Entry Levels: Bigger than We Remember
In the race to sell the most cars by designing cars with performance, style, and convenience, most automakers focus their work on their mid-level and high-end cars. Some of the best known cars are specialty cars, like the Ford Mustang and expensive sports cars like the Chevy Corvette. High-end vehicles like the Cadillac Coupe De Ville are other models that car makers used to bring buyers into their dealerships. Even though the specialty cars and their top-of-the-line models draw buyers, many of those buyers ended up choosing less expensive models, like the entry level cars. Many of the entry level from the mid-century are very different than the entry level models of today. These are a few:
Buick Special: From 1936 to 1996, this entry-level Buick was a favorite of many drivers. The Buick Specials in the early years were designed with the first concept car, the Buick Y-Job in mind. During the post-war years, the highly affordable and extremely attractive Buick Special came in several different model styles which made it one of the best selling cars of the era.
In the 1960’s, the Buick Special became a popular muscle car, but with an intermediate body style.
Pontiac Catalina: It is difficult to believe that this large car was the entry-level sedan for a few decades. What first began as a convertible version of the Pontiac Star Chief, the Catalina was turned into its own model in 1959, where it remained as a smooth-riding entry level land yacht until Pontiac discontinued the model in 1981. At one point, it seemed like everyone’s grandmother drove a Pontiac Catalina because of the low price and the serious comfort.
Chevy Biscayne: In the 1950s, Chevy had a popular selection of cars, including the Bel Air, the Nomad, and the Del Ray. In 1958, the Chevy Biscayne was introduced as the entry-level full-size car. Even though it looked like a close cousin of the Bel Air, the Biscayne was missing many of the interior and exterior features that made the Bel Air so well loved.
Looking back at the entry-level cars from the 1990s makes the entry level cars of today look even smaller than they actually are. Imagine what the drivers of the mid-century cars would think about cars like the Chevy Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Buick Verano or Mazda 3.