Someone once said, “History isn’t what it used to be!” the idea being that our perception of history evolves. This is also true about our perception of automobiles — remember how popular Model Ts were? What about the 1955-57 Chevrolet being the top collectible in the hobby, yet today others have been pruned from 1950s rosters and sit on higher levels than the stalwart Chevy.
So, as we walk through events in automotive history that occurred this week, think about how these cars have resonated with you in the past, and compare that with their standing today. Have things changed?
That’s what keeps the hobby interesting!
On this date in 1970, Toyota introduced the 1971 Celica. Though it may not be readily apparent to younger folks, the Celica played the role of a snappy Japanese Camaro. Available as a coupe and hatchback (mimicking a fastback to decent effect), the Celica was powered by a four-cylinder engine and never truly competed on American terms with the pony cars. If you’ve never seen the Japanese-market versions of these cars, check this out and perhaps you’ll agree how much better they look compared to what we Americans were stuck with.
On this date in 1957, Chevrolet introduced a subseries of the Bel Air called the Impala. Like many top-tier trim levels, the 1958 Impala was only available in premium body styles like a two-door hardtop and convertible. Notable styling features included an extended rear deck, simulated air scoops above the backlite and in front of the rear wheels, a set of three taillights per side and standard V8. For 1959, the Impala was mainstreamed into the Chevrolet fold, now its own independent model and available in many different body styles to become America’s most popular car for years and years to come.
On this date in 1955, Studebaker introduced the Hawk series. As a heavily facelifted update of the fabulous “Loewy Coupe,” the 1956 Hawk took over coupe duties while the mainstream Studebaker line — Champion Six, Commander V8 and President V8 — continued to rely on sedans and wagons. Studebaker offered four Hawks for “sports car fun”: Flight Hawk 6, Power Hawk 8, Sky Hawk hardtop and Golden Hawk. The Golden Hawk featured a Packard 352 V8 with 275 horsepower, which was claimed in ads as giving the Golden Hawk more power-per-pound of any American car.
On this date in 1935, Cord introduced the 1936 810. This was a triumphant return for the brand after the L-29 was discontinued in 1932. The new Cord featured spectacular styling courtesy of Gordon Buehrig, while underneath was the same FWD layout that made the L-29 so intriguing in its time. The engine was a commercial Lycoming V8, though Cord offered supercharging as an option. When the brand was discontinued in 1937, there would be no production FWD car in America until the 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado.
On this date in 1911, Chevrolet was founded. Its namesake and co-founder, Louis Chevrolet, would leave the company in 1914 due to a disagreement with direction, but those who were powering the company were certainly on the right track because Chevrolet’s success allowed co-founder William Durant to purchase General Motors in 1918 and bring Chevrolet into the fold. As he had originally founded GM in 1908 before being ousted in 1910, it was sweet revenge and, certainly, a story worth reading up on if you’re into automotive history. Of course, you know the rest of the story when it comes to Chevrolet because the brand’s popularity became beyond reproach.