OLD CARS: GM’s ‘Colonnade’ automobiles dominated the mid-Seventies

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Common Motors’ intermediate-sized line-up of cars have been ubiquitous throughout the Seventies, particularly the Colonnade Automobiles, so named due to their pillared construction.

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The Colonnades have been constructed for the 1973-1977 mannequin years. And so they have been all over the place. If you happen to drove alongside any residential avenue inside Ontario within the mid-Seventies, you might make sure that at the very least 4 or 5 out of 10 driveways had a Colonnade automobile parked on them.

There have been at the very least 9 totally different fashions accessible. They included the Chevrolet Chevelle, Malibu, Laguna (a uncommon discover), and the Monte Carlo; the Pontiac LeMans and GrandAm; the Buick Century and Regal; and the Oldsmobile Cutlass, of which there have been many alternative variations and fashions.

Colonnade automobiles have been technically intermediate-sized automobiles, however by the tip of the 1977 mannequin yr weren’t a lot smaller than GM’s all-new full-size automobiles, which had simply been downsized and have been shorter and 700 kilos lighter than their predecessors.

The Colonnade automobiles will be credited with serving to to carry the intermediate-sized automobile phase to a place of higher prominence.

A 1975 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Chevrolet’s personal. luxury car flourished as a Colonnade car. Peter Epp photo
A 1975 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Chevrolet’s private. luxurious automobile flourished as a Colonnade automobile. Peter Epp picture jpg, CA

Ford was the primary of the Detroit-based automakers to introduce an intermediate-sized automobile. Their smaller Fairlane was new for the 1962 mannequin yr however didn’t fairly catch the general public’s fancy.

GM had already launched a line of “senior compact” automobiles for 1961, however these turned identified by late 1964 as mid-size or intermediate automobiles and have been higher obtained. The automobiles – provided for Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Buick divisions – have been smaller than their full-size counterparts however shared styling cues and have been typically as lavishly geared up.

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An offshoot of the phase was the muscle automobile – an intermediate that was invariably endowed with a big engine.

The intermediate-sized phase grew for each GM and Ford, and to a lesser extent for Chrysler. However as a result of GM had 5 vehicle divisions, and 4 had their very own intermediate-sized automobiles, GM prospered essentially the most due to the phase. GM’s intermediate automobiles’ collective gross sales – for Chevelle/Malibu, LeMans, Cutlass and Skylark – have been important.

By the late Nineteen Sixties, GM was planning for a brand new era of intermediates, however that planning was overshadowed by new mandates from the U.S. federal authorities. The federal government needed to make sure that new automobiles would completely defend the motive force and its occupants from any rollover. Therefore, the favored hardtop was to be banned. GM’s new intermediates can be amongst these automobiles striving to fulfill that new restriction.

Moreover, all of Detroit’s new automobiles by 1973 must have emission management know-how and be geared up with bumpers that would fulfill the brand new minimal five-mile-an-hour collision requirement.

Oldsmobile’s Cutlass for 1976 and 1977 became the best selling car in the United States.
Oldsmobile’s Cutlass for 1976 and 1977 turned the perfect promoting automobile in america. jpg, CA

GM’s new intermediates can be constructed on the company’s fashionable A-body. As such, they’d have a wheelbase of 112 inches. Relying upon whether or not they have been a two-door coupe, four-door sedan or four-door station wagon, their total size would common 204 inches.

They have been to be launched for the 1972 mannequin yr, however a chronic strike pushed the introduction to later within the yr, as 1973 fashions.

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From the very begin, the brand new intermediates have been controversial. Though sharing among the identical design language with their host division’s full-size automobile, they have been distinctive in look. The obligatory use of a B-pillar within the four-door sedans required some inventive inspiration from the stylists, who determined to embrace a extra outstanding B-pillar reasonably than cover it. The center pillar was so apparent that somebody at GM or their promoting company dubbed the automobile a “Colonnade” automobile as a result of colonnade means “row of pillars”.

The sedans (Chevrolet Chevelle/Malibu, Pontiac LeMans, Oldsmobile Cutlass and Buick Century) have been engaging, with extra inside room than the 1972 fashions they changed. Furthermore, their flowing exterior traces spoke to an earlier automotive period. As a result of the designers have been restricted in what they might do with the roof line, the automobiles’ particular person model was expressed with expansive traces on the edges and with flowing hood traces.

The automobiles had an European aptitude. A part of it needed to do with the immense window house that was accessible. A part of got here from the very fact the C-pillar within the sedan was smaller in measurement than was the norm for that point.

An instance was Buick’s Century, which featured a line that descended from the entrance of the hood to virtually the rear of the automobile.

The intermediates have been additionally provided as a two-door coupe and a four-door station wagon. Nevertheless it was the two-door variations that finest expressed the Colonnade design. The B-pillar turned even wider, offering for expansive doorways and an fascinating window remedy between the B and C pillars.

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The intermediates’ construction was shared by the brand new line of private luxurious automobiles that GM had launched, and amongst them was Chevrolet’s Monte Carlo, which turned a finest vendor. Designers might have discovered it a problem to include the federal government’s new restrictions into the brand new A-body automobiles, however the Monte Carlo flourished below this self-discipline.

There have been different successes. Pontiac by no means skilled sturdy gross sales with its LeMans, however its Grand Am turned one thing of a halo automobile and a harbinger of issues to return. And as a sedan (a uncommon automobile, certainly), patrons might go for a flooring console that contained the shifter – the primary American-built automobile to supply such a European-inspired possibility in a four-door setting. Grand Am’s gross sales weren’t sturdy and the road was finally discontinued, however its affect was far-reaching.

Pontiac’s Grand Am for 1973 was perhaps the most European-influenced of the Colonnade cars introduced by General Motors.
Pontiac’s Grand Am for 1973 was maybe essentially the most European-influenced of the Colonnade automobiles launched by Common Motors. jpg, CA

Buick’s Century additionally spawned the two-door Regal coupe, but it surely was the Oldsmobile Cutlass that turned the sleeper hit.

Cutlass had all the time been a good-looking intermediate, however its reincarnation into the Colonnade system made it right into a gross sales monster. By 1976 and 1977, Cutlass was not solely the best-selling Olds, however the best-selling automobile inside GM and the Detroit-based vehicle trade.

In 1973, the Cutlass line-up included the bottom Cutlass, the Cutlass S, the Cutlass Supreme, the Cutlass Salon, the Vista Cruiser station wagon, and the 442 look bundle.

Cutlass was accessible as a two-door coupe, a four-door sedan and a station wagon.

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Oldsmobile had all the time executed nicely with its Cutlass, however the nameplate hit its stride with the 1973 mannequin yr as a Colonnade automobile. By 1975, Cutlass was not solely the best-selling mannequin in Oldsmobile’s division, however the second hottest automobile within the U.S., after Chevrolet’s all the time fashionable Impala.

Cutlass’ recognition exploded in 1976. That yr, it featured a restyled entrance finish with a break up waterfall-like grill. New rectangular headlights have been launched. The flanks have been reshaped for a much less contoured look, and the tail lights have been revised. As good-looking as Cutlass had been for 1973, its inherent attractiveness have been solely strengthened for 1976.

Multiple million Cutlass automobiles have been bought for the 1976 mannequin yr – greater than double the variety of Mustangs Ford bought in Mustang’s break-out yr in 1964.

The success of Cutlass spoke to the general success of the intermediate division. Though GM did fairly nicely with its full-size automobiles, its intermediates hit a candy spot throughout the Colonnade period and helped make such “smaller” automobiles way more acceptable.

There have been additionally larger gas costs to cope with, and the Colonnades helped GM survive that disaster. Increased gas costs started in November 1973, only a few months after the brand new intermediates have been launched. Though the brand new automobiles weren’t that rather more environment friendly than their bigger brethren, they have been smaller in scale and measurement and thus deemed to be extra acceptable by patrons who have been exceptionally apprehensive about costlier fuel.

However the chief motive for the Colonnades’ common acceptance have been their attractiveness. They have been good-looking cars with an intriguing however distinctive design, and so they provided fascinating interiors that would, with the right choices, be lavishly appointed.

The Colonnade automobiles’ temporary five-year reign ended after the 1977 mannequin yr. For that yr, GM had made their full-size automobiles smaller and extra environment friendly in measurement, and that very same program was prolonged for 1978 to the intermediates, which turned smaller than the Colonnade automobiles they changed.

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