In 1968 American Motors ditched the 880 and 990 series, and introduced the DPL and SST, the new models being introduced on 26th September. The Ambassador now featured side safety lights, although the hood ornament would be deleted (to return again in 1974). The prices ranged from $2820 to $3207, the sedan being $3065, the 2 door hardtop $2947. The SST retained the rally lights inserted into the grille.
The AMX was a special edition Javelin, introduced on the 24th February, 1968. The 1968 models had a A-8 serial number prefix, which was set in the dash. Engines included the 290 CID 225 hp V8, or optional 343 CID 280 hp V8 and 390 CID 315 hp V8. The AMX was shod with E70 x 14 tyres, with 1969 prices starting at $3297. 6725 were manufactured for the 1969 model year. An AMX is readily identified by the unique dual wedges on the hood, each bearing 5 parallel louvres.
The AMC Javelin was introduced on the 26th September, 1967 as a 1968 model. It featured a brand new 280 horsepower 343 CID V8, while a de-tuned V8 290 CID engine was available, along with a 232 CID six cylinder. The Javelin was shod with 6.96/7/35 x 14 tyres depending on engine choice. The dash featured deeply recessed round gauges and controls. The wheelbase was 109 inches, and prices started at $2743.
The AMC Javelin was both a handsome and comfortable car, however it was wide-open for some hard knocks in a marketplace entrenched with U.S. muscle cars such as the Mustang, Camaro, Cougar, Firebird, and Barrracuda - the Big Three's menagerie. Many saw it as a kind of stop-gap between AMC's image of fustiness, and the hoped-for bright new world of the Corrvette-like AMX. The 280-hp, 343 cu. in. V8 did the job well, with a minimum of fuss. The 4-speed BorgWarner transmission was a good device; the disc brake set-up was acceptable. But the "heavy-duty" suspension obviously meant something quite different in the Javelin than it meant in, say, the Camaro Z-28.
The 1968 Rebels were introduced on the 26th September, 1967, with the 550 and SST models being the only remaining AMC convertibles still available. The SST came standard with the 290 CID Typhoon V8, while the 770 came standard with the 232 CID six cylinder. The SST featured an air-intake ahead of the rear wheels, while all models had new safety lights on the front quarter panels just above the rap around bumper, along with new 3 piece tail lights and square, recessed door handles. All models were on a 114 inch wheelbase.
The Buick Riviera was an immediate hit when it was introduced in 1963. It's distinctive appearance and European influenced 2+2 accommodation quickly established it as the car for the guy who had it made, yet was young enough not to worry about hardening of the arteries. In the intervening years, the Riviera had vacillated in concept; seemingly destined to become an all-out GT car at one point (with the Gran Sport models) and then reversing course and becoming a floating, understeering, softly-sprung dreamboat. Finally, a well thought-out compromise has been reached. The 1968 Riviera was blessed with both good handling and a smooth, quiet ride.
When driven hard into a corner, the Riviera displayed an alarming amount of body lean, butyou had to learn not to let that worry you - until the limit of adhesion was reached. The Riviera remained quick, agile and predictable. While handling improvements had been made to make the Riviera a much nicer car, and performance was gradually increased, the guys in the styling department had dropped the ball. The Toronado-like front grille/bumper gave what had been one of the most attractive cars on the road a ponderous nose-heavy look completely out of keeping with the rest of the car. And that was a shame, seeing that, otherwise, the car had been so vastly improved.
The Buick Special Deluxe would not have been on the radar of any real car enthusiast. You would buy one only if you thought of cars as a means of getting from one point to another. It was solid, staid and virtually devoid of any distinctive features. And it was neither "special" nor "deluxe", but simply another version of GM's bread-and-butter A-body sedan. In a 4-door guise there was hardly a less glamorous car for '68. The only concessions to distinctiveness were the squared-off portholes on the front fenders - and they look a bit incongruous on this otherwise Spartan sedan.
The power plant for the Special Deluxe was a 350 cu. in. V8, which, in a moderate state of tune, could provide above-average performance; but rated as it was, at 230 horsepower, the Special Deluxe was definitely not what you would call a high-performance machine. Ride characteristics were undulating soft, masking what actually turned out to be better than average handling qualities. Sure, there was a strong dose of understeer - more than any enthusiast would have put up with - but enthusiasts didn't buy Buick Specials, and for the run-of-the-mill driver the Special DeLuxe was simply a smooth-riding, predictable, practical sedan. And when you get right down to it, many in 1968 didn't need any more than that - just like they didn't need portholes.
The word "Wildcat" conjures images of one of the smallest but toughest members of the feline family, but Buick had chosen to call its big-wheelbase, big engine car "Wildcat" and it was something of a misnomer; lion might be more like it. It was big, it was powerful, and it demanded respect from most other cars on the road. But it wasn't the quick-handling car that its smaller wheelbase contemporaries were. The suspension was soft and compliant, making for the typically smooth ride that had always been a Buick trademark, but, when cornered hard, there was a lot of disconcerting body lean-.
Fortunately, the Wildcat telegraphed its every move, and unless you were completely unconscious behind the wheel, you were not likely to get into trouble. But for those with serious plans of going drag racing, they would have been well advised to look elsewhere. It was true that you could keep up with most everything around in your Wildcat, until the twisty stuff. The 3-speed automatic transmission could be left alone to shift by itself or it could be manually shifted for top performance. While this was not a unique option, the console-mounted stirrup shift lever allowed more precise manual shifting than comparable set-ups from other manufacturers.
Surprising as it may seem, the Cadillac Coupe de Ville was a pretty fair driver's car - by American standards. Getting the most out of a car's over the-road performance depends to a large degree on the driver's ability to get comfortable at the wheel. The Coupe's 6-way power seat and tilting/telescoping steering wheel options made it possible to arrange the driving position to suit almost any body size or height. The suspension was soft - too soft - but it responded well to the controls. A set of Koni shock absorbers would have helped eliminate problems with its ride and handling characteristics.
Cadillacs were equipped with very large tyres, and while they developed a good bite in high-speed turns, at low speeds the car could plow alarmingly if driven hard. Thanks to a variable ratio gear in the power steering system, the Coupe de Ville was very responsive to steering inputs. Despite the Coupe de Ville's bigger than-life dimensions (129.5-in. wheelbase, 224.7-in. overall length-bigger in both reespects than a Chrysler station wagon), it really is a coupe, and rear seat passengers are a little cramped. Nevertheless we like the Coupe de Ville's appearance-a little too massive to be actually called beautiful, but infused with a subtle tastefulness that is appealing and has made Cadillac the most prestigious car built in this country.
The '68 Cadillac Eldorado was a high-roller's version of the Oldsmobile Toronado, being a front wheel drive vehicle powered by what was then the world's largest passenger car engine, which, seemed to defy what should have been technically possible. Many thought the torque steer would be unmanagable, but the Eldorado was very controllable at turnpike speeds, particularly in transient response (a high-speed slalom to test evasive manoeuvrability). Whether or not the Eldorado was worth the US$1850 or so above the cost of the Toronado depended on such intangibles as status and an appreciation of the Cadillac's higher-quality materials and better quality control.
As for luxury, comfort and space for the driver and front-seat passenger were as good as the bigger Cadillacs. Thankfully, the '67 models drum brakes were feplaced by front disc brakes as standard. The performance of the Eldorado was good, but almost unfelt. Despite the presence of almost eight litres of V8 towing the Eldorado along, the engine was tuned for smoothness and silence. Most loved the Eldorado's appearance; it being an understated expression of taste that Cadillac had never before exhibited. It was sleek, clean, and it looked expensive - which after all was the whole idea.
In 1968 the Chevrolet Camaro received only minor changes in it's second year in production. The grill took on a more horizontal look while the vent windows were dropped and side marker lights were added. Multi-leaf rear springs also replaced the single-leaf units and rear shock absorbers were now staggered. Also new was the optional 396 V8 - 350hp, for the SS package. The Z-28 "MO" option was easier to spot as it now sported Z-28 or 302 badges.
The Z-28 was the closest thing to a racing car you could buy from an American automaker. The Z-28 was a special option package that turned the Camaro into a Group 2 sedan; all you needed to do was add a roll bar and you were ready to go racing. The heart of the Z-28 was a limited production 302 cu. in. version of Chevy's small-block V8, and it felt much stronger than the 327s and 350s that were sold in Chevy's Super Sport packages.
The Z-28's 302 came with a hot cam, a huge carburettor, solid lifters, and special rods and pistons. Many who drove the car quickly nominated it as the most responsive production V8 ever made, capable of whipping the Z-28 through the quarter-mile at almost 100 mph. You also got a lot of other special stuff with the Z-28 - like a handling package, heavy-duty suspension parts - and GM wouldn't sell it without power disc brakes and a close-ratio 4-speed gearbox. For 1968 the engineers replaced the multi-leaf rear springs with monoplate springs and single traction rod, and the shocks were bias-mounted fore and aft of the axle, and axle hop under acceleration was reduced. Related to ordinary Camaros, the Z-28 was what a Shelby GT-350 was to an ordinary Mustang - a lot tougher.
In the late '60s the intermediate class was where the action was (according to industry analysts of the time), and the Chevelle was all slicked up to capture as much of the burgeoning class as possible. GM offered intermediates on two different chassis lengths: 112-inches for the 2-door coupes and convertibles, and 116-inches for 4-door sedans and wagons. The result was that the GM coupes looked pretty neat, but the long-chassis cars suffered by comparison. Inside, however, the extra four inches ensured there was an appreciable gain in leg room and ride comfort.
Unfortunately, the 4-door models didn't offer much for the enthusiast. The Chevelle's road behaviour was rubbery and remote; it was stable in the sense that it resisted deviating from a straight line by rolling and understeering and serving notice with a lot of tire squeal that it doesn't like being driven hard. Road testers of the era noted that the car needs either more horsepower or one more gear in the automatic transmission (you couldn't get the 3-speed automatic without the 396 engine). The new finned front brake drums didn't shorten stopping distances, but they did ward off brake fade longer. The Chevelle was an acceptable member of the automotive community. Nice, but there was better out there.
The Pontiac GTO was the original Super Car (an intermediate with a big V8) back in '64. That same year, 100 Chevelles were built with the then-new 396 cu. in. V8 (at the time it was technically the most advanced high-performance V8 in the world) and dubbed the SS 396. Chevy chief Pete Estes liked the car and its image, and ordered it into volume production in '65, and it had support from the enthusiasts ever since. For '68, all GM's Super Cars were built on the 112-in. (short) wheel base version of GM's A-body - the one that is shared by all the divisions (except Cadillac) for the medium-small cars.
Unfortunately, so much of this body was common to all the divisions that it seemed to have caused some problems for the stylists as, by our reckoning, they resorted to some rather heavy-handed techniques, like weird grilles, to distinguish their car from those of sister divisions. The Chevelle's unenthusiastic appearance was a good example. All the regular enthusiasts options were there, though: disc brakes, handling packages, etc., and the SS 396's over-the-road performance was substantially improved over the '67's. In addition to being more nimble, the rear axle location was revised to make cornering behaviour more predictable, however the '68 Chevy's cranked in more understeer.
The '68 Corvette was the wildest-looking production car Detroit had ever made, but underneath the radical "coke-bottle" styling, the mechanical components were much the same as the '67 models. Modifications to the rear-suspension geometry, and the addition of wide-oval tyres and wide (7-inch) rims improved the handling characteristics above that of the highly-touted Sting Ray. There was some dispute about road feel and directional precision with the Corvette's optional power assisted steering, but all road testers of the time agreed that the car's cornering capabilities were first rate, with ride comfort about the same (although it was definitely not "Jet Smooth").
The 3-speed Turbo HydraMatic finally replaced the 2-speed Powerglide on all models ordered with automatic transmission. The brakes, 4-wheel discs, were unchanged and considered at the time to be among the best in the world. The '68's interior looked flashy, but wasn't as practical as the old. The seats were more comfortable, but the stylishly-pinched waist had eliminated virtually all shoulder room and there was barely room between the steering wheel and the door panels.
The El Camino and Chevelle shared most of their underpinnings
and powertrains (including the high performance engines).
Even "SS" versions would debut in 1968 and
firmly establish the El Camino as a muscle car/truck.
Engine sizes included the 283 V8 producing 195 to 220bhp.,
and the 327 V8 producing 250 to 350bhp.
In keeping with Federal regulations, safety features were built into Impalas during the 1967 and 1968 model years, including a fully collapsible energy-absorbing steering column, side marker lights, and shoulder belts for closed models.
The Chevrolet Impala, in SS 427 guise, was what all of the king-size Chevrolets should have been. Then they could have released a genuine sports model that might more nearly deserve the SS appellation. The "Super Sports" label, in Chevrolet parlance, had come to mean nothing more than a combination of trim options. Only when the "427" was added, along with a lot of other high-performance suspension goodies, did it really begin to mean what the enthusiast expected it to mean. Option the 385-hp, 427 cu. in. V8, 3-speed automatic transmission, heavy-duty suspension, "rally" wheels with 6 in. rims, disc brakes and a limited-slip differential and you had one hell of a car.
Better yet, you would have a car that featured GM's well organized Com fortron ventilation system, stereo tape, AM/FM radio, fiber-optic light monitoring system, electric windows and seats, and disappearing windshield wipers. The Impala SS stopped and handled well, considering its great bulk, and was smooth, dead silent, and deceptively fast. It was the only full-sized Chevrolet that really gave its driver any feeling of security or well-being on a country road.
The Chevy II 4-door sedan was not the glamorous item that its coupe sister is, but it was still a whale of an improvement over the '67 model. The 307 cu. in. V8 was smooth and responsive, and economical enough to make many wonder why Chevrolet even bothered with Sixes. The Nova came standard with the 2 speed Powerglide, and although it wasn't the most modern automatic transmission in the world, it was at least a smooth shifter. The 307-powered Chevy II was the best-balanced and best-handling of all the Chevrolet basic V8 sedans.
It was responsive and agile, in spite of the fact that it ran on 5-inch rims and un-wide oval tyres (the six-cylinder version was adequate in this respect, but it was down on acceleration and mid-range passing capability). However, a 307 Chevy II's handling could be further improved by the addition of disc brakes - which were much better suited to 6-inch rims. The Nova's interior was a little Spartan , and there was a kind of chintzy, cut-rate feeling in the 4-door sedan that, thankfully, didn't come through in the SS coupe. The car was probably no worse than its peers in this respect, but the Nova SS was so good as to make it easy to criticise any lesser Nova.
The '68 Nova SS 350 looked a winner from every angle. The only problem was the Nova's predecessors were a little cheap and nasty, so GM needed to convince the buying public that this car was rather different. The Nova II was, in fact, a Camaro sedan, enjoying almost universal interchange ability of major mechanical components with Chevy's sporty car. In effect, this hot version came off exactly like a Camaro with more room. At release, the top option available was the 295-hp 350 cu. in. V8, with 3- or 4-speed manual box, or the prehistoric Powerglide.
This engine delivered its performance as smooth torque, rather than screaming horsepower, which perfectly suited the overall concept of the car. Suspension performance was the same, way-stiffer and better-controlled than on other Chevrolets, but still smooth and comfortable. With the optional discs came two advantages - great stopping power and better handling, mainly because Chevy IIs with discs also had 6-inch rims instead of the 5-inchers that come standard. The '68 Chevy II had grown an inch in wheelbase and six inches overall, but it grew a mile in style, comfort, quality and performance.
Much like Nikita Khrushchev, by 1968 the Corvair had become an un-person. Chevrolet policy was to keep chipping away at it (by removing the Corsa models for '67 and the 4-door models for '68), in the hope that it would go away. But strangely, and despite the bad press, it refused to do so, and Corvair lovers were getting more passionate with each passing year. Despite this, and despite the fact that its predecessor (the '60-64 model) was arguably the most maligned car in the history of the automobile, the Corvair was one of the best handling cars - in stock trim - ever built to that time.
The steering was light and precise and, although its rear-mounted air-cooled engine gave it a slight rearward weight bias, its all-independent suspension gave the Corvair road-holding qualities second only to the best GT cars. The '68 Corvair Monza had lost some favour with enthusiasts not because of its handling, but because of its limited horsepower, the top engine option of 140-horsepower being a far cry from the 300-plus Super Cars. Nevertheless, the Corvair was light enough that 140 horsepower was sufficient to keep pace with many higher-powered cars. Trunk space is somewhat limited, and the rear seat accommodation is best described as average, but those are our only major objections.
1968's Imperial was little changed from the previous year. The grille changed to a brightly chromed one with thin horizontal bars, split in the middle by vertical chrome and a round Imperial Eagle badge. At the rear, the horizontal bars over the taillights were gone. This was also the last year for the Imperial convertible.
Chrysler Corporation, after several years of trying to build the Imperial as a unique car-with completely different sheet metal and chassis from the rest of the Chrysler line-last, in 1967 gave up on the idea and returned the car to its original status of a super-appointed New Yorker. And many felt it was much better for the change: it rode better, it handled better and it was put together better. Evidently Chrysler simply didn't have a sufficient engineering effort to make a going proposition of the Imperial's separate but unequal status.
By utilizing standard Chrysler components, the 1968 Imperial became an infinitely more appealing car. handling was significantly improved and gave the driver a much more tangible idea of how the car was meeting the road. The ride was not as soft as some of the luxury cars made by other manufacturers, but the small increase in harshness was more than compensated for by the extra confidence the driver had in being able to cope with emergency situations. Front disc brakes were standard on this two and-a-half-ton vehicle - an uncommon policy in the luxury car field in the 1960's.
Chrysler Press Release - 1967: The 1968 Dodge Charger will go on display at Dodge dealers on September 14th. Popular aerodynamic and competition themes are evident in the styling. The Charger has a rallye-type suspension and sway bar as standard equipment. Engines range from the 318 to the Hemi-426. The car has been styled as a driver-oriented machine with gauges canted. For release on or After 2 P.M. Wendesday, August 30, 1967. From Didge Public Relations, P.O. Box 1259, Detroit, Michigan 48231.
In previous years Chrysler struggled along with the old Charger - a car that reminded veteran sales types at Chrysler of the Airflow disaster - however in 1968 things really changed with the release of a new and completely revamped model. The 1968 Charger was unquestionably one of the most visually exciting cars then on the market, anywhere, and for those lucky enough to own one would soon realise it was every bit as good as it looked.
Best of the enginees was the 426 Hemi, and with the Hemi came a complete handling package, including stiffer shocks and springs, big front disc brakes, etc. The interior of the Charger was every bit as nice as the outside - discreet, rich looking and functional. Round instruments told you what was going on, and the pleated, unruffled vinyl seats made you think of the Orsi Brothers or Pininfarina or somebody. Packed with the Hemi, the Charger like its looks implied. It was a genuine 150-mph car that did everything an automobile should do, and well. A legend.
The R/T - which stood for "Road and Track" - was an incredibly well-balanced intermediate designed to make the same scene with cars like the GTO, 396 Chevelle, Road Runner, et cetera. Jazzing up a Coronet to mix it with the big guns was always going to be a tall order. Dodge started by changing some of the trim options, adding stiffer suspension and, if the buyer was wise, the gargantuan 440 Magnum engine. This monster was rated at 375 horsepower and would go around acting like a Hemi until some rather exotic speed ranges are obtained.
Like all of the Dodge/Plymouth intermediates built on the common Chrysler BB body, the R/T had a rather high, padded instrument panel lip that hampered forward visibility and detracted somewhat from an otherwise workmanlike, if somewhat pedestrian, interior design job. The Chrysler Corporation has produced some really hot intermediates in 1968, and because of a wide overlap in engine, transmission and suspension applications, it is very difficult to claim, even today, that one was better or worse than another. It can be said that they were collectively a good, solid bunch of performance machines that are today highly sought after, and collectable.
In the corporate scheme of things, the 1968 Plymouths were supposed to be slightly smaller and less expensive than Dodges, but something went haywire somewhere. The Fury III was built on the same basic body as Dodge's Monaco and Polara, while the Dodge Coronet shared the same body with Plymouth's Belvedere. Plymouths therefore should have dominated the cheaper intermediate field, and the Dodges the full-size field. But it wasn’t so; the Fury III decisively outsold the Polara and Monaco combined, while the intermediate Coronet was much more successful than the Belvedere.
Why the Coronet was so successful in was a Plymouth market only became obvious when the car was driven. The Coronet 500 hardtop, with the 383 cu. in. 4-bbl. engine and TorqueFlite automatic, was a right-sized, well-behaved sharply pointed family car that drove a lot better than it looked. That's not to say the Coronet was ugly, but many disliked the coke-bottle rear fenders which showed up on GM cars around 1966, as they looked dated. In stock trim, the Coronet was as road able as any intermediate on the market, though its standard 318 cu. in. V8 was a trifle weak hearted for anyone with a normal pulse-rate. Most forgot the extra gas and went for the 383.
For 1968 the only big news for the Dodge Dart GT involved a trim package that included, of all things, a set of "power bulges" on the hood and "bold bumblebee stripes" that wrapped around the trunk. Yes, good things are happening in Hamtramck. Unlike the Barracuda, the Dodge boys had to take the basically unsporting Dart body shell and make it appear exciting.
The Dart had always been an ordinary, middle-of-the-road, compact Detroit sedan, but Dodge had managed to inject it with enough romance so that its sales were to become one of the industry's big success stories. With the then new 340 cu. in. "baby rumble guts" engine on board, the Dart GTS became a fun car to drive, just like its cross-town cousin, the Barracuda, (which shared the same basic suspension and engine setups). The body shape was pretty, if a bit boxy, and driver comfort was excellent, despite an immense steering wheel. It was a neat, well executed car, bumblebee stripes not withstanding.
Before the Mustang arrived, you could order a very potent Falcon. Since 1964, the Falcon's performance image had been considerably toned down, and the car's economy, durability, and ease-of-maintenance re-emphasized. The Ford Falcon Futura, fitted with a 178-hp, 289 cu. in. V8, was not the most powerful Falcon you could buy - there was a 230-hp, 302 cu. in. V8), but it was representative of the kind of Falcons a lot of people bought. It was not very energetic even by the standards of the day, but it kept up with the pack. The 289 had been developed to the point where it was super reliable, and gas mileage with the 2-barrel carburettor was good.
By comparison with other U.S. cars, the Falcon was under-appointed - simple, rugged hardware and upholstery, without flair or class. In the absence of any handling packages, the Falcon's road behaviour was indifferent, discouraging any attempt at heroic driving tactics. The ride was reasonably good, a bit mushy, but not entirely out of keeping with the rest of the car. The brakes (power assisted front discs, rear drums) were several cuts above what Detroit was doing only a few years previously, but about average compared to its peers in '68. On the whole, the Falcon was hard to criticize, but given some of the other sheet metal available at the time, easy to look past...
The biggest change to the '68 Fords had been to extend the greenhouse aft. This increased rear-seat head room, but it was done to shorten the rear deck, emphasizing the sporty look originated by the Mustang. Also, because the "C" pillars were now wider, this had the effect of limiting rear quarter vision. For three years, Ford had been attempting to steal thunder away from Chevrolet's successful "jet-smo-o-oth ride" theme, by completely isolating the car's occupants from their environment. Ford had almost overachieved in this area; most road testers of the time commented that the Galaxies were too smooth, too removed from what's going on where the rubber meets the road. Sure, it fitted the public's notion of what "big-car luxury" should feel like, but it also put the driver out of touch with their car. All the sound-deadening materials also added pounds that even seven litres of V8 couldn't impress. The 340-hp, 428 cu. in. engine propelled the Galaxie along noiselessly but without much sense of acceleration.
In 1966 the 335-hp, 390 cu. in. Mustang was the hottest Mustang you could buy. By 1968 the penultimate was a new power-plant offering a soaring 390-hp, 427 cu. in. V8; great for maximum performance, but a bit much for ordinary citizens. By comparison, the 289 and 302 cu. in. V8s were positively puny. The 390 was judged by many as a good compromise, and wholly in keeping with the Mustang's image. It was for good reason that the Mustang had remained the most popular sports car in the U.S.; it was fun to drive, well-built, reliable and inexpensive.
It handled well, braked firmly and accelerated nicely. It was a very comfortable car to drive, although the seat rake adjustment feature was eliminated for 1968. (Many realised they could unscrew the adjusting bolt altogether, and let the seat full back as far as it would go.) Ford's high-compliance front suspension strut, pioneered in 1967 by the Cougar, was used on the Mustang. Harshness was better controlled at some penalty in steering precision. The "Sport-Shift" 3-speed automatic was continued, and afforded full manual control over up shifts and the 3-2 downshift. Overall, the Mustang fully deserved its prominence in the sports car field. After all, the Mustang created it.
The '68 Thunderbird was a gadgeteer's delight, substituting all kinds of switches, dials, levers, louvers, and little electric motors for the more fundamental virtues of a good automobile. It was a car for middle-aged men who still read Popular Science. The T-Bird exuded more image per cubic inch than any other car then on the road. And for '68 it had more cubic inches than ever. A 390 V8 was standard, but the '68 T-Bird's claim to technical fame was the fact that it was the sole receptacle of Ford's brand new 429 cu. in. V8.
The original T-Bird started the bucket seat fad, and, curiously, 13 years later, the T-Bird came with a bench seat as standard equipment. The list of options was endless, from bucket seats to cornering lights to fibre-optic light monitors (both were better ideas from GM) to a power trunk lid release, swing-away steering wheel, a fiendishly complicated speed control device (aka cruise control), an extra set of brake lights mounted in the rear window, a light panel to warn of all kinds of malfunctions, and a 4-note horn, to normal options like air-conditioning and 6-way power seats (the driving position was abominable without it).
There are better '60's thoroughbreds out there, but the T-Bird rules when it comes to individuality. Given a muscle car of the past is an easy-beat by many of todays more stock family sedans, maybe getting behind the wheel of something brimming with personality is just the ticket...
For 1968 the Ford Motor Company's Lincoln-Mercury Division was calling the top eight of its 13 intermediates Montegos, while over at Ford Division, only the top six of its 14 intermediates were named Torino. The Torino series replaced the '67 Fairlane 5OO/XL and GT models and were completely re-styled to looked more like the bigger Fords. Happily, the Torinos felt like the big Fords. Ford had learned a lot about ride comfort over the previous few years, and the 1968 "hockey-stick" front suspension link (with plenty of fore-and-aft compliance to absorb harshness) managed to get the job done well.
That's not to say the stock handling was anything approaching sporty, but it was on a par with all but the longest-wheelbase big cars. The interior dimensions were within a few inches of what was offered in the big cars, and even the trunk is commodious. The interior in all models but the Torino GT (where bucket seats were standard) was somewhat plain, but comfortable. The longer (by five inches) greenhouse for '68 gave the rear seat passengers a useful increase in head room. It was a very nice car for four people, but the middle seats left something to be desired. This was Ford's "standard" car, and, as such, proved to be better value for the money than the bigger Fords.
From the moment the Ford Motor Company gathered itself together and decided to go racing, its products steadily improved. The 427 Fairlane, featuring a racing-bred engine, handled well and stops superbly. You'd expect a 427 cu. in. engine to yank you down the road in no uncertain terms, and in the case of the Fairlane, you'd be right. In spite of its Thermactor exhaust emission control (fresh air injected into the exhaust stream as it left the combustion chambers) and a carburettor tuned so lean that it squeaked, the car was a right fair hauler for street or strip.
The engine was a street version of that which powered the Ford Le Mans cars and the NASCAR Grand National stockers, although it had been civilized (hydraulic lifters in place of mechanical tappets, etc.) but it hadn't been emasculated; it pumped out 390 hp. at 5600 rpm, and an impressive 460 ft-lbs. of torque at 3200 rpm. Ford had seen fit to make its 3-speed automatic transmission mandatory with the 427 engine, and it was a sensible decision. The automatic was capable of handling all that torque, smoothly yet positively, and went a long way towards cutting down the impact loadings on the rest of the driveline. Designed to be a street racer, the 427 Fairlane did its job quietly but exceptionally well.
The Lincoln Continental cruised its way into '68 as luxuriously, quietly and expensively as ever - but not as elegantly. The Continental - which in previous years had been called the epitome of automotive design - had slid a little further down the ladder. Fiddling with sheet metal changes over the previous years had done a lot to take the edge off the basic tasteful lines of the Continental. The only engine available was a 340-hp, 462 cu. in. derivative of the 390/428 series. It remained unchanged from the previous year except for a new "Improved Combustion Emission Control System" and a dual diaphragm distributor that allowed a leaner fuel/air mixture at normal cruising.
This cut down the gas bill, but the proud owner of a $6000, 221-inch, 5200-lb. car probably couldn't have cared less what his gas bill was. For all its size and weight the Continental handled well, due largely to the 62-inch track. Cornering under power induced sizeable amounts of understeer and lots of tire squeal - but with the air-conditioning on and the power windows rolled up, only pedestrians would hear it. And with front disc brakes the car stopped quickly and in a straight line. Although not the visual standout of old, the Continental was still one of America's best luxury cars.
Mercury's intermediates had a new name for 1968, "Montego" aimed at mustering romantic fantasies of Jamaica and the blue Caribbean. The old name, Comet, had all but succumbed to the common Detroit practice of letting an originally high-line name filter down to the low-line models; for 1968, the only model using the name was the economy Comet Sports Coupe. Mercury had restyled its intermediates as well as renaming them. The Montego resembled the full-size Mercurys more than the Comet did and, like most of its competitors, Mercury had de-emphasized the knife-edge styling of previous years in favour of a more subtle, less angular design.
The Montego's interior had all the safety goodies, including a new dash that was so heavily padded that it looked more like the headboard for a bridal suite bed than an instrument panel. Like the Monterey, however, a little more care should have been taken in the installation of interior trim, as both came in for considerable criticism during road reviews. The Montego was fitted with a new 302 cu. in. V8 and 3-speed Select-Shift automatic, but was otherwise a standard car. The standard suspension and brakes were adequate even for fairly spirited driving, but optioning the power steering and disc brakes was a much better bet. The Montego offered a little more than just adequate transportation.
New front end with split grille design that would become an Olds trademark in coming years highlighted all 1968 full-sized Oldsmobiles with horizontal lines on 88's and egg-crate patterns on Ninety-Eights, along with concealed windshield wipers. The Delmont 88 got a larger 350 cubic-inch V8 as standard equipment and the optional V8 that was standard on Delta 88/Custom and Ninety-Eight was jacked up to 455 cubic inches with a 390 hp (291 kW) W-33 option primarily designed as part of the division's police package available as an RPO on all 88's.
Horsepower ratings of other Olds engines included 250 for the 350 two-barrel standard in the Delmont 88, 310 for the four-barrel 350 optional in the Delmont 88. A 455 two-barrel rated at 310 horsepower (230 kW) was standard on the Delta 88/Custom and optional on the Delmont 88. Optional on all 88s was a four-barrel 455 rated at 365 horsepower (272 kW) from the larger C-body Ninety-Eight. Both the 350 and 455 two-barrel Rocket V8 engines were designed to use regular gasoline while the optional 350 and 455 four-barrel carbureted "Ultra High Compression" Super Rocket V8s required premium fuel.