Motor Trend magazine for the last 75 years has given out its “Car of the Year” award without fail. Over this long span, Motor Trend had both good and bad selections. During most years Motor Trend made good choices with bad choices being more of a rarity. During some of the award’s early years where Motor Trend took the easily way out and picked an auto brand as the Car of the Year rather than a specific car model. Then there were the years where Motor Trend made some great choices, here is the list of the 3 best of these great choices.
1958 Ford Thunderbird
The 1958 Ford Thunderbird was the second generation of the Thunderbird and the first Thunderbird to have a backseat. It was the addition of this backseat that caused Thunderbird sales to skyrocket and the birth of a new car market segment called the personal luxury car. By the 1970s the personal luxury car segment was one of the most popular with buyers and very profitable for the U.S. car brands that produced them. The 2-door 1958 Thunderbird was a big hit with luxury car buyers since it had a sporty exterior, a modern luxurious interior, and plenty of standard luxury features and luxury options. Motor Trend was smart enough to realize back in 1958 that the 1958 Thunderbird was a great car. However even the very insightful Motor Trend had no idea of the lasting impact the 1958 Thunderbird with added seating capacity would have on the luxury car market for the next three decades.
1968 Pontiac GTO
The 1964 Pontiac GTO was the start of the muscle car market, within a few model years most U.S. car brands had at least one muscle car model, some had several. Even though muscle car sales skyrocketed during this time, competition among these different new muscle cars had become fierce by 1968. Motor Trend with giving the 1968 GTO it’s “Car of the Year” award was acknowledging the GTO was still ahead of the large pack of new muscle cars. The GTO had proven credentials as a genuine performance cars since 1964 and the 1968 GTO continued this trend. Where the GTO had massive advancement was in its ultra modern beautiful styling which consisted of an optional front endura bumper which allowed the GTO to be an industry leader in terms of exterior styling. The 1968 GTO’s new innovative and stylish endura frontend replaced the traditional metal front bumper with a state of the art polyurethane bumper that was flexible but extremely durable. This is why the 1968 GTO has had such a long lasting impact on the automotive industry, just about every modern car and SUV has endura type front and rear bumpers.
1977 Chevrolet Caprice
Though fuel prices skyrocketed during the 1970s, there was still a sizable amount of American car buyers who still wanted a full-size car. Chevrolet’s full-size models the Caprice and Impala were downsized for the 1977 model year. The Caprice was the more upscale of the two models. Chevrolet managed to offer with the 1977 Caprice, a full-size car with more interior and trunk space then its bigger predecessor. It also had a modern squarish and attractive exterior along with a very comfortable roomy interior. Additionally this new Caprice had three fairly fuel efficient engines with the largest displacement being a rather smallish 350 cubic-inch V8 when compared to its 1977 competition. Gone were the 1976 Caprice’s optional 400 cubic-inch and 454 cubic-inch V8s. For 1977, the Caprice also had a new optional F41 handling package which made the big Caprice the best handling full-size car of its era. Motor Trend knew it was a real gem when it test drove the 1977 Caprice and gave it its Car of the Year award. Proof of the Caprice’s greatness was its 1977 presentation remained pretty much the same with only the very minimal amount of changes through the 1990 model year, which was 14 model years. For a production car that’s just a little short of forever.
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