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1966-2016 Seven Cars That Made Their Debut 50 Years Ago

50 years ago, in 1966, several new cars were launched that influenced the auto industry for many years to come. Let’s check out 7 of the most important cars.

That year saw the launch of an iconic muscle car, a trend-setting Italian super car, one of the first cars heavily focused on the safety of its driver and passengers, and the car that would break all sales records and become the most popular car of all time.

Click on NEXT below to explore the auto world of 1966.

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Lamborghini Muira

The impact can’t be understated that the Muira had on the automotive world. Prior to its introduction, high-performance performance cars had their engines in the front. It was the way Ferraris, Maseratis, and Lamborghinis were built. One one of these companies introduced a car with a mid-engine it was designed more for the gentleman racer who wished to compete with the car on weekends. The Muira turned that upside-down. It was a comfortable Grand Tourer, with space for two and luggage, capable of carrying driver and passenger several hundred miles with easy. With few exceptions, high performance cars from those Italian manufactured mentioned, has predominantly been mid-engine designs.

 

Dodge Charger

Over the years the Dodge Charger has become the bad-ass persona of all muscle cars, built largely through its use in motion pictures. It was the car the bad guys drove (Bullitt), or the tough guys (Fast & Furious franchise), or a disgruntled race driver (Speedway), or robbers on the run (Dirty Mary and Crazy Larry). What usually comes to mind is the 1968 – 1970 body style, which is truly a classic that shows no signs of aging. Unfortunately, the original 1966-1967 wasn’t quite as timeless, as the photo below demonstrates.

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Oldsmobile Toronado

There were other front-wheel drive cars available at the time – all smaller. Nor was the Toronado the first big American front-wheel drive car (that honor goes to the Cord L-29 of 1929). What the Toronado did demonstrate that a front-wheel drive car, powered by a large engine 425 CID V8, not only could work but customers would find it attractive, laying the groundwork for every large front-wheel drive sedan that followed. The Toronado remained in the Oldsmobile line-up for 28 years and in that time both the Cadillac Eldorado and Buick Riviera also adopted front-wheel drive.

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Fiat 124 Sport Spider

With all the press regarding the new Fiat 124 Spider soon to debut (based roughly on he Miata platform, earning it the nickname Fiata), it’s appropriate to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the original Fiat 124 Sport Spider. The Sport Spider, designed by American Tom Tjaarda, was a model in a line-up that included a sedan, station wagon and coupe as well.  The Spider was powered by DOHC crossflow eight-valve cylinder head designed by former Ferrari engineer Aurelio Lampredi atop Fiat’s iron four cylinder block. Displacement began at 1.4 L and increased to 2.0 L by the time production ended in 1985.

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Triumph GT6

I’ve also admired the ability of the British to pull together components from disparate cars and assemble a truly classic automobile. In this case, the Triumph GT6. Intended to accompany the Spitfire from the start the full body of the GT6 was too heavy for the original 1.1 L engine. Fiberglass copies of the roof design were fitted to racing Triumphs to great success, so a different path was chosen. Instead of trying to lighten the GT6, instead the larger 2.0 L from the Triumph Vitesse sedan was fitted, providing an excellent power-to-weight ratio. The same engine would then be fitted to the TR250 and TR6 sports cars as well.

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Toyota Corolla

With rare exceptions, like the AE86 model, has the Toyota Corolla ever inspired excitement. Nonetheless from its humble beginnings as a subcompact car with a 1.1 L four cylinder pushrod engine. The car was continuously developed and improved by Toyota until it became the number one selling car in the world in 1974. It surpassed the original VW Beetle in total sales in 1997 and in July of 2013, Toyota celebrated the sale of the 40 millionth Corolla. At its current rate of production, Toyota sells over 3,000 Corollas per day around the world.

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Volvo 140

If any of you recall the 1990 film “Crazy People” its premise is an overloaded ad exec is sent to a mental hospital to recover, but instead enlists his fellow patients to develop ads – truthful ads that tell it straight. One was an ad for Volvo: Buy Volvos. They’re Boxy But They’re Good. The tagline was: Be Safe Instead of Sexy. The car that started the Volvo as a box theme was the 140, introduced in 1966. Prior models (544, 122) were quite rounded. Volvo produced two door, four door, and station wagon versions of the 140, all US models powered by a version of Volvo’s B-series four cylinder engine. The basic 140 architecture continued as the basis of the 240 series, launched in 1974 and remained in production until 1993 (23 years).

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Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. GearHeads.org gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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