My colleagues probably didn’t expect me to jump in on this thread, but I couldn’t resist. You see, I was lucky enough to be a car-crazy high-school senior in 1965, a year so packed with cool cars that it’s still tough picking just five personal favorites.
Some of you will be pleased to note that my choices are American. Two reasons: Back then, import brands weren’t much of a factor in the U.S. market, and Detroit was unquestionably the center of the automotive universe. American automakers sold some 9.3 million cars in calendar 1965, the highest 12-month tally since record-setting 1955. That performance was impressive but not surprising in retrospect. The economy was booming, and Detroit styling, performance, innovation, and workmanship were never better. No wonder so many ’65 American cars have become prized collectibles—not least those listed below.
It was only a third-year restyle of the matchless 1963 original, but Buick’s elegant personal-luxury hardtop acquired hidden headlamps, way cool for ’65. Outboard vertical parking lamps and side-by-side quad headlamps gave way to horizontally split “clamshell” doors fronting stacked quad lamps in the fenders. Simple, eh? The doors winked open and closed when the lights switched on and off. But they were vacuum-operated, as I recall, so they inevitably gave trouble, sometimes leaving the car with one eye open or partly open, like a flirtatious drunk. I also liked the taillamps moved down into the bumper. They were more vulnerable there, but I thought they looked neat.
Note: This article is reprinted from the February 2013 issue of Collectible Automobile.
Longtime Collectible Automobile readers may recall the 1952 Packard Pan American from an October 1986 story and from an October 1992 Personality Profile on its designer, Richard Arbib. So why this encore? Well, aside from the pleasure of seeing an old friend still hale and hearty, this Pan American is the first of only six built—and the only one built without its intended folding top.
As noted historian George Hamlin recounted in the Arbib profile, the Pan American was one of several “sports car” ideas that the styling consultant doodled up for the Henney Body Company of Freeport, Illinois, long a supplier of Packard-based hearses, ambulances, and other professional cars. A successful industrial designer since the late 1930s, Arbib had also worked for General Motors and, after the war, the Harley Earl Corporation. When a falling out with Earl prompted him to go freelance in 1949, Arbib contacted a previous employer, industrialist Charles Russell Feldmann. As it happened, Feldmann had just purchased Henney (for a second time) and needed help with redesigning its professional coachwork to match Packard’s new 1951 “high pockets” styling. Arbib duly signed on as a Henney consultant and de facto one-man styling staff.
Note: This report supplements Consumer Guide Automotive’s full report on the 2013 Dodge Dart, a compact car that starts at $15,995.
Test car came equipped with: 6-speed PowerTech automatic transmission, Technology Group, Premium Group, UConnect infotainment system, satellite radio, 17-inch polished aluminum wheels. Total MSRP with $795 destination = $24,695.
Powertrain: 2.0-liter 160-horsepower 4-cylinder engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive.
Acceleration: The main report says the 2.0/automatic model is “very casual off the line,” and I agree, though I don’t think it gets “out of its own way just fine.” “Adequately” is more like it. Our friends at Car and Driver report 0-60 mph acceleration at 9.2 seconds, but this tester felt closer to 10 seconds. Either way, such “performance” must be near the bottom of the compact-car heap. Midrange passing response is equally mediocre. The automatic only aggravates matters with tardy downshifts—some seem to take at least a second—a result of mpg-oriented programming that also has the transmission racing for top gear even at very light throttle. Thank goodness for the manual-shift facility, which can help compensate for the torque deficit and sluggish downshift response, but family cars shouldn’t require stirring an automatic for max go-power.
Note: This article is reprinted from the February 2013 issue of Collectible Automobile.
The 1959 Mercury should have been more popular. Redesigned for the second time in three years, Ford Motor Company’s medium-price mainstay offered the biggest, smoothest, roomiest cars in its 20-year history, plus better handling, new features, and arguably nicer styling. Yet for all that, Mercury sales skidded to a decade low of just less than 150,000. In the segment, only Chrysler, DeSoto, and ill-starred Edsel fared worse.
What happened? Basically General Motors, whose rival Buick, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac lines were unexpectedly redesigned—and in dramatic fashion. Though all three improved on their mediocre ’58 sales, the handsome Wide-Track Pontiac was the big winner, jumping from sixth to fourth in the industry race on substantially higher volume of nearly 383,000 units. Mercury, meanwhile, slipped a notch to ninth.
Note: This report supplements Consumer Guide Automotive’s full report on the 2013 Volvo S60 a premium-midsize car that starts at $31,750.
Test car came equipped with: Climate Package. Total MSRP with $895 destination = $45,495.
Powertrain: 325-horsepower 3.0-liter turbocharged inline 6-cylinder engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive.
Acceleration: Volvo says the T6 R-Design does 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds, versus 5.8 for the regular T6 AWD. Both claims seem quite credible. (FYI, Volvo quotes the 5-cylinder T5 as taking 6.4 with front drive and 6.6 with the optional AWD.) The main report credits the regular T6 with having near-zero turbo lag, lively throttle response and excellent passing power, enhanced by a crisp, smooth automatic transmission. These traits naturally pass to the R-Design, whose extra power comes simply from slight alterations to spark timing and turbo-boost pressure.
No matter. This is another of those still fairly rare cars whose powertrain elements are so well harmonized for normal driving that I felt no need to use the manual-shift mode—although I did try it and it works as one expects.
Note: This report supplements Consumer Guide Automotive’s full report on the 2012 Lexus IS C, a premium-compact car that starts at $41,190.
Test car came equipped with: F-Sport Package, HID headlamps with LED running lights, headlamp washers, front/rear obstacle detection, navigation system with premium audio, trunk mat, cargo net. Total MSRP with $895 destination = $55,399.
Powertrain: 306-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, 6-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive.
Acceleration: The tester felt quite lively on takeoff and in passing sprints. I’d guess it does 0-60 mph in the mid-5-second area versus 8.4 claimed for the 2.5 V6 IS 250C. Typical of Lexus, the 3.5 engine and 6-speed automatic partner like Fred and Ginger. Each is responsive and refined on its own; together, they’re a treat. Acceleration is linear, hiccup-free, and strong, aided by smooth, progressive throttle action. In fact, power delivery is so satisfying that I never felt inclined to use the standard steering-wheel shift paddles.
Fuel Economy: Circumstances prevented logging as many miles as I’d have liked, but for the record this IS C averaged 17.1 mpg in mostly city driving (Phoenix), a fair bit of which was gas-eating, cold-start, short-hop, errand-type work. The EPA city/highway figures are 19/27 mpg.
Note: This report supplements Consumer Guide Automotive’s full report on the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, a midsize SUV that starts at $24,450.
Test car came equipped with: Leather & Premium Equipment Package, carpeted floor mats, cargo net, cargo cover. Total MSRP with $825 destination = $33,025.
Powertrain: 264-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, 6-speed automatic, all-wheel drive.
Acceleration: This turbo-four produces impressive power and torque for its size. In fact, it packs more ponies than Ford’s similar 2.0 EcoBoost. I second the main-report comments. At least with just me aboard, the Santa Fe Sport 2.0T is pretty peppy overall—I’d guess 0-60 mph in well under 7 seconds—and driveability is excellent, what with the crisp throttle response and virtually undetectable turbo lag. But full credit to the 6-speed automatic transmission, which is no less refined than the engine and partners with it very well. So here’s another case where less—in this case, engine displacement—really can be more.
Fuel Economy: Yours Truly averaged 18.2 mpg in Phoenix-area driving that was biased about 65 percent to fast freeway driving. That’s in line with the EPA’s 19-mpg city estimate—revised from Hyundai’s earlier inflated figure—but disappointing versus the feds’ 24-mpg highway rating (ditto).
Note: This report supplements Consumer Guide Automotive’s full report on the 2013 Infiniti JX, a premium-midsize SUV that starts at $40,450.
Test car came equipped with: Technology Package, Theater Package, Deluxe Touring Package, Premium Package, roof rails. Total MSRP with $950 destination =$54,070.
Powertrain: 3.5-liter 265-horsepower V6, continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), front-wheel drive
Acceleration: The JX runs 0-60 mph in a little under 8 seconds with all-wheel drive, but this slightly lighter front-drive version felt more like 8.5 seconds. The main report states that less weight partly offsets a power deficit versus most rivals, but the weight-to-power ratio is still fairly leaden at 16.8 lbs/hp. The weight-to-torque ratio is worse, 17.8 pounds/lb-ft, and maximum twist isn’t online until a fairly high 4400 rpm. So unlike my colleagues, I thought the JX really is a bit underpowered, not only for on-the-level merging and passing but when going up even moderately steep grades—and that’s with just this driver aboard.
Since Infiniti admits it’s aiming the JX mainly at the 300-hp Acura MDX—0-60 in under 7 seconds with AWD—I can’t understand why the engineers didn’t provide more power by whatever means made sense. Unless, of course, the marketers said, “No, you can’t do that because it might cut into sales of our FX35.”
Note: This report supplements Consumer Guide Automotive’s full report on the 2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, a premium-compact SUV that starts at $41,145.
Test car came equipped with: Dynamic Premium Package, continuously variable shock absorbers, Climate Comfort Package, special paint, contrasting black roof, satellite/HD radio, and 20-inch chromed alloy wheels. Total MSRP including California emissions equipment and $850 destination charge = $60,095. (Note: This vehicle sees no significant changes for 2013).
Powertrain: 2.0-liter 240-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive.
Acceleration: Our friends at Car and Driver timed a top-line Prestige 4-door at 6.9 seconds 0-60 mph, which seems a shade optimistic. They also report top-gear incremental clockings of 3.7 seconds for 30-50 mph and 4.9 seconds for 50-70 mph, quite good for a two-ton SUV with 240 horses. Overall then, the Evoque has enough suds for most situations—at least with just a driver aboard. A sizeable load is sure to slow it somewhat. I agree with my colleagues that the 6-speed auto trans is responsive and, yes, occasionally “busy,” but I didn’t experience any abrupt or ragged shift action.
Test car came equipped with: “Performance” leather-trimmed high-back front seats, Safety and Convenience Package, sunroof, red mirror caps and body stripes, TomTom plug-in navigation unit, 17-inch white-painted aluminum wheels. Total MSRP with $700 destination = $27,050. (Note: This model is virtually unchanged for 2013.)
Powertrain: 160-horsepower turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, 5-speed manual transmission, front-wheel drive.
Acceleration: I can’t find any factory performance claims, but our friends at Car and Driver clocked their Abarth at 6.9 seconds 0-60 mph. That seems a shade optimistic by my seat o’ the pants, but it doesn’t matter because this little pepperpot has ample scoot. It’s sure a lot livelier than the milquetoast 101-horsepower 500s. The Abarth suffers from some expected turbo/throttle lag, so it rewards liberal shifting and revving the engine like crazy. If you’re feeling lazy, though, it’s quite tractable at low speeds in 3rd and 4th gear, even if acceleration from there is leisurely at best. In all, the Abarth 500 is a classic Italian “tuner car,” with a rev-happy engine that gives better than you’d expect, helped by super-short final gearing (in this case a fairly frantic 3:35:1). Happily, shift/clutch effort is all-day light and easy, even for grinding stop-and-go traffic, though I was disappointed by the slightly rubbery yet “metallic” shift action. This car really needs a 6-speed manual transmission for a variety of reasons. It’s available in Europe, but apparently it wouldn’t fit within the stubby nose of the federalized 500. Oh, well . . . .