And I thought Mad Men was tiresome, a pastiche. Cynicism and cigarettes. Tedious. There was more to the era than that. Still, I will argue that there was never a better year for American cars than '61.
I was seven, in the backseat on many long drives between Montreal and Maine, and car-obsessed, road-obsessed, and map-obsessed. Already Autoliterate. I could spot a '61 Ford from a '60 at half a mile, in a thunderstorm...which happened every summer afternoon, it seemed, in the White Mountains. So I was primed,. Maybe most car guys circle forever around the auto-fixations of the summer they were seven years old?
But 1961...hey, they are sleek beauties, are they not? Even the weird last-phase-of-Virgil Exner Chryslers, which were starting to lose it. (His plainer Plymouths and espcially Dodge wagons were best by then; his upper-market Chryslers and Imperials most dysfunctional, style-wise). The GM cars were, all of them, stars. Lean & clean. Especially the Pontiacs. Any GM bubbletop would do it for me, but I'd argue a special case for a back-to-basic-looking Pontiac Catalina with all the Super-Duty stuff bought from the dealer and wrenched on by the buyer, or his/her local speed shop.
And maybe the most beeyootifull machine of the year was the Country Squire..
I also like the plainjane 3-door Ranch Wagon.
'61 Plymouth Fury. Seems characterful, but maybe not a car you'd want to look at every day.
Chrysler Newport. You can see the roots of the Batmobile. Whereas with the Pontiac, it's all about--go.