The car is an audacious one for America. Raymond Loewy's racy fast-back coachwork (roof line sloping directly to the car's rearmost extremity) is easily the industry's most spectacular at this moment (although Chevy's 1963 Corvette, to be unveiled in two weeks, is going to open an eye or two). The car's performance can be breathtaking. Supercharged engines are available, and an Avanti in the most highly modified trim became the world's quickest passenger car by averaging no less than 168.15 mph at Bonneville in two-way flying mile runs. Most buyers of supercharged Avantis will specify a less violent package. Equipped with the standard, unsupercharged 289-cubic-inch V-8, the hp rating of which has not been disclosed, the light (3,000 pounds), compact (a foot shorter than the 'Bird), normal Avanti is plenty hot. Manual transmissions are available, as is not the case with 'Birds and Rivieras.
In trying out the three cars, not as a cornering demon but merely as a keen motorist, I found them all comfortable, peppy, stable at high speeds and vice-free to the limited degree that I attempted vigorous driving. The Avanti felt lightest and stiffest, as it should have, and had the quickest steering. The Riviera pilot model had ultrasensitive brakes, which took some getting used to—a point soon forgotten in the exhilaration of doing 100 mph with a feeling of complete security over the wavy asphalt of a narrow two-lane road. In 400 miles at the wheel of a Thunderbird roadster, mostly in the 70-to-80-mph range on expressways, I experienced the sense of well-being that accompanies rapid motoring in a well-appointed car.
These personal cars accentuate the recent sweeping industry move toward features with a sportive flavor—especially bucket seats. The trend continues in the 1963 models now being introduced. Technical innovation is largely absent from the new models, although Cadillac will have a new 325-hp V-8 engine and Chevy a new 230-cubic-inch six.
Many cars will have a different look, but in most cases only subtly so. Ford is adding convertibles in its Falcon and Comet compact lines; Mercury is adding engine oomph; the Ford Galaxie will offer as optional the swing-away steering wheel pioneered by the Thunderbird, and will have an optional four-speed stick shift.
Chrysler Corporation has replaced its Dodge Lancer with a new 111-inch-wheelbase Dart; standard Dodges are longer, as are Valiants and Plymouths; and the Imperial's gunsight tailpieces are no more. The industry is generally cleaning up and simplifying car exteriors. Ramblers have been given their first major restyling in years and are a bit shorter, although wheelbase length has been increased. Studebaker has again changed the familiar Lark in minor ways and is not expected to alter the Lark look drastically until next year. Powerful, virtually fade-proof disk brakes on the front wheels, one of the Avanti's best features, will be offered at extra cost in all other Studebakers.
As the battle of the automobile marketplace warms up to its customary frantic pitch, however, there will probably be no more exciting contest than that between the 'Bird and the sharp-clawed Riviera and Avanti. The champ has drawn two bright competitors.