Lincoln’s Blackwood (2001) was a halfback truck – with Lincoln luxury. Never heard of it? There’s a reason.
It leads a list of American automaker blunders. If you can remember the 1958 Ford Edsel (plain ugly), the 1970 AMC Gremlin (plain silly) or the 1971 Ford Pinto (plain dangerous), there are also the Pacer, Chevette, and (arguably) the Chevy SSR.
Smaller car designers and boutique car makers have created artistically marvelous designs: Ferarri, Lamborghini, or McLaren. And, the Japanese repeatedly redirect our idea of automotive excitement, but the American chassis has sustained the world’s imagination. The Dodge Challengers, for one, are classic in every sense of the word.
The Camaro became an instant collector’s item when it was introduced in 1966. Its simplicity was elegant, yet it sold in the brightest colors at the time. Its shape would prove to be an elemental influential profile.
This is all retro art nouveau, sleek and streamlined. It remains a stunning piece of design and engineering, a major move to a new look. It would not succeed, but design elements would appear in cars throughout the following decades.
Long and limousine elegant, it was the car of choice for the wealthy, those who could still remember The Gilded Age. This is the sort of chassis with a long front section followed by its coach section, just asking for a chauffeur.
Ford designed this chassis to look more expensive than it was and more sporty than it is actually was. It remains iconic, but most forget that it was just the right look, right price, and right time.
The GTO was a specialty sports car to compete effectively in world long-distance races. It did that, but its small, road-hugging profile sold itself on a much larger market.
Bel-air was a box on wheels with silly slight tail fins. But, its look was revolutionary at the time and influenced design for years.
Firebird Trans Am (1978)
Trans Am, flamed out or not, was a favorite despite Pontiac’s own predictions. The Firebird is engineered all up front with a plush interior behind turning the old touring car into a sports car.
Studebaker was well ahead of its competition in everything – but revenues. The Studebaker design was fluid when other American cars were cubes or coffins. And, in the last years of the car-maker, they introduced the strikingly futuristic Elantra. Studebaker, which had been making military vehicles during WWII, never quite recovered its financial footing. But, there is every indication they would still be leading the design game.
This monster with its melodramatic tail fins was a bit much. It was too much of everything but determined the design of Cadillacs to come – not to mention the Pontiacs, Buicks, and Oldsmobiles of the day.
It’s come back for the 21st Century, but the Dodge Silver Challenger was introduced in, a wildly over-designed exterior in the era of the big fenders, big grilles, and big tail fins. Reintroduced in the 1970s, the Dodge Challengers of that era are the ones collected today. The 1971 had a dramatic rectangle of a grille that accented its width and long engine department. The convertible showed off the luxury interior that came with the package, clearly separating it from the competition.
It may be a personal choice, but thousands find the Dodge Challengers, especially the R/T convertible, the sharpest, cleanest, and most collectible of American styles.