When Bill Mitchell took over GM Design in the late ’50s, his presence was felt almost immediately in the new GM cars, particularly in the 1961 models. Simple, clean elegant lines were his forte, when compared to the brash, wild and bechromed chariots favored by his predecessor, the unforgettable Harley Earl.
Note: Another post from my friend, Mike Batch Kirouac! -TK
On the Saturday before Christmas of 2012, my son and I went into town to pick up some last minute items for supper at the grocery store. As we walked through the parking lot, a beautiful, shiny white ’65 Plymouth Satellite rolled in, drove past us, and parked at the back of the lot. The burble of the engine told me it had a hopped-up big block.
If you’re in the market for a midsize car today, you have plenty of choices. Well, for now, as the ever present crossover is rapidly compelling the manufacturers to kill off the traditional midsize sedan. Several nameplates from which to choose–Camry, Impala, Fusion and Optima and of course Accord, to name a few. And they all come in the same flavor of competent albeit repetitive design and styling. Where’s the flair, man? Once upon a time, before safety standards, emissions and plain old public demand trumped style, a buyer could get virtually whatever their heart desired, right down to colors, options–and yes, Virginia, even a body style other than the now-ubiquitous four-door sedan. Want an aqua Skylark convertible with a white interior, V8 and four-speed? Done! How about a red Lark Wagonaire with a red interior, 350 McKinnon (nee GM) V8, power retractable roof over the cargo area, and automatic transmission? No problem. You could have those cars and everything in between–in 1965. Everything from cheapskate beige two-door post with manual everything to fully loaded sports convertible with a fire-breathing powerplant. So let’s set the way-back machine to Autumn 1964 and see what we can get.
I have a real love for the 1965-66 Rambler Ambassadors. Part of that may be due to my chance encounter with a metallic lilac ’65 sedan back in the ’90s (a story told once before; I’ll share it here on RG eventually) but the plain truth is I find them very clean and elegant. It was 1965, the Big Three were at the top of their game, BUT even little Wisconsin-based AMC fielded an attractive line. The arguably frumpy cars of the late Fifties were banished, and clean, smooth lines were in evidence throughout the line. The luxury Ambassador convertible was the top of the heap. And if you happened to have one in Woodside Light Green with a white top and green interior? Holy cow! I’m in.
Many years went by before I discovered the 1965 Ambassador and Classic were not all-new, as I had previously assumed, (blame over-the-top Sixties braggadocio and advertising) but were in fact heavily facelifted 1963-64 models. While it can be seen in the rooflines–particularly on the two-door hardtops (damn, how did I not notice that?!), the middle-tier Classic and upper-crust Ambassador both looked new, modern and attractive. I especially like the Ambassador’s stacked headlights and peaked fenders. Did the top-tier wonks in Kenosha know Cadillac was going for quad stacked headlamps in ’65, or was it just a happy coincidence? At any rate, they looked great.