MotorCities National Heritage Area
chrysler-body-drop-cropped.jpg

By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images courtesy of the Robert Tate Collection
Published 09.05.2018

1966 Detroit News Magazine cover 1 Tate Collection RESIZED1966 Detroit News Magazine cover (Robert Tate Collection) 

Since the beginning of American automobile culture in Detroit during the early 1900s, the city has always promoted its automobiles in a great way.

For many years, the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press have always highlighted new automobiles, making them great sources of information and advertising for the Motor City. Even today, the News and Free Press are still very much involved with new car announcements. This story is about a piece of automotive history put together many years ago by the Detroit News in their Sunday magazine, highlighting the new 1966 automobiles.

 

1966 was a fantastic year for U.S. consumers, and American Motors, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors were all producing and manufacturing new products that looked great. I wanted to bring this historic automotive information to you highlighting our local story 52 years ago.

 

The beautiful cover illustration used for the Detroit News magazine’s car issue was created by Charles T. Martin. During the time, the cover automobile, a Brewster circa 1915, was on exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum. The cover photo was taken by Joe Clark at Greenfield Village. Another prestigious automobile not featured in this story was the Lane Steamer, a chain-driven model which spelled prestige for luxury cars in 1910. It was also on display at the Henry Ford Museum.

 

Articles featured in the magazine included a story by Robert Powers, who highlighted the prestige car market. Powers wrote: “Domestic car sales roared to a record 8,763,219 in 1965, the fifth consecutive year of sales increases, and 1966 sales are off to another fast start.” Refinement in autos did not blossom until the 1920-1930 period when cars like Cord, Duesenberg and Marmon became popular.

 

1966 Detroit News magazine Women auto buyers 6 Tate Collection RESIZED1966 Detroit News Magazine Women Auto Buyers (Robert Tate Collection)

Another feature in the magazine was a story by Frances Lang Koltun called “She's in the driver's seat Courting the women consumer.” Koltun wrote: “What is fashion? It is far more than a pretty dress or a hat. Fashion is the outward, visible expression of a way of life. Fashion is prestige. It sells automobiles, travel destinations, a way of life.”

 

1966 Ford ad 2 Tate Collection RESIZED1966 Ford Ad (Robert Tate Collection)

The rare 1966 automobile advertising that is a part of this magazine was very tastefully done. Most of the ads were used exclusively for this magazine only. To begin with, the Ford ad highlighted a 1966 Ford Galaxie model that featured Count Villeffranche at Chateau Villarceaux outside Paris. Plymouth offered its 5-year/50,000-mile engine and drive train warranty, which was embraced by consumers in 1966. American Motors’ ad illustrated a great looking interior inspired by fashion trends in 1966.

 

1966 Plymouth ad 8 Tate Collection RESIZED1966 Plymouth Ad (Robert Tate Collection)

Oldsmobile stepped out in front with its “Promises! Promises! Promises!” ad, however, I thought perhaps that the 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado would have been a better choice for the consumer market. The Toronado was a high-styled personal luxury car introduced in the fall of 1965. More than 50,000 of these great looking models were sold in its first year on the market. 

 

1966 American Motors ad 4 Tate Collection RESIZED1966 American Motors Ad (Robert Tate Collection)

In 1966, Ford's Lincoln Continental model offered great style and stylish features. Lincoln called it “America's most distinguished motorcar.” The model advertised was the two-door hardtop Continental, priced at $5,485. The two-door was not as popular as the four-door sedan model, which had a price tag of $5,750.

1966 Oldsmobile ad 7 Tate Collection RESIZED1966 Oldsmobile Ad (Robert Tate Collection)

 

The 1966 Cadillac ad highlighted a great looking illustration, “They Don't Build Sports Cars Like They Used To.“ The 1966 Cadillacs sold very well for General Motors, they still touted their “Standard of the World “ tradition.

1966 Lincoln ad 5 Tate Collection RESIZED1966 Lincoln Ad (Robert Tate Collection)

 

In conclusion, this was the third Detroit News Prestige Car issue. Editors had sought to illustrate top-of-the-line automobiles not only in the settings in which they are naturally found, but with a touch of merriment and surprise.

 

1966 Cadillac ad 3 Tate Collection RESIZED1966 Cadillac Ad (Robert Tate Collection)

Bibliography

The Detroit News Sunday Features Department. “A Special Report: The Prestige Cars.” March 20, 1966.

 

Dammann, George H. “50 Years of Lincoln-Mercury.” Crestline Publishing, 1971.

 

McCall, Walter M.P. “80 Years of Cadillac La Salle.” Crestline Publishing, 1988.