Don't expect too many changes in the 1964 cars scheduled to make their debut in 14 weeks.
That is the word gathered by AUTOMOTIVE FLEET in its annual trip to Detroit for a behind-the-scene look at the soon-to-be introduced new model cars.
The auto industry, currently riding the crest of a record sales year, isn't going to offer the general public-or the fleet user-many surprises, either in styling or mechanical innovations. Not that the record sales year has had anything to do with the lack of major change in the new model cars. The tools and dies needed to produce the cars were ordered long before the industry knew that 1963 would go into the books as a record or near-record year. New cars are designed in a program that takes nearly three years. And since just about everyone has been experiencing healthy sales gains, there was little need for any crash programs.
Traditionally, the auto industry is tight-lipped about new model cars. The feeling in Detroit is that too much advance, information may hurt current sales. Despite this veil of secrecy, Automotive Fleet has learned much about the 1964 cars.
Big Switch At Ford
The biggest styling changes arc due at Ford Motor Co. Ford hasn't witnessed the sales gains experienced by arch-rival General Motors in the past several years and some observers claim a major reason is that the company has had too many models with similar styling.
To get away from this sameness of styling, the company's huge Ford division, accounting for more than 80 per cent of Ford sales, has restyled its entire line, The squared-off Thunderbird roofline, while still used, will ho less pronounced than in past years.
The compact Falcon, which has been basically unchanged since it was first introduced in 1959, will sport a new body shell. The softly rounded lines of the past four years have been abandoned in favor of squared lines below the greenhouse area. Sculptured trim running the length of the car will give the Falcon a longer, more massive look although overall size is unchanged.
The intermediate Ford Fairlane, brought out to sell between the Falcon and the standard Ford Galaxie, will also feature substantial styling changes to give it a more massive, bigger look. The Fairlane has met with good market acceptance, but observers felt that it looked so much like the Galaxie that it stole sales from the Galaxie rather than representing plus business. The styling of the Fairlane and the Galaxie will be divorced for 1964.
The Galaxie, the bread-and-butter car of the Ford line, will be restyled, but not to the extent of the Falcon and Fairlane. The Galaxie will have angular lines, sculptured paneling along the sides and an uncluttered rear end.
The Thunderbird will have a new styling treatment which in effect is a blend of the best features of the current model and the first four-door T-bird offered in 1958. The front end of the 1964 T-bird will be squared-off like the original four-seat T-bird while the rear features tubular styling similar to that of current models.
Lincoln-Mercury will drop its intermediate Meteor line. A companion to the Fairlane, the Meteor never got off the ground in volume, some say because it was too identical to the Fairlane.
The Meteor name will be carried over to the top-of-the-line Mercury Comet model. The Comet will receive substantial styling changes. Although the Comet is basically the same, car as the Falcon, it will continue to look different through the use of ornamentation and dual headlights.
The Mercury Monterey, Ford's only entry in the booming medium price field, will sport a new grille for 1964. The popular rear-slanting window will be retained. More models are; scheduled to be added to the Monterey to give the company a stronger entry in the medium price field.
The Lincoln-Continental will be unchanged from the current model. The only "major" styling change will be the use of straight rather than curved glass in the side windows.
All Ford Motor Co. cars will use a newly-designed steering wheel which is said to make it easier to get in and out of the car.
Early next year the Ford division will unveil a new sports-type model designed to compete against the Corvair Monza. Tentatively dubbed the Falcon Sport, it will be on a 108.5-inch wheelbase, 1 1/2 inches shorter than the present Falcon. The car will have the same over-all length as the Falcon, but it will have a much longer hood and much shorter rear deck. It will have bucket seats in the front and be powered by the same V-8 engine now used in the Falcon Sprint.
General Motors Corp. currently accounting for more than 50 per cent of all new car sales, will largely stick with this year's styling treatment, although it is planning some change's which will influence fleet buying.
The Buick Special, Pontiac Tempest and the Oldsmobile F-85 will grow a few inches in over-all length, following the trend toward larger cars. The Buick, Pontiac and Oldsmobile compacts grew a few inches this year, although they remained on a 112-inch wheelbase. Wheelbase of the B-O-P compacts for 1964 will be increased to 115-inches.
General Motors also will abandon unitized construction for its Buick, Pontiac and Oldsmobile compacts in favor of the conventional body-bolted-to-frame method of construction. In unitized construction, the body itself provides the structural strength for the car, while in body frame construction, the body is bolted to the under frame. GM hasn't found anything wrong with unitized construction-which eliminates many squeaks and rattles-it is just that with the conventional method of construction there is more interchangeability of parts, reducing expenses.
GM also plans to reduce the number of transmissions available across its entire car line, further reducing its manufacturing costs. One transmission reportedly on the way out is the Dyna-flow. Oldsmobile and Buick will switch to cast iron engines in the F-85 and Special instead of the aluminum transmission used for the past several years. And Pontiac will drop its low volume four-cylinder engine, concentrating on six- and eight-cylinder power plants. In addition, the transmission in the Tempest will move up from behind the rear wheels to behind the engine. This will create a transmission tunnel hump which has been missing from past Tempest models.
One of the most dramatic styling innovations this fall will be seen in the Buick Special and Oldsmobile F-85 station wagons. The rear portion of the roof will be raised nearly a foot to form a dome-like step up similar to that featured on the Scenicruiser Greyhound bus. The rear seat also will be raised higher than the front two seats, giving the rear seat passengers a clear view of the road. The story of the development of the vista dome station wagons is a tribute to GM's inventiveness. The story circulating around Detroit is that GM wanted to place a forward-facing third seat in the rear of the Special and F-85, but that the seat wound up atop the rear axle-so high that there wasn't enough headroom for the average person. Hence, the raised roof.
In line with the move toward bigger cars, Chevrolet plans to add still another model to its stable. Chevy will come out with a car on a 115-inch wheelbase- sized between the Chevy II and the standard Chevrolet. Reportedly called the Chevelle, it will be offered in a full series and be priced against the Ford Fair-lane. As a concession to dealer stocks, Chevrolet plans to carry over only six Chevy II models, compared with the present 12.
Chevrolet will give its standard car a new grille and front fender lines which will emphasize dual headlights. Side molding will be indented.
Modest grille and rear end changes will highlight the standard Pontiac, Buick, Oldsmobile and Cadillac.
Chrysler Corp. plans only one completely restyled car for 1964-the Imperial. In a move to bolster its position in the luxury car field, Chrysler has remade the Imperial and the result is a ear that has a strong resemblance to the Lincoln-Continental. The 1964 Imperial will have slim fenders, a squared-off roofline and a simulated tire cover in the rear. The front will have a split grille. It is not too surprising that the Imperial looks like the Lincoln-Continental. Elwood Engel, the company's top stylist, formerly worked for Ford Motor Co. and he designed the Lincoln-Continental before he came to Chrysler 18 months ago.
The rest of the Chrysler line will feature only minor styling changes for 1964. The basic lines of the Plymouth and Dodge ears will remain the same with changes held to front and rear metal. The Plymouth will have a new front end with the parking lights moving out of the fenders. The Dodge Dart will get a new grille and the Polara will have a pair of headlights encased in the fenders with smaller headlights in the grille. The Valiant's tail lights will be changed from horizontal bars to vertical strips set into its small fender fins.
At American Motors Corp., the big change will be in the Rambler American. Wheelbase of the American-which hasn't had a major change in three years-will be increased from 100 to 106-inches so that the car will be more competitive with the Big Three compacts. Interior dimensions also will be boosted, give the car more fleet appeal. The over-all styling theme of the Rambler will be similar to the new look of the Rambler Classic and Ambassador. The car will be powered by a 125-horsepower engine in place of this year's 90 horsepower engine. The bigger engine previously was offered as an option. Hardtops will be added to the Classic and Ambassador lines.
Studebaker Corp. will give its car line an Avanti look by utilizing sloping rear deck lines. The Lark name is scheduled to be discontinued with the standard models simply called Studebaker. The standard car also will get a new grille treatment. There is talk in South Bend that Studebaker plans to discontinue the Hawk line, shifting emphasis to the sports-type Avanti.