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’70s cool and Monte Carlo class all bundled into one stunning package. A 14K mile Monte is right up our alley.

There are probably a lot of guys out there who wouldn’t mind jumping in a time machine and traveling back to 1976 so they could buy a new Chevy Monte Carlo. Monte Carlos were cool then, they’re cool now, and they’ve got a big legion of fans. There’s plenty of folks who’d love to have a new one.

Well, this car is about as close as anybody’s gonna come to a new Monte. It’s a 14,000-mile original survivor for sale in the magic world of Craigslist in Watertown, N.Y. The ad says the car has 14,500 miles, is loaded with goodies, including a stunning blue and white interior, and “drives like a dream, sounds like a dream.” It’s apparently got Hooker headers and “custom embroidered swivel bucket seats”.

She’s sharp! We’d definitely take her to the prom.


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Concours presents first and last Studebaker Avantis

Story By John Hull; Photos Courtesy Lew Schucart, Avanti Magazine editor

Mr. Dick Goldfarb and his lovely wife Laura, the original owner the first Studebaker Avanti, with the car they sold over 50 years ago. The car is owned and was restored by volunteers at LeMay-America’s Car museum.

Lew Schucart

The annual Concours d’Elegance at Copshaholm, held on the grounds of the Oliver Mansion (aka Copshaholm) in South Bend, Ind., continues to grow and amaze its visitors. The event has an unparalleled emphasis on unique classes, outstanding automobiles and themed displays or recognition events each year, and the 2022 event on July 9 was no different.

In a nod to a hometown hero, the Studebaker National Museum hosted an Avanti class at the concours with nine entrants on display. The Avantis present provided a visual demonstration of each generation of Avanti automobile as it evolved. (The concours’ 35-year-old participation eligibility rule was waived for this class.)

Dick Goldfarb behind the wheel of the supercharged, four-speed Avanti he owned over 50 years ago.

Lew Schucart

The concours’ Avanti class recognized the 60th anniversary of the car’s introduction to the general public on April 26, 1962. A highlight of this special anniversary class was a display of the first production Studebaker Avanti (serial number R-1001), and the last production Studebaker Avanti (R-5643). The concours marked the first time ever that the first and last Avanti cars were in one place at one time. This possibly once-in-a-lifetime event resulted from the Studebaker National Museum contacting and coordinating with LeMay – America’s Car Museum and the Crawford Auto Aviation Museum, to present both cars together. the LeMay museum, located in Tacoma, Wash., owns R-1001, the first production Avanti, and the Crawford Auto Aviation Museum, in Cleveland, owns the last Studebaker Avanti (R-5643).

For the first time in 60. years, 1963 Avanti 63R-1001 and the last 1964 Avanti R5643 were together again in the city of their birth, South Bend, Indiana, during the Concours d’Elegance at Copshaholm, Saturday, July 9, 2022.

Lew Schucart

The concours committee additionally decided that the event would also be an excellent opportunity to display examples of the six post-Studebaker generations of Avanti. The committee settled on excellent representative vehicles of each generation, including additional examples of both a 1963 and 1964 Studebaker Avanti. Avantis built by successors to Studebaker included a 1978 Avanti II (Newman & Altman), 1981 Avanti II (Newman & Altman), 1983 20th Anniversary Edition prototype (Blake), 1990 Avanti four-door sedan (Cafaro) and a 2007 Avanti convertible (Kelly). However, the stars of the class were the first and last production Studebaker Avanti automobiles.

R-1001, the first production Studebaker Avanti, was donated to The LeMay – America’s Car Museum in 2001. It had been primarily driven on the East Coast and had led a hard life. The vehicle underwent a complete restoration over a number of years and was proudly displayed at the concours as it left the production line at Studebaker. The car was ordered on April 26, 1962, and had a shipping date of June 25, 1962. The car was initially held by Studebaker in South Bend, serving multiple duties at the plant and headquarters.

First Avanti rear

Lew Schucart

Dick Goldfarb, of Massachusetts, was the original retail purchaser of R-1001 after Studebaker released the car for sale in 1964. Dick and his wife, Laura, were guests at the concours, and Dick was proud to be reunited with his Avanti. When asked of his memories of the car, he smiled and remarked, “If the keys were still in the car, we would be long gone.”

R-5643, the last production Studebaker Avanti, was ordered on Oct. 7, 1963, and had a final assembly date of Dec. 31, 1963. It was ordered from the factory with the R-3 engine package, making it the ninth of nine such cars. It carried a unique piece of provenance discovered in its trunk soon after the original buyer’s purchase. A note in the trunk read, “This is the last Studebaker Avanti built 12/31/63, Happy New Year W.H. Bennett Sr.”

Mr. G.E. Westin, of Youngstown Ohio, placed the order for what would be the last production Studebaker Avanti at Jerry’s Auto Sales of Warren. Upon discovery of the aforementioned note, Mr. Westin contacted Studebaker, inquiring about the status of this claim. In January 1965, Bill Dredge, manager of Studebaker public relations, confirmed this was, indeed, the last Studebaker Avanti built in South Bend.

Last Avanti rear.

Lew Schucart

Joe Erdelac, an AMC & Studebaker dealer in Cleveland, purchased the car from Mr. Westin, and, in 1975, offered the car for sale at $100,000. The car was not sold and was then donated to The Crawford Auto Aviation Museum of the Western Historical Reserve, where it has resided ever since.

Studebaker Avanti fans should commend the The Studebaker National Museum, The LeMay – America’s Car Museum and the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum for working together to make this union happen.

More info

Studebaker National Museum

LeMay – America’s Car Museum

Crawford Auto Aviation Museum

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The 1956 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser is finally finished.

By Tom Maruska

After the last update there wasn’t a lot left to do except install the door and quarter panels, the carpet and the seat belts and seats. 

Once the interior was all together  I added all the fluids to the car, brake fluid, oil, transmission fluid, antifreeze, rear end oil, power steering fluid, windshield washer fluid and gas.

Now all I had to do was to see if it would run, so I double checked that the number-one cylinder was at top dead center in firing position and that the rotor in the distributor was pointing at the number one plug wire in the distributor cap.

Then I sprayed a little starting fluid in the carburetor and turned the key……

It fired immediately!  I had to spray a little starting fluid in the carburetor another time or two until the fuel pump brought the gas into the carburetor and it started and ran.  With a small adjustment to the distributor to improve the timing it starts and runs like it should.

New Exhaust

Last time I showed you the double exhaust outlet pipes I made to connect to the outlets on the lower rear quarter panels. Now that the car was running and drivable I trailered it to a local exhaust shop to have the mufflers and exhaust pipes installed connecting everything together under the car.


With the exhaust completed the XM Turnpike Cruiser restoration officially comes to a close.

It’s been a long 3.5 years but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. (almost)

Over the years I’ve encountered a lot of people who  embark on restoration projects and disassemble a vehicle, and in the process become overwhelmed with the amount of work it will entail, and they give up and sell the car in pieces, just like how I purchased the XMTC. None of the parts or attaching hardware is identified and often just tossed into coffee cans or lost.

If you want to restore a car, the first thing you want to do before taking anything apart is take LOTS of pictures, then as you’re taking something apart take MORE PICTURES.

I use zip-lock bags labeled like “brake booster to firewall” nuts or bolts and so on for the entire car. Then when you get around to re-installing the brake booster you can grab the bag with the correct hardware and either restore it or use new hardware but you’ll know exactly what you need. AND if you quit the project you can pass the pictures and baggies on to the next owner making his job a lot easier.

If you take one small part of the restoration and finish that to the extent you can before moving on to the next small part the project isn’t so overwhelming as is is when looking at it as a whole. If I wouldn’t have approached the XMTC that way I never would have finished it.

If anyone has any questions related to this car or restoration in general there is contact information on my website and I answer all emails and will be happy to help if I can.

Be sure to check out my website for all the professional photos taken of the completed 1956 XM TURNPIKE CRUISER CONCEPT CAR.

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Traditional food, Samuel Adams beer, and a unique selection of Volkswagen vehicles select days from Sept. 30 to Oct. 30

Dezerland’s Orlando Auto Museum

ORLANDO, Fla. (Sept. 16, 2022) – Prost! Dezerland Action Park Orlando is kicking off the fall season with a family-friendly Oktoberfest celebration.

During regular park hours on Fridays, Saturday and Sundays from Sept. 30 to Oct. 30, Dezerland will be serving up traditional German dishes and Samuel Adams’ seasonal offerings from custom Volkswagen buses.

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Dezerland’s Orlando Auto Museum will display vehicles from one of the world’s largest Volkswagen collections. To continue the festive spirit, guests can explore the extensive display of Volkswagens along with more than 2,000 movie, celebrity, military and historical vehicles. Every ticket purchased for the Orlando Auto Museum during the Oktoberfest weekend comes with a free, warm German-style pretzel.

With over 850,000 square-feet of entertainment space, Dezerland Action Park Orlando is filled with excitement for you to uncover. The park features countless attractions including the 007 Bar (adjacent to the world’s largest collection of James Bond vehicles and memorabilia), indoor go-karting, bowling, a trampoline park, axe throwing, arcade games and 4D motion simulators. Admission and parking are always free.

To learn more, visit

About Dezerland Action Park Orlando: Dezerland Action Park Orlando is Florida’s largest indoor attraction with over 850,000 square feet of family entertainment options. The park is home to the Orlando Auto Museum with over 2,000 vehicles, making it the state’s largest auto museum. Dezerland also features Florida’s longest indoor go-kart track, more than 300 video and skill games, a 30,000-square-foot trampoline park, glow-in-the-dark mini golf, bowling and so much more.

Guest can enjoy a variety of shopping and dining options including a food hall, 007 Bar (adjacent to the world’s largest collection of James Bond vehicles and memorabilia), Jumpstart Café and Rocket Fizz candy store. Free parking and admission. Learn more at @DezerlandParkOrlando on social. To book an event or to discuss leasing opportunities, call 321-754-1700.

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Third Annual Chattanooga Motorcar Festival adds “V8s in the Village ” and “Great Race Ride-Along” to the festivities October 14-16.

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – This year’s wide range of family-friendly activities at the Third Annual Chattanooga Motorcar Festival on October 14-16 in Tennessee’s scenic city will include a celebration of American “V8’s in the Village” in West Village. Also added to the festivities will be rides on the streets of downtown Chattanooga in vintage cars, many of which have competed in the Great Race.

“V8’s in the Village” is a joint effort from Chattanooga-based company Coker Tire, and its sister company Paragon Corvette Reproductions. Another company under the Coker umbrella is the Great Race, the world’s premier time/speed/endurance rally for vintage vehicles, so providing the Great Race Ride-Along was a natural fit for the Festival.

“It’s a great pleasure to welcome Coker Tire’s ‘V8’s in the Village’ at this year’s Chattanooga Motorcar Festival,” said Festival founder Byron DeFoor. “These special American muscle cars and Corvettes will be on display Saturday and I know car lovers will enjoy checking them out. Plus, getting a ride in a vintage car that has competed in the Great Race is just one of the many exciting activities that families and fans can enjoy at this year’s Festival.”

“We’re excited to be a part of this prestigious event here in our hometown, by paying tribute to American V8 power and giving back to the community,” said Coker Tire President and CEO Mike Kealey. “Our company is dedicated to keeping old cars on the road and encouraging enthusiasts to get out and enjoy this hobby, so the Chattanooga Motorcar Festival is a perfect fit for us.”

A great example of the types of cars featured in “V8’s in the Village” is this restored 1962 Chevrolet Corvette, with an all-original 327-cubic-inch engine, backed by a four-speed manual transmission. It is owned by NuNu Lowry of Ooltewah, Tennessee.

Image courtesy of Coker Tire

“V8’s in the Village” presented by Coker Tire and Paragon Corvette takes place on Saturday, October 15, from 8am to 2pm EST. A hand-picked selection of 100 classic American V8 vehicles will park in special areas. The selected participants of “V8’s in the Village” receive free passes to the three-day Festival, including spectator access to the Mecum Auctions event, the Pace Grand Prix, activities in the West Village area, and spectator access to Sunday’s Concours d’Elegance event. Participants of “V8’s in the Village” also receive a limited-edition T-shirt and discounts on Coker Tire and Paragon products.

The Great Race Ride-Along will also take place on Saturday, from 9am to 3pm EST. With a selection of cars to represent nearly every decade of classic cars, this is a great experience for folks who have always wanted to ride in an old car. Rides start and end at Peets Coffee Drive Thru at the corner of M.L. King Boulevard and Pine Street in Chattanooga and make a short loop around the Southside of the city. Rides are free with the purchase of a Chattanooga Motorcar Festival ticket.

Check out he rides of the Great Ride-Along below – The images are courtesy of the Great Race

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In addition to orchestrating these great additions to the Chattanooga Motorcar Festival, Coker Tire has committed to donating five percent of its sales from October 10 through October 17 to the Fifty Plus Foundation, Inc. Funds raised during the Chattanooga Motorcar Festival go to the Neuroscience Center at CHI Memorial and the Neuroscience Innovation Foundation.

Registration is open for the featured events scheduled for the 2022 Chattanooga Motorcar Festival.

The Canossa Fall Rally Chattanooga will be conducted on Thursday, October 13, and Friday, October 14, and will start both days at 8:30 a.m. from the Westin Hotel Chattanooga. Registration is open at

The Concours d’Elegance is scheduled for Sunday, October 16. Concours cars will be available for viewing on the streets of the West Village from 9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. on Sunday. Applications to enter cars are available at

Applications to enter the racing events at the Pace Grand Prix at the Bend, which begin on Thursday, October 13, for practice sessions, and continue on Friday, October 14, and Saturday, October 15, for qualifying and racing events, are available at

Information on Mecum Chattanooga 2022 may be found at

Details on each event may be found at

About Chattanooga Motorcar Festival: Proceeds from the Chattanooga Motorcar Festival support neuroscience research through Fifty Plus Foundation, Inc. After more than a decade of supporting Alzheimer’s and neuroscience research, Fifty Plus Foundation, Inc., created the Chattanooga Motorcar Festival to bring that support to a local level while funding research that will help find a cure. Learn more at

About Coker Tire Company: Founded in 1958, Coker Tire Company is the world’s largest manufacturer and supplier of tires and wheels for collector vehicles. The Chattanooga-based company offers authentic tires, wheels, and accessories for a 100-year span of vehicles. More information is available at

About Paragon Corvette Reproductions: Recognized as one of the leading suppliers of authentic Corvette restoration parts, Paragon Corvette Reproductions offers thousands of components and excellent customer service to assist with any Corvette project. Find out more information on Paragon’s products at

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Old Cars features a reader’s 1971 Ford Mustang named “Henry”

Mark Noblel is the prod owner of this large-sized pony that once belonged to his aunt. The car has been a big part of his life throughout the years. 

We’ll let Mark tell the story…

“I was with my aunt when she ordered this car. She was replacing a white with blue interior 1965 Mustang coupe base model (NO options) because she wanted air conditioning. The dealer suggested she include a 302 cid V8, power steering and automatic transmission. I insisted that she include a radio and wheel covers (not just hubcaps). She received $500 on her trade-in and took delivery in January 1971. It HAD to be white and she preferred the blue interior. Brown interior was second choice.”

“Both front fenders were replaced by Ford when they began to show signs of rust on the top side of the fenders. The only accident involved a dent on the lower side of the front left fender behind the wheel well after accidentally jumping a parking lot stop block.”

“I learned to drive in it. Once while driving it on a hot, rainy summer day of fresh asphalt, I attempted to stop for a traffic light. I made a complete 360 spin coming to a stop in my lane just where I planned to stop!”

“She kept this car, nicknamed ‘Henry’ until she married for the first time in 1984 at age 65. It was always my understanding that I would inherit this car someday. She gave it to my father at some point in the late 1980’s. He had all rust properly repaired and the car painted in the mid 1990’s. Thanksgiving weekend 1998, I drove it home. I’ve had it ever since. In 2005, I replaced the standard wheels/wheel covers with Magnum wheels and raised white letter tires. I drive it on nice days and have added only about 7,000 miles on it in the past 24 years. The odometer reads 108010 miles. The interior is original as are the engine and transmission. The carburetor was recently rebuilt and it runs very well again. The radio (which she NEVER played), A/C and the gas gauge do not work, but that’s OK! I love this car and it now has a 2010 Mustang convertible stablemate. My daughters plan to keep my two Mustangs when I cannot. I regularly take time for Mustang therapy and cruise around my hometown area. There is nothing like them!”

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A look back at GM’s hottest hardtops – The “Bubble Top” invasion

Impala, Impala Super Sport and Bel Air Sport Coupes, all built on the B-body platform, received the bubble-like rear window. These “bubble top” Chevrolets are among the most desired by Chevy enthusiasts.

GM Media Archive

One of the more interesting automotive styling ideas to emerge in the 1950s was the “bubble top.” It was a popular concept in the early 1960s among customizers such as Daryl Starbird, who completed his first bubble-topped full custom (the Predicta) in early 1960. Inspiration for the bubble-top theme most likely came from fighter planes of the time, such as the F-80 Shooting Star and the F-86 Sabre Jet.

General Motors debuted various bubble-top concept cars at its traveling auto show, the GM Motorama, with cars such as the 1954 Pontiac Bonneville Special, 1956 Buick Centurion and its trio of turbine-powered Firebird concepts. Ford Motor Co. also exhibited concept cars with the bubble-top theme, such as the 1955 Lincoln Futura (the car altered into the “Batmobile” for the ’60s “Batman” TV show). Automotive writers predicted that bubble-topped cars would soon be in production. However, common sense prevailed; driving a car with a transparent roof was like driving a greenhouse on wheels, as was shown with the 1954-’56 Ford Skyliner and 1954-’55 Mercury Skyliner featuring a tinted transparent roof panel. Even tinting the Plexiglas and including a retractable roof shade did not solve the interior heating problem.

The idea did not simply go away, though. Steel-roofed, semi-bubble-top cars emerged from designers’ drawing boards in the latter part of the 1950s. For instance, GM’s 1959 models had wraparound windshields that arched up into the steel roof, and curved rear glass that had the profile of a bubble top. GM took the idea to its apex more than six decades ago with its 1961 two-door hardtop models that made use of the full-size B-body design. These cars are often referred to as a “bubble top.” (The two-door hardtops using the longer C-body — Oldsmobile’s Ninety-Eight, Buick’s Electra/Electra 225 and Cadillac’s Series 62 coupe and Coupe deVille — had a slightly different rear window and are generally not considered bubble tops.) The 1961 B-body two-door hardtops are among the most desirable of GM’s early-1960s automobiles, especially Chevrolet’s 1961 Impala and Pontiac’s 1961 Ventura, which are at the top of many enthusiasts’ “want” lists. Chevrolet kept the bubble-top roof once more, in 1962 — but only for the Bel Air Sport Coupe — then it was gone from GM in favor of more formal notchback designs. The 1962 Bel Air Sport Coupe is also highly sought after.

An all-new look for GM’s cars emerged for 1961 under the leadership Bill Mitchell, GM Design chief. He was appointed as the head of Design in late 1958, when the founder of the styling department, Harley Earl, retired. This was at the point when the design work for all-new ’61 models began. Mitchell’s approach to design did away with the rounded lines and domed hoods that Earl preferred, and replaced those features with crisp, lean-looking forms. GM expended hundreds of millions of dollars for these re-engineered ’61 models, so let’s take a closer look.

GM’s styling history toying with the “Bubble”

Shown is the “double bubble” Skylark IV proposal. True bubble top cars with a fully transparent roof were not practical due to serious heating issues in daytime, but the bubble top idea did not vanish.

GM Media Archive

Bill Mitchell’s Corvette-based XP-700 had a clear bubble detachable hardtop that probably received little use. Exceptions were most likely publicity photos and auto shows.

GM Media Archive

The bubble-topped 1954 Pontiac Bonneville Special was a two-passenger sports car concept exhibited at that year’s GM Motorama.

GM Media Archive

The bubble top reemerged in the mid 1980s for this 1985 Buick Wildcat concept car. It showcased a mid-engine-mounted, 230-hp, 24-valve V-6 displacing 231 cubic inches (3.8 liters) that sat exposed behind the passenger compartment. This concept car was never considered for production.

GM Media Archive


To say the restyling of the 1961 Chevrolets was extensive would be an understatement. The dog-leg A-pillar and wraparound windshield used for the past six model years were gone. In their place were thin A and C pillars providing a larger glass area. Not only were the ’61 Chevys shorter, narrower and lower, the fins were gone, although the quarter panel shape and side spear molding carried a fin-like theme. A CARS magazine review observed, “A glance at the new Chevrolet for 1961 is certainly fair reward for the yearly wait. While retaining a distinct Chevy flavor, its styling has changed drastically… There is a remarkable feeling of unity and follow-through in the design.”

The 1961s looked rather sleek in any style, especially the two-door hardtop body, offered in not only the top-level Impala series, but also the second-tier Bel Air series — both with a bubble-like rear window. A special few of the Impalas wore “SS” (Super Sport) badges. The SS was an option package consisting of special emblems, sportier interior trim, passenger grab bar on the dash, four-speed manual transmission with a floor-shift trim plate, 7,000-rpm tach, three-bar spinner wheel covers and 8.00×14 thin-line whitewall tires. According to Chevrolet’s sales literature, the SS option was available on any Impala body style, though evidently in actual practice, only two-door models received the option from the factory. Under the hood of an Impala SS was one of three versions of the 348 with 305, 340 or 350 horsepower, or the very limited-production 409 introduced in January. Non-SS cars were available with six-cylinder power, the 283, or any of the 348s.

Chevys powered by the 409 did well in drag racing and finished first and third at the 1961 Pike’s Peak Hill Climb. Results such as these, as well as the SS option, gave Chevrolet a strong performance image that appealed to the growing youth market of the era.


Under the leadership of Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen, who was appointed general manager of the Pontiac Division in 1956, Pontiac received an image makeover. What was abundantly clear to Knudsen at that time was that Pontiac had a reputation as a reliable car, but not as an exciting one. “Reliable” was a positive trait; being dull was a big negative trait. Knudsen knew that, and is credited as saying, “You can sell a young man’s car to an old man, but you’ll never sell an old man’s car to a young man.” The growing youth market, which preferred an exciting kind of car, meant Pontiac had to receive an image makeover — and soon.

The Catalina and Catalina-based Ventura (shown) shared the B-body with Chevrolet, the Olds 88, and Buick LeSabre and Invicta. Ventura two-door hardtops are among the most sought Pontiacs of the early 1960s. The Ventura was outwardly differentiated by its reduced use of side trim compared to the Catalina, giving the Ventura an understated look.

GM Media Archive

Prior to Knudsen’s promotion, Pontiac added the choice of a new modern V-8 for 1955, definitely a much-needed step in the right direction, as the public was largely sold on V-8 engines. The V-8, combined with an all-new design, resulted in skyrocketing Pontiac sales for 1955 and 1956. A limited-production Bonneville, offered only as a convertible powered by a fuel-injected V-8, served to enhance the image of Pontiac in 1957. The Bonneville became a mass-produced model with sporty traits for 1958, and the model went on to be the flagship of the Pontiac division for decades. Despite new Pontiac styling and publicity generated by the Bonneville, sales suffered in 1957 and 1958, but another all-new design for 1959 was a hit with the public. Its split grille — intended as a one-year-only styling feature — was brought back for 1961 and remained a hallmark of Pontiac until its demise in late-November 2009.

The “Wide Track” 1959 chassis, which pushed the wheels farther outward, substantially aided handling, though it was really intended as a styling gimmick to attract buyers. The same chassis returned for 1960.

Also popular for Pontiacs was the 389, another derivative of the 1955 287-cid V-8. The 389 was first offered for 1959, replacing the 371. For 1961, a variety of 389s, ranging from “economizing” to all-out performance, were offered to suit the varied tastes of Pontiac buyers. Output ratings spanned from 215 to 348 hp for street-driven cars, and up to 368 hp for the Super Duty 389. Offered late in the 1961 model year was the Super Duty 421 V-8 fed with high-octane fuel via dual carburetors; it was conservatively rated at 368 hp. A four-barrel version was rated at 373 hp. Both SD 421s, which had output suspected of being beyond 400 hp, were meant for drag-racing and NASCAR competition (where use of multiple carburetors was not allowed).

A new perimeter frame brought with it a slightly narrower chassis for 1961. However, the cars were nearly 4 inches shorter, giving them proportions nearly identical to the 1959 and 1960 models. These Pontiacs were also approximately 200 pounds lighter than the 1960s, with most of the weight savings due to the new perimeter frame. The suspension was redesigned with stronger lower control arms, a coil-spring rear suspension that employed four trailing links, and the large trailing A-arm was eliminated. With the suspension modifications and weight reduction, the ’61 Pontiacs provided better handling and much improved performance, something especially true with cars equipped with one of the high-output 389s or 421s.

Added to the lineup for 1960 was the Ventura. It was a Catalina-based model with Bonneville-style appointments for the interior, yet was understated on the exterior with less bright trim. The Ventura was exclusively offered as two- and four-door hardtops. The Ventura returned for ’61, and production was divided almost exactly 50/50 between the two body styles with 13,297 bubble-top two-door hardtops accounting for the 27,209 overall sales of the model in ’61. Of note is that a mere 1,940 Venturas were equipped with a four-speed transmission for the 1961 model year.

The May 1961 issue of Motor Life reported, “Standing-start acceleration or passing speeds in the 60-65 mph range are of the ‘push-you-back-in-the-seat’ variety that feel like rocket-assisted takeoffs… Stock suspension and chassis is more than adequate for drag racing and ideal for ordinary street and highway comfort… the front stabilizer bar and four-link rear suspension provide good cornering stability with little lean.” Their test car was one of those rare four-speed Venturas, which was powered by the 348-hp engine and had a 3.90:1 “Safe-T-Track” differential.

The redesigned Pontiacs ruled the 1961 Grand National circuit with 30 wins out of 52 starts, including the win by Marvin Panch at that year’s Daytona 500. Hayden Proffitt drove Mickey Thompson’s 421-powered car to an OS/S class win (12.55 seconds at 110.29 mph), and Pontiacs also won the three classes in the automatic transmission class that year in NHRA competition. The best time on the drag strip for the 1961 Pontiacs was achieved with a four-speed car — 13.13 seconds at 107.12 mph — but the automatics were generally more successful overall. Royal Pontiac sponsored the car that won Stock Eliminator at the NHRA Regionals at Muncie, Ind., and Alton, Ill.

Under the leadership of Knudsen, Pontiac finally moved away from being just a reliable, family-toting car to one with a much more youth-oriented image, thus boosting sales. After a roller-coaster ride from 1957 to 1960, Pontiac market share began trending upward for ’61, going from roughly 5.7 percent in ’60 to about 6 percent on sales of 372,871 cars.


For 1961, Oldsmobile’s major restyle resulted in front fenders and bumper ends that were blended to form a blunt, leading edge in the profile view, while bowing outward when seen from ahead. The straight front fender line ultimately turned downward in a gentle arc at the rear of the quarter panel, joining the upturned arc at the end of the crease in the lower quarter panel. Thus, the rear came to a point, or a rocket shape. This rocket shape was repeated with a matching recess in the side view. The lower rear part of the quarter panels had what were known by auto designers as “skegs” (a skeg, according the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is the stern of the keel of a ship near the sternpost, especially the part connecting the keel with the bottom of the rudderpost in a single-screw ship. It is also a fin situated on the rear bottom of a surfboard that is used for steering and stability.) The fin-like projection filled the region between the rear wheel opening and the rear bumper. The reverse waterfall grille, with paired headlamps at each end, slanted toward the radiator, and a bright panel with a series of faux vents spanned the space between the round taillamps. There was no mistaking a 1961 Oldsmobile for anything else on the road that year.

Oldsmobile’s Dynamic and Super 88s were also B-body cars featuring the so-called bubble-top roof. Cars using the C-body had a longer roof and a slightly sharper angled rear glass. Therefore, the Ninety-Eight and other C-body cars are not truly bubble top cars, though the term is often used for these cars.

GM Media Archive

Under the hood of the ’61 Oldsmobiles was a new 394-cid V-8, an enlarged version of the previous year’s 371. Underneath the body was a new “Guard-Beam” frame with “Twin-Triangle Stability” with side rails running along the outside of the floor pans, and sturdy sections at the front and rear of the side rails comprised of four steel arms placed triangularly from axle housing to frame, hence the marketing lingo.

B-body “Holiday” two-door hardtops of the Eighty-Eight series were divided into two series: the more economical Dynamic 88, and the more upscale Super 88. The Dynamic 88 received the low-compression (8.75:1) 394 rated at 250 hp as standard equipment, while the Super 88 received the 325-hp “Skyrocket” version (10.0:1 compression); both series had a three-speed synchromesh manual transmission as standard issue, but the freshly redesigned Hydra-Matic was available as an option costing $231.

While Chevrolet and Pontiac grabbed the attention of performance car buffs, Oldsmobile’s heyday of NASCAR victories was very much behind it by this point. Comfortable transportation rather than impressive elapsed times was now the focus of Oldsmobile. The motoring press noted the ’61 Olds for its new styling, increased passenger comfort, smooth and quiet ride, and excellent handling characteristics.


Buick sales experienced a major slide in the late 1950s. Quality control became a problem when higher production was sought for 1956. Further hurting sales for all of the “Big Three” was an economic recession, which began in the latter part of 1957 and lasted well into 1958. Edward Ragsdale, who was appointed as the general manager of Buick in 1956, was replaced by Edward Rollert three years later. Rollert received a BS in chemical engineering from Purdue University. He began working for GM as a student engineer for the company’s AC Spark Plug Division before entering the military upon U.S. involvement in World War II. Upon leaving the service, he went to work for Elgin Watch, doubling its output through his improvements in manufacturing. Rollert returned to GM two years later.

The Buick LeSabre and Invicta (shown) both made use of the B-body. Invicta was a more performance-oriented car, though certainly no muscle car. It received the 401 V-8 as opposed to the 364 of the LeSabre. This profile view clearly shows why the 1961 GM B-body cars are known as bubble tops.

GM Media Archive

After being assigned to the top spot at Buick, Rollert brought in personnel from other GM divisions whom he knew to have a deep understanding of engineering and quality control. This was at the time the design of the 1961 Buicks was underway. Sales of the ’61 models began a rebound for Buick that, within just a few years, put the division back to the sales it had in the mid ’50s, and soon even surpassed that level.

Buick’s B-body models, the LeSabre and the more upmarket and performance-oriented Invicta, each included the two-door hardtop body style featuring the bubble-like rear window shared with their other B-body brethren. Underneath the all-new sheet metal of the full-size ’61 Buicks was a redesigned chassis with an X-frame dubbed “Safety-X.” It was only vaguely similar to the prior 1959-’60 X-frame. However, the latter included side rails in addition to an X-member. For 1961, the X-frame eliminated the side rails. The chassis for the B-body Buicks had a wheelbase 3 inches shorter than the C-body Buick at 123 inches.

A 364-cid V-8 was standard issue for the LeSabre while a bored-and-stroked version of the engine (which dated back to 1953), giving 401 cubic inches of displacement, was standard for the Invicta (as well as the Electra series). The only transmission offered for these Buicks was the “Turbine-Drive” automatic.

While the ’61 Buick was largely all-new, it did carryover one innovative feature from 1960 — the “Mirrormagic” speedometer. The bar-type speedometer used in prior years was hard for some drivers to read. The cars of this era lacked the multitude of seat adjustments that are common today, so an innovative solution was found by the designers. This was to have the speedometer reflect in an adjustable mirror, thus drivers short to tall could adjust the mirror position to an ideal angle using a thumb wheel.


The bubble-top theme was largely a thing of the past when GM’s ’62 models were designed. What was considered a more formal-looking notchback roof was now in vogue for GM’s B-body cars. Almost all 1962 GM two-door hardtops received a roof with a crease emulating the appearance of a raised convertible top. Chevrolet had the exception to the new roofline; it continued offering the bubble-top roof on the Bel Air Sport Coupe, reportedly because those racing Chevys in NASCAR wanted the aerodynamic advantage the sleek top offered.

GM’s cars of 1961 accounted for 47.6 percent of auto production that year — 1.1 percent more than for 1960, although short of 1959’s output. Even so, GM recorded record revenue of $12.74 billion for 1961. It was a good start for the new designs coming out of Bill Mitchell’s styling studios; the following year, GM accounted for a fraction over the 50 percent mark for U.S. automobile production.


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