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The Most Popular Cars of the 1960s

BY: Alex Perrone
A blue Shelby GT500 car on pier..

Over the decades, the innovation and advancements within the auto industry have helped pave the way for some truly remarkable vehicles. From fuel-efficient hybrid and electric vehicles to high-powered muscle cars, spacious luxury vehicles, and everything in between, there truly is a vehicle made for anyone and any occasion. But while decades like the 1950s had some of the most well-recognizable vehicles ever, it isn’t the only decade to boast some classics.

The 1960s, in particular, featured numerous vehicles that made their way into the public eye, thanks to some iconic designs, legendary racing performances, and historical significance.

1967 Shelby GT500 (Pictured Above)

1960s muscle cars established a style that many vehicle designers have continued to use in the decades since. One of the most influential was designed by the legendary auto designer and race car driver Carrol Shelby — Ford’s 1967 Shelby GT500.

This iconic vehicle, equipped with a V8 engine boasting 355 horsepower (hp), became widely considered as one of the best American cars ever produced.

  • 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500 was the first model built in the GT500 series.
  • A GT500 nicknamed “Eleanor” was used to film the movie Gone in 60 Seconds (2000), which was about a ring of car thieves who have to steal 48 cars in one night!
  • A GT500 sold for nearly half a million dollars at an auction held by Barrett-Jackson.

1964 Aston Martin DB5

Aston Martin DB5

Many consider the Aston Martin DB5 to be one of the most iconic cars of the decade, if not ever. One of the main reasons for this is that it also happens to be one of James Bond’s favorite vehicles.

However, despite production models missing the infamous side-mounted machine guns, retractable bulletproof shield beneath the rear light, ejector seat, and other gadgets and features made famous by 007, the DB5 is still a vehicle to be reckoned with.

  • The car boasts 282hp with a 4-liter engine and can go from 0 to 60 in 8.1 seconds.
  • James Bond first used the DB5 in Goldfinger (1964).
  • During the filming of Goldfinger, the added equipment made the car much heavier, so the film crew needed a second DB5 for the chase scenes.

1961 Lincoln Continental

While most notably remembered as the car President Kennedy was assassinated in, the 1961 Lincoln Continental was still a vehicle worth remembering.

Considered more of a luxury vehicle, the Continental featured a V8 capable of 300hp and a top speed of 120 mph. The 1961 Lincoln Continental also featured a padded dashboard, a Continental spare tire kit under the rear floor, and a retractable rear window — all features later used on other luxury cars.

  • The Continental is the car that transformed Lincoln’s image and is often credited as one of the great American cars.
  • President Kennedy regularly used the 1961 Lincoln Continental for parades and motorcades when he was elected. The Secret Service gave the vehicle the codename “X-100.”
  • Kennedy’s Continental had some unique extra features, such as a hydraulic rear seat used for parades, 4 retractable steps for Secret Service (and 2 on the rear bumper), 2 radiotelephones, and more.

1964 Ford GT40

A red Ford GT40.

The Ford GT40 was the first American car to win the famous Le Mans endurance race 4 years in a row (1966-1969), making it one of the most successful racing vehicles ever built. Its victory was so important that it was actually a part of the plot of the Ford vs. Ferrari (2019)! Not to mention the GT40’s first triumph in 1966 signaled Ford’s return to victory at a major European race since 1921.

However, despite being one of the most famous racing vehicles in the world, few were made for everyday use, making them a top collector’s item for auto enthusiasts.

  • The Ford GT40 could provide 485 horsepower based on tuning and going from 0 to 60 in 4.2 seconds with a top speed of 210.
  • Ford built the GT40 prototype in the United Kingdom, and subsequent prototypes were all manufactured there. However, the Mk IV model was entirely designed and constructed in America.
  • The legendary driver and designer Bruce McLaren was the first test driver of the GT540.

1964 Pontiac GTO

The 1964 Pontiac GTO is widely recognized as the first true “muscle car” despite being advertised as the “first fun-to-drive family car.” Overall, the GTO featured a dual exhaust, a 6.4L V8 capable of up to 348hp, and reached 60 mph in less than 6 seconds.

  • The GTO won Motor Trend’s Car of the Year Award in 1965, and it went on to become one of the best-selling cars of all time.
  • The Pontiac GTO was produced by the American automobile company Pontiac from 1963 to 1974.
  • The 1964 GTO was only expected to sell only 5,000 units. Instead, over 32,000 were sold, helping it become a major success at the time.

Volkswagen Beetle

A white VW Beetle from the 60s.

You’ll have a hard time finding a vehicle as recognizable as the Volkswagen (VW) Beetle. While it was first designed for use by the German army during WWII, the Beetle has since become iconic for its unique appearance and overall popularity. In fact, chances are you’ll see one sooner than later, as the original Beetle design was the longest-running and most-manufactured car ever, with over 21 million produced between 1938 and 2003!

  • In 1938, the very first Beetles were produced. Then, with their growing popularity in the United States in the 1960s, Volkswagen established its first North American manufacturing facility to meet demand.
  • The car received its iconic name thanks to the New York Times newspaper.
  • The last originally produced VW Beetle was made in Puebla, Mexico, in 2013 and is now on display in the AutoMuseum Volkswagen in Wolfsburg, Germany. It was the 21,529,464th Beetle ever made with the original design.

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