This Is What a “Luxury Car” Looked Like 50 Years Ago
The high-end features in luxury cars from the 1960s looked a lot different than the luxury brands today, but one thing hasn’t changed: these cars are reserved for the rich.
The top three models for luxury cars 50 years ago were Cadillac, Lincoln, and Mercedes, says Mark Moskowitz, an automotive journalist, and judge at the Manhattan Concours event at Brookfield Place. Other brands included Rolls Royce, Chrysler, Oldsmobile 98, Buick’s luxury line, and Thunderbird. The latter three don’t exist today, but new brands of luxury cars continue to come on the market, like Tesla.
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A luxury car in the 60s would set you back about $8,000. Moskowitz says that a top line 1969 Mercedes two-door would cost roughly $10,000, a Mercedes 280 SL luxury roadster about $7,200, and a 1969 Lincoln Continental around $6-$7,000. If you take inflation into account, a Mercedes two-door today would cost you around $69,000. Today, some Mercedes luxury models will cost you six figures.
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One of the main differences between luxury cars 50 years ago and luxury cars today is the size. Today, people put much more of an emphasis on SUVs. For example, Lincoln Navigators and Cadillac Escalades are currently popular luxury vehicles. Back in the 60s, luxury cars were much smaller. Many only fit two people.
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When people were shopping for a luxury vehicle 50 years ago they were looking for high-end features that weren’t typically added to regular cars. “They were looking for something that would appeal to their senses,” says Moskowitz. “Something that had style that separated it from the rest of the pack.” For example, luxury cars had leather seats instead of the typical vinyl used in less expensive vehicles. Other features in luxury cars from the 60s included the addition of excess chrome on the exterior, plush carpets on the interior, four-wheel disc breaks, power steering, and power brakes, air conditioning, automatic headlight dimmers, and power windows that could be controlled from the driver’s seat.
Features we still see today
“Standards of luxury that transcend both eras have included leather seating, plush carpeting, and state of the art sound systems,” says Moskowitz. Due to incredible advances in technology, luxury cars today have a much longer list of features. Some of them include large touchscreens, self-driving capabilities, voice-controlled climate, and surround view cameras and warnings.