Category: Luxury Cars

High-end and middle-market luxury cars, from personal luxury cars like the Ford Thunderbird to the patrician barges from Packard, Cadillac, and Mercedes.

Out in Front: The Front-Wheel-Drive Oldsmobile Toronado, Part 1

Both technologically and stylistically, the 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado was a landmark — a striking, sophisticated big GT that was also the first front-wheel-drive American production car in nearly 30 years. This week, we look at the origins of the 1966-1970 Toronado and the evolution and development of its unusual FWD Unitized Power Package.

Note: This article replaces our original 2008 piece on the Toronado. It has been completely rewritten and expanded, adding a great deal of new information and new images.

1971 Oldsmobile Toronado badge
Continue Reading Out in Front: The Front-Wheel-Drive Oldsmobile Toronado, Part 1

Counting to Twelve: The Packard Twelve and Twin Six

In January 1930, Cadillac introduced its mighty Sixteen, a bold and extravagant bid for supremacy in the luxury car field. Naturally, the Packard Motor Car Company, the reigning champion of the American luxury market, was not about to take that lying down, and launched its own 12-cylinder Twin Six in 1932. It would be easy to assume the Packard Twin Six was a hastily contrived response to the multicylinder Cadillacs, but that’s only half true. The latter-day Packard Twelve was conceived for quite a different purpose, and therein hangs a tale. This week, we look at the curious history of the legendary Packard V-12 cars with sideways glances at Cord and — the Indianapolis 500? Read on …
1936 Packard Twelve convertible coupe badge
Continue Reading Counting to Twelve: The Packard Twelve and Twin Six

Charge of the Light Brigade: The Last Stand of the Packard Motor Car Company

As the 1950s dawned, the Packard Motor Company was down, but not yet out. In 1952, a hotshot salesman from the appliance industry named Jim Nance tried to turn it around with new tactics and new technology. He came close to succeeding, but it would be the venerable automaker’s last hurrah. This week, we look at the downfall and demise of Packard.
Cormorant hood ornament on a 1955 Packard Four Hundred hardtop © 2010 Aaron Severson
Continue Reading Charge of the Light Brigade: The Last Stand of the Packard Motor Car Company

Fall from Grace: The Bathtub Packards and the Decline of America’s Most Prestigious Brand

Between 1935 and 1956, the Packard Motor Car Company went from the top of the heap among American automotive brands to just another independent, struggling to survive on the scraps of the Big Three. This week, we take a look at the Packard Clipper, the “bathtub Packards” of the late 1940s, and how the once-great automaker lost its way. We also examine one of the company’s odder experiments, the 1948 Packard Station Sedan.
1948 Packard Super Eight Victoria badge © 2010 Aaron Severson
Continue Reading Fall from Grace: The Bathtub Packards and the Decline of America’s Most Prestigious Brand

The Perilous Success of the 1976 Cadillac Seville

The 1976 Cadillac Seville was Detroit’s first serious response to the growing popularity of luxury imports like Mercedes. Although it was an immediate hit, earning a handsome profit and inspiring numerous imitators, the Seville marked the beginning of the end of Cadillac’s credibility as a leading luxury car brand. This week, we look at the history of the 1976-1985 Cadillac Seville and the reasons for Cadillac’s subsequent decline.

1984 Cadillac Seville mirror
Continue Reading The Perilous Success of the 1976 Cadillac Seville

What’s a Matador? The AMC Matador, Rebel, and Classic

With its smooth curves and clean lines, this week’s subject could easily have been a prop on Space: 1999. Car and Driver called it the best-styled car of 1974, but some critics still consider it one of the ugliest designs of the seventies and it remains one of the most divisive. It was a bold move for struggling American Motors and ultimately became a financial disaster. This week, we look at the history of the AMC Matador and its midsize predecessors, the Rambler Classic and Rambler/AMC Rebel.

1974 AMC Matador coupe badge
Continue Reading What’s a Matador? The AMC Matador, Rebel, and Classic

Disco-Era Darling: The Chevrolet Monte Carlo

Certain cars become emblematic of a time and a place, perfectly encapsulating the values, priorities, and obsessions of their eras. For America of the fifties, it’s the 1955–57 Chevrolets and the 1959 Cadillac; for the sixties, the Mini, the Beetle, and the Mustang. For the seventies, we’d make a strong case for the Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Generally reviled by critics, staggeringly popular with the public, and much imitated, the Monte Carlo remains as powerful a symbol of the period as disco balls, platform shoes, and The Brady Bunch. This week, we explore the history of the Monte Carlo and consider the reasons for its immense — and ultimately ephemeral — popularity.
1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo badge
Continue Reading Disco-Era Darling: The Chevrolet Monte Carlo

Mark of Success: The Lincoln Continental Mark Series

This car, another of Lee Iacocca’s many product planning brainstorms, was one of Ford’s greatest successes in the late sixties and early seventies. A gaudy, overstuffed personal luxury car that critics aptly described as an overgrown Thunderbird, it was nonetheless a hugely profitable exercise and one of the most stylistically influential cars of its era. This week, we look at the origins and history of the 1969-1979 Lincoln Continental Mark III, Mark IV, and Mark V.

1970 Lincoln Mark III badge
Continue Reading Mark of Success: The Lincoln Continental Mark Series

Empire Building: Three Stories about Chrysler’s Imperial

We thought we’d take a slightly different approach with this week’s subject. We’ve touched on Chrysler’s financial problems during this period. So, rather than a lengthy recap of the origins of the Imperial marque itself, we’ve decided to present you with three short stories about this 1961 Imperial LeBaron: its name, its engine, and its transmission.
1961 Imperial LeBaron headlights
Continue Reading Empire Building: Three Stories about Chrysler’s Imperial

Soaring High: The Lexus SC and Toyota Soarer Coupes

The arrival of the Lexus LS400 in 1990 was evidence that the Japanese could build a serious luxury sedan, but stylish coupes were another matter entirely. In 1991, Toyota tried to challenge all preconceptions with a sleek new 2+2 coupe intended to face BMW, Jaguar, and Mercedes on their own terms. It didn’t quite succeed, but it was a unique and memorable design with an unusual story behind it. This is the history of the 1992-2000 Lexus SC and Toyota Soarer.

1992 Lexus SC400 headlight
Continue Reading Soaring High: The Lexus SC and Toyota Soarer Coupes

Upwardly Mobile: The Lexus LS400 and the Birth of the Japanese Luxury Brands

If the idea of a Japanese sports car would have been laughable in 1965, the thought that a Japanese company might one day take on the finest European luxury sedans would have seemed utterly mad. The idea that it might actually succeed would have been too outlandish to contemplate — yet that’s exactly what happened in 1989. This week, we look at the origins of the 1990-2000 Lexus LS400.
1996 Lexus LS400 decklid emblem
Continue Reading Upwardly Mobile: The Lexus LS400 and the Birth of the Japanese Luxury Brands

Four of a Kind: The Alfa Romeo 164 and the “Type Four” Cars

Fast, luxurious, and stylish, with a thoroughly modern platform shared with Saab, Fiat, and Lancia, the 1988–1997 Alfa Romeo 164 could have been the hit to resuscitate Alfa’s flailing business and put the company on the map in the German-dominated executive car market. Unfortunately, it was the last model Alfa developed before falling into the arms of Fiat and it had the dubious distinction of being the last Alfa sold in the U.S. for decades. This week, we look at the 164 and its “Type Four” siblings: the Fiat Croma, Lancia Thema, and Saab 9000.
1991 Alfa Romeo 164S grille
Continue Reading Four of a Kind: The Alfa Romeo 164 and the “Type Four” Cars