Personal Luxury Cars 101
Caught between a luxury car and a sport sedan, the personal luxury car was a favorite in the post-war era. The personal luxury car is typically a two-door sedan loaded with gadgets and goodies. It’s less expensive than the luxury cars typically made by manufacturers like BMW, Mercedes, and Bentley. Most of the personal luxury cars were made by American car manufacturers, although the luxurious Lincolns and Cadillacs were considered luxury cars.
The personal luxury car made it affordable for middle class Americans to own a classy car. In the mid-century decades between the 1950s and 1980s, many American could not afford the expensive European cars. The personal luxury lineup was made of factory-built cars that were big, comfortable, and usually a bit sloppy to drive. You would not see owners of personal luxury cars peeling out at traffic lights.
A few cars defined the personal luxury line up. One of the most popular was the Buick Riviera, which began its long life as a spinoff from the Roadmaster. In the early 1960s, the Buick Riviera debuted on its very own frame, which meant that no other General Motors car shared its shape. The Nailhead V8 came with a pitiful 13 miles per gallon fuel rating and an interior filled with goodies like air conditioning, real walnut trim, and plenty of power features.
Eventually, the Buick Riviera body style was adapted by both Oldsmobile and Cadillac. The closely related Oldsmobile Toronado and the Cadillac Eldorado competed with each other from 1966 through 1993. Other popular cars in this class include the Ford Thunderbird, Mercury Marauder Studebaker Avanti, and Chrysler Cordoba.
As this car class evolved through the decades, the late 60s looked like muscle cars, but they were filled with luxurious accoutrements. As the cars moved through the 70s, they were stretched and decorated with Landau tops and rounded fenders. As the popularity of the personal luxury car began to diminish in the 1980s, the cars shrunk and began to resemble the European sedans and brought American automakers to design the lineup in the first place. The car class was eventually squashed due the popularity of sport utility vehicles in the later 1990s.