by James Kraus
In 1964 the British Isles became the centre of popular culture. Beatlemania assumed international proportions with the band’s successful invasion of the United States and the release of A Hard Day’s Night. Meanwhile, cinematic MI6 Agent James Bond cemented his status as the free world’s favorite undercover operative with the debut of Goldfinger.
The Rover 2000 won European Car of the Year and the Morris Mini Cooper secured its premier victory at the Rallye Monte-Carlo, the storied event with which it would become inexorably linked. Last but not least, another sort of British mini exploded into worldwide popularity and acclaim: the miniskirt.
This final year of the first half of the 1960s was a memorable one. It opened with the Winter Olympics in Innsbruck followed by The Beatles’ visit to America, the opening salvo in what would become known as The British Invasion. In early spring, the Ford Mustang debuted at The New York World’s Fair. The Summer Olympics took place in Tokyo and in the waning days of the year Goldfinger, the definitive James Bond film, began opened in theatres around the globe.
In April, Ford launched a new car that immediately took America by storm. Their new Mustang was an affordable and stylish 2+2 that was well-equipped in its base version, and offered a plethora of optional upgrades to tailor the car to a buyer’s wishes in a time when many Americans still purchased their cars built to order. Within a year and a half, one million Mustangs were sold.
Like the Mini and the VW, the Mustang transcended all demographic categories and was as apt to be found at the yacht club as the bowling alley. A new Mustang entered by Allen Mann Racing; driven by Peter Procter and Andrew Cowan, took Touring Car honors at the 1964 Tour de France Automobile.
Five months after the Mustang went on sale, Chevrolet introduced the second-generation Corvair, a major improvement over the original. Lacking only disc brakes to make it truly world-class, the new Corvair retained the upper and lower A-arm front suspension of the original, but at the rear the former swing axles were replaced by an all new design of upper and lower links with the drive shafts acting as the upper arms, a design shared with the Jaguar E-Type and the Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray. At the time, this was the most sophisticated suspension design available on a rear-engine production car.
The option list was extensive and included a limited slip differential, telescoping steering wheel, power antenna and fully integrated air conditioning. The top model, the turbocharged Corsa, produced 180 horsepower from its 2.7-litre air-cooled flat six. American scribe David E. Davis of Car & Driver called the new Corvair coupé “the most important new car of the entire crop of ’65 models, and the most beautiful car to appear in this country since before World War II.”
In Bonn, the capitol of West Germany, the Chancellor Residence was completed. In stark contrast to the White House, 10 Downing Street, Élysée Palace and the Palazzo del Quirinale, the Kanzlerbungalow was the first building housing a head of state of the major Western powers designed and built in accordance with 20th Century modernist principles.
Concurrent with the completion of the Kanzlerbungalow was the opening of the Brazilian National Congress Building in Brasília.
Porsche introduced the 904, a major departure for the firm. It was the first Porsche to use coil spring suspension, their first sports car to abandon rear swing axles, and the first to use a fibreglass body. It was also the last Porsche racing car that was sold in road-legal trim. It was built with four, six and eight-cylinder horizontally-opposed air-cooled powerplants. The new 904 garnered first and second place at the ‘64 Targa Florio.
NSU debuted the Wankel Spider, the first production car to be powered by a Wankel rotary engine.
The steel-framed Corona Chair and Ottoman by Poul M. Volther was introduced. Manufactured by Erik Jørgensen, it remains in production today.
Clairetone of Canada launched the Project G Stereo Hi-Fi System, the ultimate in high-style console audio. The rosewood and leatherette cabinet was flanked by speakers housed in spherical perforated aluminum Sound Globes that could be rotated to select the optimal balance between direct and reflected sound.
Verner Panton debuted his Fun series of lamps that artfully diffused their light output though chains of natural iridescent mother-of-pearl discs. In 1969 two versions were selected for use at the headquarters of Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Manufactured by Verpan, they remain available today in a variety of configurations.
Ferrari introduced two new models which were the technologically the first real 1960s Ferraris. The 250 LM, first shown at the 1963 Paris Salon, entered production as Ferrari’s first mid-engine road car. In common with Porsche’s 904, the LM was Ferrari’s last street-legal racer. The 250 LM claimed first and second overall at Le Mans in 1965.
The new 275 was the first front-engine Ferrari with a rear transaxle and independent rear suspension with coil springs, a significant upgrade from the 250’s leaf-sprung live axle. It was also the first Ferrrari to offer an alloy wheel option: the Cromodora Starburst.
Fiat introduced the Autobianchi Primula. The Primula pioneered the transverse multi-cylinder engine front-drive layout with the engine and gearbox mounted end-to-end (with separate oil supplies) and the differential behind. This is the driveline architecture of the majority of cars on the road today.
Rolex began production of the Daytona-branded 6239 chronograph.
Amolfo di Cambio introduced the Smoke Crystal barware line by Joe Colombo. The range, featuring an offset stem, was designed to facilitate holding a drink and a cigarette in one hand, freeing the opposite hand for more important matters.
Panhard, a manufacturer of automobiles since 1890, began sales of what was to be their final model, the 24.
Ian Fleming released You Only Live Twice, the last work published in his lifetime. Len Deighton published the gritty spy novel Funeral in Berlin and Susan Sontag’s essay Notes on Camp was published in the Partisan Review, a seminal work that helped define the 1960s.
Moviegoers were treated to what was to become the penultimate James Bond thriller, Goldfinger; the fastest-grossing film of all time. Other must-see classics released during the year include Red Desert, Doctor Strangelove, The Killers, the original Pink Panther, A Fistfull of Dollars and A Hard Day’s Night.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. debuted in the U.S. along with Secret Agent Man, Bewitched and Gilligan’s Island. The first Top of the Pops aired in Britain and Danger Man returned.
The Beatles owned the pop airwaves in ’64 and made a good showing at theaters as well in the cinéma vérité A Hard Day’s Night. Getz and Gilberto released the Bossa Nova Girl From Ipanema which achieved fifth position on the U.S. charts and 29th in the U.K. The album went on to win Grammy Record of the Year in 1965.
The Animals’ The House of the Rising Sun, became a number-one hit in the U.K., U.S., Sweden, Finland and Canada. Dean Martin released Everybody Loves Somebody, and Robert Moog demonstrated the first audio synthesizer.
The Austin 1800 ADO17 Land Crab, the largest and final Alec Issigonis design for BMC was launched.
The IBM System/360 was announced and revolutionized business computing, quickly becoming the de facto mainframe business computer of the decade.
Rudi Gernreich presented the topless monokini and Mary Quant popularized the miniskirt.
Toyota introduced the third-generation Corona. With a large, high-torque 1.9 litre engine and available two-speed Toyoglide automatic gearbox, it was the first Japanese car to achieve widespread sales success in the United States and spearheaded the Japanese assault on automotive markets around the globe. Toyota alone would export its 1 millionth vehicle before the decade was over.
Andy Warhol’s Box Sculptures premiered in April at the Stable Gallery in New York.
The 1964 New York World’s Fair opened, offering a treasure trove of mid-century Jet Age and Space Age architecture, displays and consumer products. The two most popular exhibits were the General Motors Futurama and the Ford Magic Skyway. The new Mustang was the focus of the Ford Pavilion and the Chrysler Turbine Car was given centre stage at the Chrysler exhibit.
It could be argued that the ’64-65 New York World’s Fair represented the high-water mark of the automobile as a pure unadulterated land-bound pleasure craft and for the U.S. auto industry in particular. In 1965 the vast majority of the public still jumped into their cars blissfully unconcerned as to personal safety or environmental concerns. The winds of change were in the air however and change came swiftly. Just as the fair was closing, the U.S. Congress passed the Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act of 1965 and Ralph Nader published his seminal Unsafe At Any Speed, leading to passage of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966.
The Rover 2000 was awarded the first-ever International Car of the Year. Lamborghini launched their first automobile, the 350 GT.
John Surtees won the 1964 F1 Championship and Ferrari was awarded the Constructor’s trophy. The European Rally Championship was won by Tom Trana in a Volvo PV 544 Special and the Mini Cooper S won its first-ever Rallye Monte-Carlo victory at the hands of Paddy Hopkirk and Henry Liddon. Jean Rolland at the wheel of an Alfa Romeo was victorious at The Coupe des Alpes for the second time in a row, this year in a Giulia TZ.
The Summer Olympic Games took place in Tokyo; the first games to be broadcast to the world via satellite. Fabergé introduced their Brut fragrance line for men, an aerosol deodorant version of which James Bond would later use with his cigar to improvise a handy flamethrower.
Finally, Nutella hazelnut chocolate spread was introduced and the first AstroTurf (known at the time as ChemGrass) was installed at Moses Brown School in Providence, Rhode Island.
The 50th Anniversary of the 1960s: