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Family Cars

Mass-market cars of the 1960s were often built to template, with a four-cylinder engine at the front, driven wheels at the back, and styling that did little to excite. There were plenty of exceptions, however. The best of the family cars of the era were often clever in their design and thorough in their execution. Manufacturers such as Panhard and Lancia may have been on a downward curve, but there were new car-makers to replace them—notably from the growing motor industry of Japan—and model nameplates were born that would remain familiar for decades to come.

Panhard PL17 Tigre, 1960


Engine848 cc, flat-twin
Top speed90 mph (145 km/h)

Descended from the 1954 Dyna, the front-wheel-drive PL17 had a bulbous but streamlined new body. The 848 cc, flat-twin engine was a gem and in post-1961 Tigre was fast enough to win a Monte Carlo Rally. This car was light, quick, miserly on fuel, and years ahead of its time.

Style in steel

The body shape was based on the early Dyna model, with the front and rear ends restyled. While the Dyna was panelled in aluminium, the PL17 was all-steel.

Baby boxer

The PL17’s engine was a two-cylinder unit with a boxer layout, developing 50bhp in Tigre specification. Initially 851 cc, the engine was downsized to 848 cc to come in under the 850 cc limit for lower road tax in several countries. Power was not affected.

Lancia Flavia, 1961


Engine1,488 cc, flat-four
Top speed93 mph (150 km/h)

This is the sort of car that made many a British saloon look impossibly old-fashioned. The Flavia had an all-aluminum, flat-four engine, front-wheel drive, dual-circuit servo disc brakes, and radial tyres. In 1963 the engine became 1.8 liters, and fuel injection was added in 1965.

Ford Cortina Mk I GT, 1963


Engine1,498 cc, straight-four
Top speed94 mph (152 km/h)

While Ford of Germany was innovating with the front-wheel-drive Taunus, the Cortina was clever not for its engineering but because of its focus on what real car buyers wanted. This resolutely conventional car was popular for its low-friction oversquare engine, synchromesh gearbox, and spacious body.

Renault 16, 1965


Engine1,565 cc, straight-four
Top speed100 mph (161 km/h)

Replacement for the slow-selling Frégate, the 1965 Renault 16 introduced hatchback body styles to mid-range family cars. It had a novel drivetrain, with the gearbox at the front and the longitudinal engine behind it. Spacious, versatile, and comfortable, it was in production until 1980

Toyota Corolla, 1966


Engine1,077 cc, straight-four
Top speed85 mph (137 km/h)

The first of an incredibly successful line, the Toyota Corolla was conventional and unremarkable in its design, but was well put together and dependable. The model made an ideal family car, and exports to the US began in 1968.


It is a quote. The Classic Car Book – The Definitive Visual History 2016

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