Battle of the Compact Customs: 1961

Battle of the Compact Customs: 1961

As the Sixties were dawning, the American automobile scene was changing drastically. Pressure from Volkswagen sales and a more youthful and female buying audience required smaller cars be offered by the Big Three to stay competitive. 1960 saw the birth of the Chevrolet Corviar, the Ford Falcon/Mercury Comet, and Plymouth’s Valiant, leading the compact car segment to heat up quickly. If your doubting how big their impact was, consider that the February ’60 Hot Rod magazine featured a Corvair-Falcon-Valiant match up, and then Compacts were mentioned or shown on the cover for 7 more issues before the year was even over!

Lets do an exercise taking you back to 1961 to buy and customize an American Compact. Pick the best looking one in your opinion and how you would customize it: Gasser? Sleeper? Lead-Sled?

  1. Ford Falcon or Mercury Comet: Solid little cars available as a coupe, convertible, Squire wagon or Ranchero small truck! Hard to go wrong with this choice, and plenty of room to drop in a V-8.
  2. Chevrolet Corvair: A bit more bold, futuristic styling, and really a ‘specialty car’ of the bunch. You can get the racy Monza model for 1961 or go for the Lakewood wagon.
  3. Buick Skylark, Pontiac Tempest, or Oldsmobile F-85: Although their basic sheetmetal and Y-body platform were shared, there were plenty of unique features between these well-proportioned cars. They were also offered in various wagons and convertibles.
  4. Plymouth Valiant or Dodge Lancer. I’ve yet to see one of these car designs successfully executed as a good looking custom in my eyes, but to each their own…


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