4 overlooked American collectibles of the 1960s
There were so many neat cars to come out of the 1960s, but only a few get to sit atop the collector totem pole. For every 1967 Mustang or Camaro, there’s a 1967 Bonneville that’s just looking for a good home.
Sometimes marque-specific hobbyists are more open to loving some very interesting vehicles that don’t often arouse general collector interest. With some awareness and motivation, you too can appreciate the strong competencies of the overlooked:
When Buick redesigned and renamed its product line in 1959, the Invicta played the role of the middle child, featuring the shorter wheelbase of the LeSabre with the 325-horsepower Wildcat 445 of the Electra. For 1960-62 Buick offered several interior packages (depending on body style) to create the Invicta Custom, but it was the midyear 1962 introduction of the personal-luxury Wildcat two-door hardtop that truly made a mark.
This “new full-size, sports-style car,” seemingly inspired by the success of the Pontiac Grand Prix, replaced the regular Invicta two-door hardtop and featured an even fancier interior with contoured Seville-grain vinyl bucket seats plus console and tachometer, foam rubber headliner with chrome-plated ceiling bows, 15-inch wheels, and more. It is estimated that around 2000 Wildcats were built. In 1963, the Wildcat became a full-fledged, mainstream series (even including a four-door), with the Riviera officially taking on personal-luxury duties from that point forward.
1963 was an important year at Chrysler, because dignity finally returned to Highland Park after the goofiness that characterized the preceding several years. Virgil Exner had a hand in the redesigned Newport, 300, 300-J, and New Yorker with its crisp new look, but it was a new New Yorker Salon four-door hardtop subseries that honored “the true meaning of the words ‘completely equipped.’” Its unusual all-inclusive equipment list featured luxury comfort and convenience items like air conditioning, Auto-Pilot cruise control, AM/FM radio, all power assists, six-way seat, leather and cloth interior trim with adjustable headrests, rear window defogger, plus an “elegant canopy roof design” featuring padded vinyl and bright roof molding. Power came from a 340-horsepower 413ci V-8 shared with regular New Yorkers. All told, there were “forty-four luxury items that you don’t have to specify.” At north of $5800, the Salon cost more than most Imperials, which may be why only 593 were built in 1963 and 1621 in 1964.
Except for the Starfire, big Oldsmobiles from the era tend to be completely forgotten. The 1963-64 98 in particular offers everything that’s great about big ol’ American boats, plus they have distinctive styling compared to lesser 88s (especially from the rear) befitting their C-body status within General Motors. Surprisingly, Oldsmobile offered two 98 two-door hardtop models: Holiday and Custom Sports Coupes.
What distinguished the Custom was “exciting sports car appeal” thanks to bucket seats in “glove-soft Barcelona grain leather,” color-coordinated carpeting, sport console with stick-operated Hydra-Matic, and “virtually every power convenience.” Think of it as larger Starfire with more “dash and flair” and you wouldn’t be far off – in fact, both shared a standard 394ci V-8 with 345 horsepower, while other 98s came with a 330-horsepower Rocket V-8). For 1963, Oldsmobile sold 7422 Custom Sports Coupes (interestingly, more than the Holiday Sports Coupe), and another 4594 the following year.
Thunderbirds being popular in the hobby is nothing new, but the pecking order of collectible American cars has changed, relegating many Thunderbirds to a position of less stature. Nonetheless, there is one Thunderbird that is slightly under the radar and worthy of examination: the 1965 Special Landau. Redesigned for 1964, the Thunderbird left the Jet Age and joined the 1960s with trim and chiseled styling. Only small detail changes were made for 1965, plus sequential rear turn signals made their appearance for the first time.
As before, a hardtop, Landau, and convertible were available, but in the spring of 1965 Ford created a specially trimmed Thunderbird Special Landau that set itself apart from the regular Landau with exclusive Ember-glo paint (white was a second choice) that was “repeated on special wheel covers and inside the flight deck in thick, pile-cut carpeting, and on interior trim.” This was complemented by parchment-colored seats and interior trim with matching vinyl roof. Another elegant touch was the burled walnut wood-grain dashboard and door panels, the latter also featuring Special Landau nameplates. All 4500-odd Special Landaus built received a personalized and numbered nameplate.