Small Packages and Budget Beauties – For the first 50 or 60 years Detroit only sold one size American automobile. A large one size fits all car. By the 1960s small compact cars sales were becoming too big a part of the market for Detroit to ignore. Plus customers started to rethink that bigger is better during a late 1950s recession. Then a middle east oil embargo of the early 1970 and the rise in gasoline prices meant that small cars would hold a permanent position in the Detroit line up. Many companies like Chevrolet and Ford started making small compact cars – Small Packages and Budget Beauties.
In the late 1950s Chevrolet wanted to take on the leading import, the Volkswagon Beatle. So they designed and produced an American automobile with a air cooled engine in the rear. The Corvair had 140 cubic inch 80 horsepower six cylinder engine with a aluminum block. The sporty Corvair Monza was available with 150 cubic inch 180 horsepower engine. Howerver, with a 108 inch wheelbase the Corvair was larger than most European compacts. The Chevrolet Corvair was produced from 1960 to 1969 and was priced over the nine years at $2100 to 2500. In 1960 about 250,000 Corvair’s were sold.
The Chevrolet Chevy II / Nova was an small size automobile built from 1962 to 1979. Chevrolet sold over 127,000 Chevy II’s in 1962. Like the Corvair the Chevy II was built to compete with the Ford Falcon. It was also the first Chevrolet since 1928 to be equipped with a four cylinder engine. By 1964 you could have a Chevy II equipped with any V-8 made at the time. In 1969 the Chevy II name was replaced in favor of the Nova.
The Corvair and Chevy II was not the only compact car built by Chevrolet over the years. In 1971 Chevrolet introduced the Vega, in 1979 the Monza, in 1976 the Chevette, in 1980 the Citation, in 1982 the Cavalier and in 2005 the Cobalt. All could be considered budget beauties.
The Ford Motor Co. entered the booming compact automobile market in 1960 and hit a home run with the Falcon. The Ford Falcon was a model A reborn and 436,000 were sold the first year. They were equipped with a small 144 cubic inch inline 6 cylinder engine. Ford replied to the hot selling Corvair Monza with two door hard top called the Falcon Futura Sprint sport coupe. They were powered by a 289 cubic inch 200 horsepower small block V-8. Falcon were available in convertibles, four door sedans, two door sedans, wagons and a Ranchero pickup. The Falcon was always considered as economical transportation for the masses. But sportier versions with large engines were also produced.
Yes, the Ford Falcon was a affordable compact. But introduced in 1970 was the Ford Maverick a even more affordable compact and it took the place of the Falcon. The Maverick had attractive styling and a selling price of less than $2,000.00. Over 500,000 were sold the first year.
In addition to the Falcon and Maverick Ford produced the following automobiles in small packages – The Ford Pinto in 1971, Ford Festa in 1978, the Ford Tempo in 1984, the Ford Escort in 1993 and the Ford Focus in 2000.
The Plymouth Valiant was manufactured by The Chrysler Corporation from 1960 to 1976. It gave the company an entry into the small compact market like Ford and Chrevrolet. It was well know for its excellent durability and mechanical reliability. The Valiant was one of Chrysler’s best selling compacts. It was equipped with a 170 or 225 cubic inch slant six engine.