For fleet users, 1963 will not be a significant automotive year.
The 1963 cars which are now dotting the streets do not feature many engineering or functional changes-the prime concern of all fleet users. There are no breathtaking announcements or engineering breakthroughs. Styling refinements, for the most part, are the byword for 1963. Even the styling changes, with the exception of American Motors Corp. and Chrysler Corp., are not major.
If one word could sum up the 1963 cars, that word would be conformity. Not only is there conformity in styling, but in engineering and mechanical developments as well.
Last year was a healthy year for fleets. The annual major restyling, long an auto industry axiom, took second place to functionalism-making cars run longer at a cheaper cost. While the industry has not abandoned its trend toward functional cars, it is apparent that the auto industry will turn out functional cars through evolution rather than revolution. The next big breakthrough will come in 1964 or 1965 when automakers will offer cars with electronic components and that are completely service free for 50,000 or 100,000 miles.
In fairness to automakers, it should be noted that the industry would be hardpressed to surpass last year's functional improvements which included extended oil change and chassis lubrication intervals and other "under the skin" changes. Since the auto industry is now working on an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary basis, major mechanical changes can be expected every second or third year rather than every year.
While change has not been spectacular, the 1963 cars offer much to the fleet user. The functional improvements introduced a year ago have been continued, if not improved upon.
LUBRICATION INTERVALS INCREASED
Last year, all automakers with the exception of Buick, Chevrolet and Studebaker offered some type of extended chassis lubrication. Now, Buick and Chevrolet have joined the parade, leaving Studebaker as the only holdout.
Ford Motor Co., which pioneered extended chassis lubrication, has increased the interval from 30,000 to 36,000 miles on its volume cars and extended it to its compact Falcon and Comet cars. In addition, Ford has boosted the chassis interval on the high priced popular selling Ford Thunderbird to 100,000 miles. Cadillac and Oldsmobile continue permanent chassis lubrication "under normal operating conditions" while Chrysler Corp. is sticking with a 32,000 mile lubrication interval. Pontiac has dropped its chassis lube interval to 30,000 miles from 35,000 while American Motors again offers a 33,000 mile interval for its Rambler Classic and Ambassador.
Buick and Chevrolet have not gone as far as their fellow automakers in extended lubrication intervals. Both recommend a 6,000 mile change interval. It had been rumored that Chevrolet was planning to go to a 33,000 mile lubrication interval but this was denied by Semon E. (Bunky) Knudsen, Chevy general manager and a vice president of General Motors Corp., at the company's national press preview.
Other functional improvements that have been broadened for 1963 include alternators, which increase battery life, and self-adjusting brakes.
Chrysler Corp., which first introduced the alternator, is again offering it on all of its cars. Ford offers an alternator as standard equipment on the Thunderbird, Monterey and Lincoln-Continental while American Motors includes an alternator as standard equipment on its Ambassador line. All Studebaker and General Motors cars feature an alternator as standard equipment, although GM, refusing to take a back seat to Chrysler, calls its alternator a Delcotron or an alternating current generator.
Self-adjusting brakes, a big money saver for fleets, are offered on just about all 1963 cars with several makes including a dual safety brake system.
The increased availability of extended chassis lubrication and oil change intervals, alternators and self-adjusting brakes should go a long way in reducing a fleets operating and maintenance costs.
Transistor radios are standard in just about all 1963 cars. And most 1963 cars feature long-life batteries and exhaust systems.
Several features which were new last year on certain cars have not yet been picked up by all automakers. Chevy II remains the only car with single leaf rear springs and American Motors and Ford continue alone in their use of long-life radiator coolants instead of the conventional anti-freeze.
Last year the auto industry introduced three cars that had great appeal to fleet users-the Chevy II, the Ford Fairlane and the Mercury Meteor. There is only one brand new make this year and it doesn't fit into the price range of most fleet users. General Motors has finally come out with its answer to the highly successful Ford Thunderbird. The car, the Buick Riviera, has four individual bucket seats and will sell in the $5,000 price range.
Following an industry agreement reached last spring, all 1963 models come equipped with an anti-smog crankcase ventilation system, designed to reduce air pollution, and amber turn signals for better visibility at night. And, all makes continue with floor anchors for two front seat belts, solving a problem which has been costly on some makes. Studebaker also continues with anchors for two rear seat belts.
The styling theme for 1963 is one of sameness-it is pretty hard to tell the various makes apart. The theme is accented by a squared off roofline which has become known as a T-bird roofline because it was first popularized by the Ford Thunderbird.
Lee Iacocca, general manager of the Ford division, poked a little fun at his fellow automakers at the Ford press preview by saying that more Thunder-bird cars will be sold in 1963 than ever before "only many of them won't be ours." This, he said, was a great compliment to Ford styling.
Most of the 1963 cars are slightly longer than a year ago, although some of the changes are infinitesimal. Automotive Fleet calculates that the lengths of 24 makes or models have been changed for the new model year, with 19 showing an increase and five showing a decrease in over-all length.
The change in over-all length of most cars prompted Roy Abernethy president of American Motors Corp., to ridicule as "fiction" the "myth" that the American car buyer wants longer cars.
"The U. S. car buyer has not lost his mind," Abernethy declared recently. "Compact cars are the largest single factor in the auto market and they soon will be accounting for more than half of all sales.
American Motors, which launched the compact car, classifies any conventional car measuring between 170 and 200 inches as a compact. This includes the Ford Fairlane (197.6 inches), but not the Mercury Meteor (203.8 inches). Many others who have attempted to classify cars have called both the Fairlane and Meteor as intermediates as well as the Plymouth.
As Automotive Fleet said editorially last January, the industry should not concern itself with labels such as compact, intermediate or standard sized, but rather concentrate on building functional cars, regardless of size. This is what the average car buyer-and all fleet users-are really interested in.
Here are highlights of the 1963 RAMBLER models:
AMERICAN MOTORS CORP.: The company which pioneered "styling continuity" has given its Rambler Classic and Ambassador an all-new styling look for 1963. AMC says the styling changes are "functional changes .... not change just for the sake of change." Regardless of the reason, the new Classic and Ambassador are probably the finest looking cars ever produced by American Motors. The cars feature a squared-off Thunderbird roofline and the front end bears a resemblance to the Ford Falcon.
AMC is also using a new method of unitized body construction which replaces previous multiple components with single stampings, thus reducing human or mechanical error in forming sections. AMC says the new method results in 30 per cent fewer parts, resulting in greater structural rigidity and quieter car operation. Over-all weight has been reduced by some 150 pounds.
In the building process, new one-piece outer unsides are welded to inner unsides to form a complete box structure around door openings and rocker panels. The single stampings produce door openings of uniform size for precision fits. Other one-piece stampings include floor pans and front and rear window openings which are stronger and permit better sealing.
The front wheel repacking interval has been increased from 12,000 to 25,000 miles on all models. Oil change interval on all models is 4,000 miles. Ambassador models include an alternator and electronic transistor voltage regulator as standard equipment. An alternator is standard on Classic and American models equipped with air conditioning.
Wheelbase of the Classic and Ambassador has been increased from 108 to 112-inches, although the cars are 1.2 inches shorter due to a reduction in bumper overhang. Despite the reduction in length, the Rambler cars appear long, principally because of a three inch drop in over-all height.
The Classic and Rambler feature curved side glass which is said to increase visibility and interior room and reduce wind noise.
New to the 100-inch wheelbase American line is a two-door hardtop model, the first hardtop offered by AMC. Styling of the hardtop is similar to that of the bigger Ramblers.
Available as an option on all models is a twin stick floor shift transmission with overdrive. The E-stick automatic clutch transmission offered exclusively on the American last year has been extended to Classic models with a cast-iron engine. It combines the economy of a standard transmission with much of the convenience of an automatic since there is no clutch pedal to operate when shifting gears.
On automatic transmissions, the lever is mounted on the steering column, replacing the pushbutton system used previously.
CHRYSLER CORP: Chrysler, which found with its airflow cars of the mid-1980s and again last year with its European look that it can be costly to be different in the auto business if that difference does not strike the public fancy, has returned to a more conventional styling look. Gone are the long hood lines and short rear deck. The 1963 cars have the universal squared-off roofline and flat rear deck.
In a further move to strengthen its competitive position, Chrysler has revamped its Plymouth and Dodge cars so they won't compete directly against each other.
The wheelbase of the standard sized Dodge has been increased to 119-inches, the same as the Chevrolet Impala and Ford Galaxie. Over-all length has been increased six inches. The Plymouth, while still on a 116-inch wheelbase, has been increased three inches in length and is an inch wider than a year ago. A major effort has also been made to give the big Dodge and Plymouth a different styling treatment.
Dodge's entry in the super-compact field is now called the Dart-the name of last year's big Dodge. The Lancer nameplate has been dropped completely. The new wheelbase of the Dart is 111-inches, compared with 106.5 inches for the Lancer. Over-all length is up eight inches over the comparable 1962 model. A convertible model is now available.
Two convertibles have been added to the Plymouth Valiant to fill out a range of nine models and body styles. The Valiant is also the first of the Big Three compacts to receive a complete styling overhaul. Over-all length has been increased 2.2 inches and width at the rear bumper reduced 1.6 inches. The car has single headlights, the first to appear on a Chrysler Corp. car since 1957. The fuel tank capacity-has been increased from 14 to 18 gallons, increasing non-stop driving by more than 25 per cent.
The Chrysler line, the only corporation make to show a sales increase over 1961, also has a new styling treatment for 1963. New are the front grille, rear fenders and roofline. The roof blends smoothly into the rear deck lid. Wheelbase of the top-of-the-line New Yorker series has been reduced to 122-inches, the same as other Chrysler models.
The luxury Imperial is largely unchanged for 1963. Free-standing headlights are continued, but the target-like taillights have been discontinued. Styling changes include a new roof and rear window for Custom and Crown hardtops, a restyled LeBaron roof and new rear bumpers on all lines. Parking brakes are now on the rear wheels. The previous transmission output shaft brake has been replaced by a parking system which operates the rear wheel service brakes through a cable and linkage mechanism. In addition to a sizeable reduction in the height of the transmission tunnel, adoption of the rear wheel parking brake provides higher braking capacity and smoother application.
All Chrysler models feature a newly designed windshield wiper that will not lift off the windshield at high speeds. This was accomplished by curving the wiper frame and inclining it 17 degrees to the windshield to form an airfoil.
Chrysler has also issued a five year or 50,000 miles warranty on all major power train components-the engine, transmission, propeller shaft and universal joint and rear axle. The warranty is in addition to the 12 month or 12,000 mile warranty now in force on all Detroit cars. To qualify, the car has to receive periodic checkups each 4,000 miles or two months during the warranty period. The warranty can be transferred from owner to owner.
Harry E. Chesebrough, Chrysler vice president in charge of quality control, acknowledged that some people have been skeptical about the long-term warranty, but declared that there is nothing phony about the warranty.
"I know some people think it's unbelievable, phony and has fishhooks in it," said Chesebrough, "We are not trying to trap people and there is nothing phony about this. We're not looking for loopholes, but we're obviously trying to protect ourselves."
By protection, Chesebrough meant the warranty certificate which goes with the new car. The "certified car care maintenance record" contained in the warranty booklet details a long list of service chores, such as rotating tires and aligning headlights at specified intervals. It also includes a requirement to change engine oil every two months or 4,000 miles, plus periodic lubrications and engine tune-ups.
Chesebrough admitted some of the language needs clarifying and said a rewritten version of the warranty would be issued later this year. But he said that essentially, the five year guarantee required that the owner follow the recommended oil change interval of two months or 4,000 miles.
"Even then," Chesebrough said, "we're not going to be picayunish about this, we only want reasonable consideration. Chesebrough said the service need not be performed at a Chrysler dealer, but to qualify, the car owner must furnish receipts or other proof that the work actually was performed elsewhere.
FORD STRESSES MAINTENANCE
FORD MOTOR CO.: Ford, which pioneered in extended maintenance intervals, is again emphasizing service free features for 1963. Styling changes on all Ford lines have been held to a minimum. To strengthen its competitive position, the company has added convertibles to its compact Falcon and Comet lines and hardtops and station wagons to the intermediate Fairlane and Meteor lines.
A total of 46 models will be offered by the Ford division for 1963, 13 more than the division had at the start of the 1962 model year. The expansion is seen as a direct move to the sales of Chervolet, Ford's traditional arch rival. The new Ford models include two convertibles, a hardtop sports coupe and a four-door sedan for the compact Falcon; a sports coupe, a two-door hardtop and three station wagons for the Fairlane; and two sedans and four-door hardtop in the Galaxie series. The sedans fit in at the bottom of the line and are aimed at the fleet buyer.
The traditional inspection after the first 1,000 miles has been eliminated for all cars. The Thunderbird has a 100,000 mile or three year major chassis lubrication interval. Lubrication interval for other models has been increased from 30,000 to 36,000 miles and now includes the Falcon. The Thunderbird will feature an alternator instead of the conventional generator.
Lee A. Iacocca, Ford division general manager, told Automotive Fleet that the owner of a 1963 Ford will only have to pay $65.96 in a three year period for normal maintenance, compared with $219.08 in 1960. This is good news for fleet users as a reduction in maintenance costs means more money for over all fleet operations.
The Lincoln-Mercury division, like its sister Ford division, is concentrating on an expanded line-up and extended maintenance features.
Lincoln-Mercury has added hardtops and station wagons to the intermediate Meteor and convertibles to the compact Falcon. The additions bring to 35 the number of models offered for 1963. Last year, L-M had 28 models.
Like Ford division cars, the 1,000 mile inspection check has been eliminated and the lubrication interval boosted from 30,000 to 36,000 miles. An alternator is offered for the first time as standard equipment on the Mercury Monterey and Lincoln-Continental. A swing-away steering column is offered as an extra-cost option on the Monterey. A V-8 engine will be brought out sometime after the first of the year.
Styling changes include a reverse slope rear window for the Monterey. The window, similar to one used several years ago on the Lincoln-Continental, is retractable. The over-all styling theme of other L-M has been maintained with appearance changes in the grilles, side ornamentation and taillights.
GENERAL MOTORS CORP: The five GM divisions, currently accounting for more than 55 per cent of all sales, apparently feel that it doesn't pay to tamper with a winner as they all continue their styling themes of a year ago.
Chevrolet, with 33 models in four different car lines, features a Delcotron, or alternator, and self adjusting brakes as standard equipment on all models. Muffler life has also been lengthened, Chevy says.
A new six cylinder 140 horsepower engine, higher in horsepower yet 23 per cent lighter than its 1962 counterpart, teams with a revised 238 cubic inch V-8 and five other engines to offer engines ranging from 140 to 425 horsepower in the standard line. Four and six cylinder engines are again offered with the Chevy II and the Corvair continues with its rear mounted 90 horsepower engine.
The Corvette has its first major styling change in 10 years. New is a fast back coupe model with sporty European lines.
Pontiac has made its standard line appear lower, longer and wider without materially changing the over-all length. The Tempest is five inches longer and two inches wider. Much of the increase is in the rear, providing a rear deck lid that is three inches longer for greater luggage compartment space.
BREAKERLESS IGNITION SYSTEM
The Delcotron and self-adjusting brakes are standard on both the big car and the Tempest. A breaker-less ignition system is offered as optional equipment on all standard sized models equipped with a premium fuel engine. The transistor system has no breaker points or condenser and provides hotter spark at the plug and quicker starting. The air conditioning unit has been integrated into the heater system. A movable steering column is also available as an option.
Oldsmobile has increased the length of its super-compact F-85 by four inches. Wheelbase remains at 112-inches. A custom sports coupe has been added to the 98 series.
Both the standard sized Olds and the F-85 feature the Delcotron and self-adjusting brakes as standard equipment. All models are equipped with a new door interlock which increases resistance to door-opening under impact. Also new is a "positive pilot" turn signal system to warn the driver should one of the turn signals fail. The heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems are operated by a single control unit to maintain a more constant temperature under all weather conditions.
Olds says that another engineering advance includes a revised rear suspension geometry and newly designed body mountings for smoother ride. The cars corner better due to improvements in sway control. For added maneuverability, turning diameter has been reduced almost three feet.
All Buick models are approximately the same size as a year ago but the super-compact Special has been increased nearly four inches in over-all length, resulting in more trunk space. Styling refinements have been held to a minimum.
The Invicta series has been dropped except for a station wagon and the Wildcat, introduced last spring, has been expanded to a full series. A convertible has been added to the LeSabre series.
Engineering improvements include self-adjusting brakes, the Delcotron alternator and an option adjustable steering column. Another option available on the regular line is a cruise-control for turnpike driving. The air conditioning system has been refined to include the evaporator and heater core in the same housng, permitting dehumidification of air without lowering the temperature.
Cadillac's story for 1963 includes increased size and a new engine and drive line. Eleven of the 12 models offered are one inch longer than a year ago. The engine weighs less than last year's engine with horsepower remaining at 325. The water pump, oil pump, distributor and oil filter are mounted in one package on the die cast aluminum front cover.
A new drive line, said to be an industry first, features a double constant velocity joint assembly at the center, a similar joint at the rear axle and a U-joint at the transmission. This combination of constant velocity joints is insensitive to load or road variations and provides greater durability.
Cadillac is using a 42 ampere generator and an aluminized muffler cover. The rear axle oil seal is a double lip design and the steering linkage ball joints feature extended life lubrication as do the rear wheel bearings.
STUDEBAKER CORP: Studebaker has ungraded its entire 1963 line and now includes as standard equipment many items that formerly were offered as options. The move, President Sherwood H. Egbert told Automotive Fleet, is in line with the trend away from austere cars.
Styling of the Studebaker line-the Lark, Cruiser and Gran Turismo Hawk is largely unchanged for 1963. The center pillar post is narrow above the belt line and is vertical. The door frames around the door windows are much lower and are formed from the door lower panels. The big push at Studebaker has been on engineering and mechanical improvements.
A 35-ampere Prestolite alternator and regulator is standard on all Lark and Hawk models as are self-adjusting brakes. Disc brakes, said to reduce brake fade, are available as an option. A viscous fan drive kit is available as an option on all V-8 models with or without air conditioning. The kit includes a five-bladed 18¼ diameter fan. Although the fan pulley is driven faster than the standard fan, the noise level is reduced considerably because the viscous drive speed limitations. The radiator has a two inch thick core and mounts further forward in order to provide necessary clearance.
Engine changes include a new cylinder head gasket for the standard compression ratio six cylinder engine. This new head gasket is steel encased asbestos which has less tendency to settle and is easier to remove. A replaceable element full-flow filter is offered as an option with all engines.
The big news at Studebaker is a new station wagon, the Wagonaire, which has a sliding roof that telescopes forward from the rear almost to the center line. The sliding roof, first of its kind in the industry and standard on all models, provides greater visibility and increases the versatility of station wagon use.