Acclaimed motoring magazine MOTOR TREND gave the 1965
Car of the Year gong to Pontiac (General Motors) for styling and engineering leadership in the development of personalized passenger cars. It was the third time Pontiac had graced their trophy room with this award. In 1959
, when the big, luxury feel was all the rage among car buyers and performance engines were in the process of gaining popularity, Pontiac was successful in improving handling
of their vehicles with suspension changes, wider tread, and more positive steering. Their leadership set the pattern for firmer ride, more positive steering, and a styling concept that found immediate acceptance.
Tempest, featuring transaxle, curved driveshaft, and independent rear suspension, brought Pontiac another Car of the Year award. We cannot explain the lack of public acceptance of the earlier Tempest concepts, but buyers had a natural tendency to be slow in acknowledging anything too different and in learning to use something in order to extract the most from it. Motor Trend conducted rather extensive tests on the swing-axle Tempest, including a cross-country run over the Continental Divide in heavy winter snow without chains or snow tyres
as a test of handling
and traction. It had noticeable advantages over solid-axle suspensions.
was also another banner sales year for the industry. All major makers were offering more models than ever before. All-new styling changes were certainly more evident among certain lines, standing out as 1965
models against competitors' cars with all-new sheet metal but only minor styling changes. In styling, Pontiac shared body shells with other GM cars. The theme for 1965
US cars was disc brakes, larger dimensions, and several hot new models. The release date for most of the manufacturers was September 25 or a little later, but General Motors
and American Motors were slower than Chrysler and Ford in announcing their 1965
Ford For '65
Ford styling had squared off the wings of most of its cars and slightly soothed down the brutal, massive look which was built in for 1964
in line with its selling phrase "Total Performance". Disc brakes
on the front were standard equipment on the 1965 Lincoln Continental and Ford Thunderbird, and other major developments included fastback styling for the so-called Two-Plus-Two version of the Ford Mustang. However, from a marketing point of view Ford's biggest weapon was the new Mercury, aimed obviously at giving the company a really competitive car - which it had never had - in the big-selling medium price range then dominated by the Chevrolet Impala
. The Mercury was three inches longer and infinitely more luxurious; Ford claimed it as the most extensive change in the nameplate's then 26-year history. It had been given styling very close to that of the top-of-the-heap Lincoln Continental, and was built on a big 123 inch wheelbase. It had new sub-frame design, redesigned front and rear suspensions, and most unusual rear quarter roof panel treatment.
The Mercury Comet
The other top Ford compact, the Mercury Comet, retained the basic outline of the Falcon-Comet shape, but got new front sheet metal to incorporate more effective over-and-under (stacked) headlights, in the tradition set by Pontiac. It had 11 models in three series, and all had an alternator as standard. Mustang's Two-Plus-Two was the third model on the range - additional to the hardtop and convertible first announced in April 1964. It used fastback styling on the basic Mustang shape, and the result was fairly effective, even if the ventilation louvres in the rear quarter panels looked a little fussy. Most of the goodies were inside - fold-down rear seats, buckets, nylon carpeting, central gearshift, and padded instrument panel.
The '65 Thunderbird
The 1965 Thunderbird came with discs on the front, and other standard equipment like light-patterned trafficators, reversible ignition and boot keys, and keyless door locking. Options included AM or PM radio, power radio aerial, power quarter-vents, and limited slip differential. The Thunderbird came in three models - Landau, Convertible and Hardtop. Styling changes had, however, only been minor. Similarly, the 1965 Lincoln Continental had only minor styling changes. Major improvements were discs and alterations to chassis and body construction. Body options were a four-door Convertible and four-door Sedan.
Chryslers '65 Lineup
Chrysler Corporation offered its biggest model line-up to date, with 81 from the Chrysler-Plymouth division and 50 with the Dodge nameplate. Chrysler concentrated mainly on rebuilding and restyling its existing nameplates, but there were several promising new models added. Overall styling emphasised the low, clean-cut look, with influences of the Chrysler turbine theme. Dodge for the first time got an entry into the intermediate field with a 117 inch wheelbase new model called the Coronet, to appear in 17 models in three series. It had a high, square rear, rectangular taillight assemblies, ridges along the wings, and quad headlights. It had the usual enormous range of seating, trim and transmission options; standard engines were the Valiant "slant six" or 273 cu in. V8, but options started with a 318 cu in. V8 and ran right up to the three 426 cu in. high performance engines, including the 426 hemi-head.
The Dodge Monaco
The other new Dodge model was the Monaco, a top-of-the-line two-door hardtop featuring bucket seats front and rear, and full-length console, and vinyl-covered roof. The seats were backed in natural wicker, with matching wicker across the doors. Built on a 121 inch wheelbase, it offered V8 engines from 383 cu in. up to 426 cu in. The other Dodge models, Polara, Custom 880 and Dart, were extensively restyled. The Polara had curved side windows, massive grille, and redesigned instrument panel. The Custom 880, in the medium-price field, claimed luxury appointments, right down to wood-grained finish on the station wagons. The compact Dart range had new front and rear treatment, boosted power train and engines, and a two-door hardtop for the first time.
Plymouth for '65
In Chrysler-Plymouth, the biggest redesign job was on the hot-selling Fury, which got a 119 inch wheelbase, wider front and rear track, and more overall width. Side windows were curved, instrument panels redesigned, and - as in all the corporation's models - transmission selector moved from the instrument panel to the column. The Plymouth Belvedere got an extra 10 models, big body redesign, more options, and was aimed hard at the low-priced market. The Valiant got s new grille, wings, boot lid and interior trim, although retaining its 106 inch wheel-base. In 18 different models, it had - like all 1965 Chrysler cars - acrylic enamel exterior finishes.
Instruments were redesigned, with new trim, transmission selectors moved to the steering column, and more durable spark plugs, alternators and starter motors. An extra engine option was the new 273 cu in. high-performance V8 on 10.5 to 1 compression. A new rally package of suspension options was also available. The 1965 Chrysler (New Yorker, Chrysler 300, 300-L and Newport) were redesigned and wheel-base wert up 2 in. to 124 in. Styling included six-window treatment and curved side glass. In the Imperial, flagship of the line, there was little restyling but plenty of attention to the interior. A new signal in the instrument cluster flashed "Check gauges" whenever excessive engine temperature, low fuel, or low oil pressure happened. Plymouth's fastback Barracuda retained most of its styling, but got more sports options like disc brakes
and "sports stripe" paint over its roof.
Also see: The American Muscle Car Era - 1965