I’ve spent a fair amount of time bemoaning the results of the Detroit downsizing movement that began in the mid-Seventies. Responding to rising fuel prices and an unusually high rate of inflation, manufacturers were desperately looking for ways to reduce materials costs and to improve fuel economy. The simplest way to achieve both goals was, apparently, to produce smaller vehicles.
When auto historians look for a particular example of downsizing gone wrong, they often point a finger at the 1980 Ford Thunderbird. The newly shrunk ‘Bird looked very much as if it had been washed on hot and then dried for too long. A massive decline in sales for 1980 confirmed what most enthusiasts were feeling: The Thunderbird had lost its thunder.
But not all downsizing efforts were met with scorn. In fact, some downsized vehicles proved to be vast improvements over their predecessors. Consider the 1977 General Motors B-Body cars.
The B-Body vehicles were GM’s large sub-luxury sedans and coupes, positioned just below the slightly larger (and generally more expensive) C-Body vehicles. And, unlike many downsized products that would soon arrive, these big GMs were spot-on home runs in terms of styling and sales.
Though up to 800 pounds lighter and up to a foot shorter than the vehicles they replaced, these family-friendly rides maintained the presence expected of a full-size American car, while giving up little if any interior space.
Especially handsome, in my opinion, were the new coupes. Despite their generally blocky silhouettes, each of these cars managed to appear sleeker and more rakish than its sedan counterpart.
Take special note of the Chevrolet Impala coupe’s cool “bent glass” rear window. Exclusive to the Chevy, the unique treatment proved exceptionally popular with big-car lovers over the years.
If you’ve ever spent time with one of these big coupes, tell us about it.
LeSabre Coupe: $5033
LeSabre Custom Coupe: $5322
LeSabre Sport Coupe: $5819
Chevrolet Impala and Caprice
Impala Custom Coupe: $4876
Caprice Classic Coupe: $5187
Oldsmobile Delta 88
Delta 88 Coupe: $5145
Delta 88 Royale Coupe: $5363
Pontiac Catalina and Bonneville
Catalina Coupe: $5053
Bonneville Coupe: $5411
Bonneville Brougham Coupe: $5897