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Showdown: Raygun Gothic Edition

Tim Odell April 12, 2016 Showdown 20 Comments

1961 Dodge dart pioneer for sale1961 ford tbird for sale

Automotive styling went through a bit of a “phase” in the ’59-62ish timeframe. Gone were the iconic shapes of 55-57, but the solid lines of the mid-60s had yet to materialize. Instead, we got a mix of wannabe-rockets (See: Ford tail lights of the era) and Googie architecture inspired swoops and gauge-pods. We’ve got examples from each camp in this edition.

In the Mopar corner, we’ve got a Dodge Pioneer two-door post sporting a slant six and three on the tree. This year’s very sideways-scalloped rear fenders and low-slung front grille went over about as well as  from the same year. I’d argue they’ve actually aged pretty well. Maybe the slightly rough paint helps knock a little absurdity off the lines. The gauge cluster is pure modern art: a see-through speedometer flanked by banks of chrome buttons and a clear-epoxy steering wheel center. This one’s not in such perfect shape that you’d feel obligated to keep it original. Instead, it’s begging for an angry hemi or max-wedge from the era. For extra over-designed-ness, go for a huge cross-ram intake.

It’s . What’s a cruiser like this worth to you?

1961 ford tbird for sale

When I think of men with flat-tops, short-sleeved white shirts and clip-on ties worrying about winning the space race, I think Thunderbird. The ’61-63 rocket-bird/bullet-bird) era was the cleanest of the early T-Bird styles. While I think Ford’s hitting it out of the park with the current lineup, nothing they offer has the same presence of a ’61 T-Bird. Anyway, this one’s a good notch rougher than the Mopar, with a cracked-to hell dash and basically 85% crapped-out interior. The seller says it runs and drives ok, despite the tires that obviously hold air for about five minutes. Still, that HiPo 390 could be made to get up and go, or could be swapped for an even angrier 428.

. It’s in rough shape, but could be made into a bullet-fast cruiser without too much work. What say you?

  • Andrew_theS2kBore

    In my opinion the bullet bird is the apex of American car interior design. Absolutely stunning, and in a world where money grew on trees (or cacti, here in SoCal) i would resto-mod the heck out of one. There’s even space on that center console for a four-speed…

  • GTXcellent

    That ol’ Dodge is awesome – when’s the last time you’ve seen one, if ever? The car is so goofy, it’s just begging for an equally goofy powertrain – I’m leaning towards a Jeep diesel or maybe a Harley Davidson V-twin

    • kogashiwa

      I’ll take the Dodge as well, and with all that room under the hood and trunk, an electric conversion – and the body left exactly as is.

  • tonyola

    The T-Bird is my choice despite the roughness. The Dodge is just plain ugly. Dealers initially objected to the rear styling with the odd tiny taillights to the point that at midyear Dodge tacked on a set of additional round lights to the rear panel.

    • I think they make it look worse.

  • BigRedCaveTroll

    I’d go for the Dodge, just because it’s the underdog in this fight. And because it’s a Mopar (it’s genetic, I think).

    • I think the 60-62 Lancers and Valiants are my favorites from that period. They’re definitely over-styled, but in a good way. (?)
      I’d love to build a street machine out of one.

      • BigRedCaveTroll

        There are so many interesting, somewhat oddball cars that Chrysler produced in the early ’60s. I love them, even if many of them aren’t super attractive. I like that those aren’t super huge cars.

  • Fuhrman16

    The Dodge, simply because of the lettering on the trunk.

  • karonetwentyc

    T-Bird. Getting my prejudices out of the way: I’m a fan of the Bullet Bird – especially the ’62, for some reason I can’t quite nail down – and much prefer it to its predecessors or the Thelma & Louise car that followed it. It’s just the perfect blend of dead-clean and space-age styling to my eye, but in a very uniquely American way.

    This is a car where the mechanical restoration is the least of your worries, but tracking down the interior bits will be A Quest. From that standpoint, it makes for a perfect running restoration (or even just rehabilitation) project.

    Of course, if on this side of the Atlantic, that’s not enough of a challenge, there’s always the Ford Corsair. Most of the Bullet Bird’s looks (if more upright), and with a V4 shared with the late Saab 96.

    • dead_elvis, inc.

      Looks like a full-size Tbird got left in the dryer just a bit too long. Oddly, the whitewalls didn’t shrink proportionately.

      • karonetwentyc

        True. However, I’m willing to bet that the whitewalls were fitted by a dealer looking to capitalise on the looks of the car in the hope that those looking at it wouldn’t notice the obvious issues with proportions. Or historical accuracy.

        • dead_elvis, inc.

  • I know that I’m the Tbird guy, and I love the bullet birds, but I’m going with the Dodge because of inverted tail fins and 3 on the tree.

  • stigshift

    Don’t forget the first Lexus was introduced in ’61…

    • stigshift

      And that iconic grille remains today!

      • karonetwentyc


    • karonetwentyc

      Can’t be a Lexus. The styling is too restrained.

  • Alff

    Man, Mopar built some seriously ugly cars in the early 60s.

  • CruisinTime

    The faux patina on the Dodge really does suck.



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