was a little kid, we had a '64 Ford Galaxie 4-door sedan. By that time, my Mom had a '68 Impala and my Dad had a beat-up '62 Corvette with a stick shift, which my Mom couldn't drive. My Dad would often take the Impala out, and my Mom wouldn't have anything to drive, so my Granddad found us this '64 Galaxie for something like $70.00. It had a 352 in it. I remember as a kid I hated it, probably some of that GM influence rubbing off from my Dad! Looking back though, I kinda miss it now. After Mom & Dad divorced, that Galaxie got given away to a friend of the family, for his mother to drive, and it ultimately got wrecked.
If you ever get a chance to catch the old black&white episodes of "The Outer Limits", they used '63-64 Ford products throughout that show. In fact, yesterday they had a nice '64 Galaxie 'vert with a floor shifter. Nice!
Body has 205,000 miles; motor has about 115,000 miles.
Front bucket seats are starting to show wear, but otherwise, it's still a fairly solid car and fun to drive. (I've seen replacement 500XL upholstery, but the buckets tend to lose the "shell" look.)
Had it repainted in the late 70's for $350, and it still shines. I've had it since 1969. Paid $750 in 1969, including a new valve job. Car had 46,000 when I bought it. It's part of the family, now.
Special Interest Autos reviewed the 64 Galaxie many years ago, and said the biggest problem for potential buyers is that these cars just do not show their age. Mine could easily pass for 125,000 miles, or less.
I know this is only a random sample, but back in high school/college, I had a 1980 Malibu and a friend of mine had a 1980 Accord. We both got them around the same time. I took the Malibu off the road in 1990, with 100,000 miles on it, partly because it wouldn't pass the emissions test, but also partly because I'd just bought a '69 Dart GT, and couldn't afford the insurance on 2 cars.
Anyway, that Malibu was still on its original engine and tranny...a 229 V-6 and the infamous Turbo-Hydramatic 200C...basically a Chevette tranny that got put behind a variety of engines that it had no right to be...up to the Cadillac 425! As for mechanical failures...well, I had a water pump go out, the alternator, starter, a/c compressor (twice), both rear axles went bad, and it had exhaust work. The body had just started developing a rust spot in the rear quarter panel, just above the bodyside crease. The light blue paint was hopelessly faded on the hood, trunk, and roof, but still looked pretty good on the sides. And it had the front-end from a 1981 Malibu on it (my fault, not the car's ;-) The headliner was sagging, held up by some thin wood strips wedged in the doorjamb trim, the little needle that told you what gear you were in had broken off, and resided just to the left of "P", and the dashboard was cracking in three spots. The carpet pulled loose from the door sill on the passenger side (did that since new), and there was a small tear in the vinyl on the passenger-side door panel. Throw in a few parking lot dings here and there, and that's it.
OTOH, my friend's Accord went through one engine and one tranny, and when the second tranny went out that's when his Dad forced him to get rid of it. It never made it to 100,000. I think it made it to around 90K. It had overheating problems, sudden acceleration (if you could call it that in a car this slow) problems, and had a whole slew of other things go wrong with it. The ignition key had broken off in the slot, and you could start it with anything that made contact...screwdriver, house key, pocket knife, etc. The interior looked like it was used to train pit-bulls for dogfighting. The body actually had HOLES in it. Big ones, too. And huge rust spots coming through the otherwise still-shiny burnt-orange paint that would soon develop into craters.
Now let's talk about acceleration. Okay, my Malibu was a dog, I'll admit it. The closest equivalent I could find a road test to was a 1985 Buick Regal with the 231 and 3-speed automatic...0-60 in 13 seconds. I never actually timed it, but it would walk my friend's Accord like a dog. Fuel mileage? Well, my Malibu would get about 15-16 around town, maybe 22 on the highway. The Accord? Not much better, considering this was supposed to be an economy car. Maybe 20 around town, 25 on the highway. We timed it once from 0-60, with 3 people on board. Took damn near 30 seconds!
Big '70's cars had their faults, to be sure, but the Japanese were far from perfect.
Speaking from personal experience, My '78 Mercury never left me on the side of the road, and other than the A/C, never had any serious issues until the car was 20 years old. I'd hardly call that car unreliable. It may be an oversize ill-handling gas hog, yes, but unreliable it is not. Even when the transmission was losing it after 22 years, it still made it 300 miles to get me home from college. There's not a new car on the market, Foreign or Domestic, that I would expect to do that in. My 78 Mercury is basically 1950's technology, all well proven by 1978. Old and outdated, yes, but she got the job done, and, not counting bad tires blowing out or running out of gas (both my fault), she never once left me on the side of the road.
Prices, junkyard practices and survival rates for late 70s domestics suggest that history is not as much impressed with them as you were with your single car, whereas a Datsun 510 or 240Z can bring a very strong price even today.
Alas, the downside of Japanese cars was body integrity and sheet metal, which was nothing to brag about. At least early 70s American cars hung in there through the ravages of use and weather and age.
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I see big domestic cars from the '70's, Cadillacs, Mercurys, Chevys, Chryslers, all of 'em, puttering around town all the time. Saw an early '70's Ford Galaxie just today. It, like most of the ones I see, are not in the greatest shape, but they are still on the road. I rarely see any Japanese car from that era. To me, that is the test of which car is the most dependable. Which ones will still be around in 30 years, and which ones will have self destructed. Unfortunately, the reliability of 30 years ago doesn't tell us much about the reliability of cars today. However, just like my '78 Grand Marquis, the '03 Grand Marquis is built using decades old technology, (well, if you overlook the fuel injected OHC distributorless V-8 tucked under the hood). It breaks new ground like a Dixie cup, and it's not very glamorous or exotic, but it gets the job done. And I predict a higher percentage of '03 Grand Marquis will be in drivable shape in 2033 than '03 Camrys or Accords. If history gives us any indication, the old fashioned American car will just keep plugging along. I occasionally see American cars from the '60's around, and even knew a girl in High School (not that long ago, I graduated in '98) who had an unrestored 55 Chevy sedan as a daily driver. Her Chevy was in better shape than my Mercury. (Part of that was my own fault, screwing with the carb before I really knew how to adjust it, and getting in fights with trees...) American cars have traditionally been over-engineered. Even today, I hear people complaining about how thin sheetmetal on a Toyota is versus Ford or Chevy. Lots of little things like that add up when talking long term reliability.
In 1980 I had a 1977 Honda Civic hatchback (complete with the goofy Hondamatic transmission) as a daily driver. My parents owned a 1976 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale and 1973 AMC Gremlin. The Oldsmobile was easily the most reliable (and rust resistant) of the three, but it competed in an entirely different market from the Datsuns, Toyotas and Hondas of the day. They weren't a direct threat to the Oldsmobile 88s of the time. If you had suggested to my parents that they trade in their Oldsmobile on a Japanese car they would have looked at you as though you were crazy. Yes, the Japanese imports offered better handling, steering and fuel economy. But for my parents, and many buyers like them, better "handling and steering" meant a pillow soft ride as the car tracked down the interstate and effortless power steering for easy parallel parking. And effective air conditioning and a good stereo were far more important than fuel economy.
The Honda WAS a direct threat to the Gremlin (and Vega and Pinto). And here it was no contest. The Gremlin rusted just as badly as the Honda and was much less reliable. Handling and braking were terrible, gas mileage was inferior and the workmanship of the interior would have embarrassed any self-respecting high-school shop class. The Honda, at least, made it to 100,000 miles (after which it needed an engine rebuild) while the Gremlin conked out at 93,000. After the Japanese conquered the American subcompact market (which also meant driving the Italians, French and British back to their homelands), they went on to attack other market segments.
Count just how many Gremlins, Pintos and Vegas you see on the road today...
In addition, the engine was excessively noisy above ~50 mph. This made driving on the highway unpleasant, particularly on trips, because the engine didn't emit a pleasant sound, as an old Alfa does, but, rather, an annoying drone.
By comparison, the '60 Valiant my parents owned several years earlier was far superior to the Datsun in every respect except fit and finish. While these two cars are in different size classifications, my conclusion was that the Valiant was a significantly better value, despite its older technology. That said, the Datsun 510 was clearly far superior to the Vega and Pinto in terms of mechanical durability, but if you lived in the Rust Belt, the life expectancy was similar for these three cars, due to corrosion. The bodies typically began to show outer signs of rust after, say, 18 - 24 months, and had gaping holes in the fenders and lower panels by the fourth or fifth year.
The compact, mid size, and full size domestic cars had considerably better rust protection than most sub compacts (other than the VW Beetle, which was comparable to the larger domestics in terms of corrosion resistance). This translated into a longer useful life. You could say that the domestics' better corrosion resistance compensated for the higher fuel consumption, to a significant extent, or maybe completely, since depreciation is such a large factor in the cost of ownership. Therefore, it was probably less expensive to drive a Valiant/Dart, Maverick/Comet, or Nova/BOP derivative than a 510.
Yes, but what about that subjective quality that can compensate for so many owner frustrations, character? Didn't the 510 have a lot of character? No, not really. Beetles had character. Fiat 1100s had character. Even Renaults had character. But 510s were virtually devoid of character, in my opinion. They were maybe half a notch above the domestic compacts, which were arguably at the low end of the character spectrum, but, then, for all their faults, the Vega, Pinto, and Gremlin also had a little more character than the larger domestics. The lesson in this, in the case of the 510, is that (relatively) advanced technology doesn't necessary equate with character. After all, the British sports cars had character, but weren't really high tech. Would you agree with this assessment, Shifty?
Japanese cars are still struggling to develop personality. This is what happens when you try to be good at everything but excel at no one thing to make you stand out.
Do you suppose the same could be said of the Jeep 4.0-liter (242-cid) inline-six that the brand has been using for many years now? Chrysler has refined it in many ways, that's for sure, but it must be the company's equivalent of the 350. Very sturdy, but very noisy, gas-hungry, and way outdated as of this moment. All the car magazines these days say that this 4.0-liter six needs replacing soon, as it can't compete anymore. Comments?
I just like all the parts of a car to look nice. At least lately they are covering American V8s with nice ABS plastics and trim, and hiding the plumbing, so that's good. Also, some of the newer high tech V8s from Ford look very very nice from 5 feet away.
An AMC 6 is also not high on my list of works of art, no.
All the American inline sixes look like stationary powerplants. My favorite six is the Jag.
My question, was not the run of the mill Impala and Impala SS from the 60 & 70's kind of slugs? Didn't most have the 327 or, later on, the 305 or 350?
I realize there was some firebreathing SS's in the 60's, but is a FWD Impala really that an affront?
Old Impalas were big heavy cars but you could get them with the 409 and 4-speed. Not superfast by today's standards but for a locomotive sized car it was pretty quick in its day. Otherwise they had the standard V8s engines of the time and more than adequate power at freeway speeds. They' d run out of breath and into aerodynamics issues if they tried to go too fast however, as you might expect from most 60s cars.
I learned to drive on a '66 283 with Powerglide and while it wasn't quick it had good throttle response and did well on the freeway. And if you floored it it make great noises--I distinctly remember the first time I did that.
Later I had a '67 Impala with 327/275 PG and even that wasn't that quick although it had better passing power and again, it was smooth and quiet.
On the other hand I had a '61 Bel Air 283 wagon with stick and even with lots of miles it got up and went pretty well, so the few extra hundred pounds that big Chevies put on later (and a two-speed automatic) took their toll.
That '61 283 helped me see how the lighter '57 Power Pack could be a seriously quick car.
Point taken, but did the Japanese make anything during that era to compare with a Caprice or LTD? In fact, have the ever? I'm not sure the Avalon even counts as a full size car. I'd consider it more on the upper end of the midsize category.
As far as all the ABS plastic covering engines Shifty mentioned, I hate all that junk. What's the purpose of the hood? Cover the engine. So why put a hood underneath the hood? That's the most pointless piece of plastic ever stuck under the engine. Just something else to rip off before you can get to the spark plugs. Think of how much money the automakers could save over the entire production run by not having that. You actually think anyone will say: "Well, Brand X has more features, but it doesn't have an engine cover. Brand Y has an engine cover, so I'm going to buy brand Y even though it costs $3000 more and doesn't have as many options." And to think, in 30 years some sucker is going to be paying $500 for one of those things so his '98 Corvette will be "concourse correct." The first car I buy with one of those plastic engine covers, the cover won;t be leaving the dealership with the rest of the car. End of rant.
You're correct - the Japanese didn't make anything that could really compete with the American full-sizers of the 1960s and 1970s. But most of those cars died off, and the only ones left - the Crown Victoria, Grand Marquis/Marauder and Town Car - are a sideshow. In the 1960s and 1970s, they were the main event. The Japanese don't compete in this segment because they realize it's pointless to spend a lot of money to compete for a share of a small - and largely static - market. Even GM and Chrysler have abandoned this market to Ford.
Funny they never came out with a "Rodan SS" or "Godzilla XE"-might have been a hoot.
As for comparing Japanese cars to American cars in the 1960s and 1970s, I think we agree - the Japanese never competed with full-size American cars. The problem is that the old full-size market gradually dwindled to the point where the only entries are the Crown Victoria, Grand Marquis/Marauder and Town Car. The Japanese, meanwhile, steadily upgraded their cars to the point that offerings from Toyota and Honda set the standard in the biggest segments of today's passenger car market.
And don't give me that "active lifestyle" self-glorifying nonsense. A FWD mini-van would work just as well for carrying the kids and stuff.
Okay I feel better now.
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The 70's Chevys had nicer interiors to me compared to the Boroque Ford LTD's. I liked the vinyl grippy steering wheels vs the skinny plastic Ford's.
The 77+ Caprices were the best design of all, engineering wise. They had more road worthy handling and with a 350-4, Car and Driver pulled a 9.5s 0-60. Back in 77, anything under 10 sec was a rocket!
The Fords that I liked though, were the 65-66 and the 71-72. The early 70's Fords look so good compared to the 73-78 tuna boats. Also, in 'White Lightning', Burt Reynolds drove a 71 Ford Custom 500. I think that is one other reason I like them, they had a bit of a sport sedan look.
Prized collectible, no. But something that a few people may want to hold onto because it brings back fond memories, or it's represents the end of a bygone era. I'm sure that in the late '70's, when big cars started to get downsized, those final, huge wagons were looked on by some as the end of an era, just as the final Caprice/Roadmaster wagons tend to be, today.
The Custom Cruiser, along with the Chrysler Town & Country, Buick Estate Wagon and Mercury Colony Park, were considered upmarket vehicles for suburbanites in the 1970s...almost like the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Acura MDX and Lexus RX 300 are now.
Chevie Nomads (plus a Pontiac knockoff), Olds Fiesta and Buick (four door wagons, no center post); Mercury (two door and foor door wagons without center posts)