Family Values -
Cars of the Early Sixties
By the early sixties, most Baby Boomers were teenagers and their parents need more practical transportation than the winged monsters and cute little sports cars of the late fifties.
In America, this led cars like to the Ford Falcon, designed to be a low cost family car, and the Ford Mustang, promoted as everyman's Thunderbird sports car.
Australia also had a version of the Ford Falcon aiming, along with cars from Chrysler and British Motors, to capture some of the family car market dominated by General Motors' Holden.
In Europe the effort to produce small, affordable cars had begun in the fifties and culminated in 1960 with Mini. Meanwhile, the leading edge of European sports cars moved away from open "roadsters" and "spyders" to the slightly more practical sports coupes.
In 1963, a new shape and new 149 cubic inch and 179 cubic inch "red" engines made the Holden EH the fastest selling car in Australian history.
The HD, released in 1965 had a restyled body and new automatic transmission. It's successor, the HR had the same shape but improved engine and brakes.
1963 EH Holden
1966 HR Holden
When Robert MacNamara became President of Ford in 1960, he immediately set the Company on the course of producing a new mass market family car. The result was the Ford Falcon. (MacNamara went on to become Secretary of Defence under President Kennedy and, then, head of the World Bank.)
The Falcon was more successful in Australia than America. The first Australian Falcons were modified copies of the American car but each new model diverged more until an entirely Australian design emerged. The Falcon quickly became, and continues to be, Holden's rival as the most popular Australian car
1962 Australian Ford Falcon XK
Ford introduced the British Ford Cortina into Australia in 1962. The standard version had a four cylinder 1198cc engine; a De Luxe model with a 1498cc engine and a GT with the larger engine and modified brakes and suspension were released the following year. This was followed by the Cortina Lotus which dominated rallying in the mid and late sixties.
In Australia, the Mark 1 Cortina was replaced by the Mark 11 is 1968 (1966 in the UK). In 1968, a base model Australian Cortina cost $1,808.
Ford Cortina Mark 1
In 1962, Chrysler entered the Australian "family six" market with the Valiant. The original Valiant, complete with winglets and false external spare tyre, was a strong competitor to the Holden and Falcon. In 1962, a Holden cost from #1,169, Falcons started at #1,204 and the Valiant was #1,299.
But the Valiant's market share gradually declined. Eventually Chrylser sold its manufacturing facility to Mitsubishi and quit the Australian market.
1962 Chrysler Valiant
The British Motor Corporation (BMC) was formed in 1952 by the merger of Morris and the Nuffield Group, comprising Austin, MG, Wolseley and Riley. BMC wanted a four-cylinder car to compete with the Ford Prefect, Hillman Minx Vauxhall Victor and Renault Dauphine. Their solution was to produce an upmarket version of the Morris Minor, with a more power motor (1489cc) and superior interior trim. This appeared in 1957 in the UK as the Wolseley 1500 and, soon after, the Riley 1.5.
Unlike the UK, BMC in Australia decided to produce Austin and Morris-badged cars - the Morris Major and Austin Lancer - in its new plant at Zetland in Sydney. The Morris Major and Austin Lancer emerged in 1958 for Â£1,025 each.
In the early sixties, BMC produced an Australian designed and built four cylinder car, sold under three names: the Austin Cambridge, Morris Oxford and Wolseley 24/80, and a six cylinder competitor in the family six market, sold as the Austin Freeway and Wolseley.
These BMC cars never achieved the market share of the other Australian sixes, nor of medium-sized four cylinder competitors like the Ford Cortina.
The Suez Crisis in 1956 resulted in a fuel shortage in Europe. Car manufacturers in Europe, and elsewhere, tried to produce small, economical town cars. Their efforts ranged from BMW's Isetta motor bike in a bubble to Australia's abysmal Lightburn Zeta.
Looking at some of its competitors, it's no wonder the British Motors Mini took the world by storm. Initially launched as the Morris Mini-Minor and Austin Seven, the Mini included radical design features to achieve its goal of being the smallest car capable of carrying four adults. Some of these, like mounting the engine across the car, have become industry standards. Other ways of saving space included having sliding windows (to save the space taken up by winders), rubber suspension (because springs compress over a greater distance) and no provision for a radio.
1955 BMW Isetta
1958 Goggomobile T300 (No, not the Dart)
1963 Lightburn Zeta
But not all manufacturers focused on economy. By the early sixties, Western Europe was prosperous and luxury cars were in demand. Manufacturers like Mercedes, Jaguar and Porsche responded by producing some classic sports coupes which have never been surpassed.
(The Porsche 911 was originally going to called the "Type 901" but Peugeot had already licensed the name.)
"Gull wing" Mercedes 300SL