I'm heading down a new road, so to speak. Instead of the long articles relating a roadtrip down a complete highway, I'll now be posting much shorter articles. And the scope will be wider, covering just about everything from the year 1962. This should allow me to post more often, and allow you to have more fun reading. I'm not sure just how often I will post something, but this page will always show the five most recent articles, with the newest at the top. Older articles will be archived at the Blog Archives page. I may even include articles from other people, so if you have something to say about 1962, please let me know. Topics will cover:
- 1962 News of the World
- 1962 News of the Nation
- 1962 Local News
- 1962 in Sports
- 1962 in Entertainment and the Arts (including movies, TV, music, art, fashion, architecture, design, books, comics, and more)
- 1962 in Science
- Cars of 1962
- Consumer Products and Retail in 1962 (including just about anything you could buy, plus the stores you could buy it in)
- On the Road in 1962 (road and roadtrip topics, including things I typically covered on my long journeys)
More New England Roadtrips
This week Roadtrip-'62 ™ will do something different. Instead of a single highway, I’ll take a brief look at a trio of US-numbered routes. The remaining odd-numbered routes in New England all begin at the Canadian border and travel south as far as they can before hitting the Atlantic Ocean coast. They vary in length because the farther west you are, the farther it is to the coast. Route US-5 runs from Derby Line, Vermont, at the Canadian border, to New Haven, Connecticut. It's a short route, 300 miles, traversing only three states: Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont. US-5 stays very close to the Connecticut River for most of its route. Highway US-7 originally ran from the Canadian border south through Vermont and Massachusetts, and ended at Norwalk, Connecticut, on Long Island Sound. Today, it traverses 308 miles because the north end was shortened by about 4 miles by the I-89 freeway in the 1970s, so that US-7 no longer reaches the Canadian border. Finally, US-9 runs 492 miles from Champlain, New York to Laurel, Delaware, passing right through New York City. It is one of only two US-numbered highways with a ferry connection. You have to take a ferry across Delaware Bay between Cape May, New Jersey and Lewes, Delaware to complete the route. In 1962, US-9 ended in Cape May as the ferry service was not opened until 1964. The ferry and travel in Lewes makes the route about 29 miles longer today. It also used to continue to the Canadian border, but now ends at an I-87 freeway interchange about a mile south.
As US-5 begins up near the Vermont-Quebec border, you might have a chance of seeing North America’s version of the Loch Ness Monster, Memphre. Reports of danger in Lake Memphremagog date back to at least the 18th century, when Native Americans warned Europeans of swimming in the lake. The mysterious creature has officially been named Memphre, and has supposedly been spotted more than 200 times over the years. It’s more often seen in the town of Magog, on the Quebec, Canada side of the lake, where they have even named a café in town. The lake lies in both Quebec and Vermont and is mostly in Quebec, though most of the watershed that feeds the lake is located in Vermont. Its maximum recorded depth is 351 feet, making it the third deepest in Vermont. The 45th parallel lies halfway between the North Pole and the Equator and the idea that strange things happen along the 45th parallel is a common refrain among bigfoot and UFO hunters. Memphre is a long-necked lake monster much like the Loch Ness Monster. If it exists, it may be related to Champ, a similar monster reported to live in nearby Lake Champlain, between New York, Vermont and Quebec. Regardless of whether you see Memphre, if you visit in the fall you will see gorgeous color with the nearby hills backing up the lake.
As I mentioned above, US-5 stays very close to the Connecticut River for most of its route. It crosses our US-6 roadtrip at East Hartford, Connecticut. At this point it also crosses the Connecticut River from East Hartford to Hartford on the Charter Oak Bridge. The original four-lane bridge at this point was opened in 1942. We could have crossed it in 1962, but the bridge was demolished and replaced by dual structures in 1991. We would have needed to pay a toll in 1962, but the new bridge is free. The old Charter Oak Bridge was the longest steel-plate girder bridge in the world when new. It was lucky it had such a long life, as it was supported by just two parallel girders, meaning a failure of either one would have closed the whole bridge. The new bridge has redundancy built in with multiple girders. All that remains of the old bridge are its four decorative iron medallions, which were placed on the new US-5 bridge. You can see a couple of these in this old postcard view.
About a half hour south of Burlington, Vermont, in the tiny town of Ferrisburg, a trip on US-7 finds find what Vermont is all about, maple syrup. Our stop is the Original Dakin Farm Maple Market, which has been here since 1960 when Sam Cutting III bought a farm that had been around since 1792. His small roadside stand has blossomed into much larger store and an internet business, so you can enjoy maple syrup products shipped right to your door. But we’ll stop into the store at the Dakin Farm. Besides maple syrup and other maple goodies, the store also sells corn cob smoked hams and bacon, made in their own smokehouse. And they have cheeses from Cabot Creamery, which has been in business since 1919. My favorite maple treat is maple cream candies, made by boiling down Pure Vermont Maple Syrup to a creamy, crystallized consistency, then pouring it in candy molds just before it sets up. You can always find it in maple leaf shape, large and small, but sometimes in other shapes like acorns, shells, other leaves, or hearts just for the fun of it. My brothers and I would argue about who got which shapes when we used to take roadtrips around 1962.
Farther south, at Arlington, Vermont, you can visit the Norman Rockwell Museum. The museum holds a chronological display of more than 2,500 pieces of Rockwell’s are, including magazine covers, advertisements, paintings, and other published works. Norman Rockwell lived and worked in Arlington from 1939 to 1953. Though the museum was only established in 1976, we would have seen his art in 1962 in such places as this cover of the Saturday Evening Post. Even farther south, US-7 crosses our US-6 journey at Danbury, Connecticut. Very little of the route has been replaced by freeways, so you can make a good, old-fashioned roadtrip of US-7. The north end of US-7 was originally outside Highgate Springs, Vermont, at the Canada border. However, the northernmost segment was paved over when the I-89 freeway was built, so US-7 now ends at the northernmost interchange on I-89.
In the 1940s, US-9, US-11, and US-2 all ended at the same border crossing in Rouses Point, New York! That was sorted out before 1962. Highway US-9 begins near Lake Champlain and travels along its westside while US-7 travels the east side. Then, US-9 closely follows the Hudson River for much of its length. From Albany, New York south to Fort Lee, New Jersey, US-9 in on the east bank while US-9W is on the west bank. Both cross our US-6 roadtrip near Peekskill, New York. The route has some strange route signs in northeast New Jersey and a small section of southern New York. Instead of posting normal US-1 and US-9 signs, “US 1 – 9” signs are used. The highway is known locally as "one and nine" or "one-nine". In another oddity is that the Delaware portion is signed east-west instead of the north-south signing used by the rest of the route.
Along the Hudson River portion are many historic homes, such as Sunnyside, at Tarrytown, New York. Sunnyside was the home of early American author Washington Irving, best known for his short stories "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, both published around 1820. The house was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962 and is now operated as a museum by Historic Hudson Valley. It contains many of Irving's original furnishings and accessories, especially in his writer's study. The guides are dressed elegantly in hoop skirts or formal dress clothes of Irving’s times.
Another of the historic homes is the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site. This site preserves the former President’s Springwood estate in Hyde Park, New York. Franklin D. Roosevelt was born here on the family estate and when he married Eleanor Roosevelt in 1905, they moved in with his mother. Franklin and his mother made a final enlargement and remodeling of the house in 1915 to accommodate his growing family (five children) and his needs to entertain political associates. During his presidency, from 1933 until his death in 1945, Franklin made almost 200 visits to Springwood. He also built and visited a smaller home of his own on the estate, Top Cottage, to be separate from his mother. As President, the main estate functioned as a "Summer White House" where the President hosted political associates and other prominent national and international figures. In 1943, before he died, Roosevelt donated the estate to the American people under the condition that his family would maintain a lifetime right to use the property. After he died, the family relinquished their rights and the estate was transferred to the US Department of the Interior. The National Park Service has maintained it as a National Historic Site open to the public since then. Franklin D. Rooselvelt is buried near the sundial in the Rose Garden and his wife Eleanor was buried at his side after her death in 1962.
John D. Rockefeller, the businessman who built the Standard Oil Company into a monopoly by 1911, also had a home along the Hudson River. The home, Kykuit, was mostly conceived by his son John D. Rockefeller, Jr. It has been home to four generations of the family and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976. Though now open for tours, it would not have been in 1962. Even today, the estate is the site of about ten homes for various Rockefeller families. But US-9 has another Rockefeller property that we could have visited in 1962!
Though it’s not Christmas, US-9 has a Christmas connection: the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. Every year since 1933 a giant tree has been erected in Rockefeller Center in New York City. And although US-9 does not pass by the tree, it does come within 5 miles of it, which is within the Roadtrip-'62 ™ distance limit for tourist attractions! It would make a great stop either today or in 1962 if we were traveling US-9. The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is usually a Norway Spruce, which have a full shape that looks great in big trees, though it has also been a white spruce. And big it is: usually over 65 feet tall and sometimes up to 100 feet! For 2013, it was a 76-foot-tall Norway Spruce. The oldest useable photo I found shows a focus on the design of the decorations, whereas more recent years have seen the tree as a blaze of lights. The angels shown here were also used in 2013. The tree sits right in front of the ice skating rink, so we could stay awhile and enjoy that too. Now I can’t wait for Christmas: maybe I’ll get some maple candies in my stocking!
5 National News Headlines from 1962
So here I am in 1962, commuting home from work to the suburbs, walking into the living room and sitting down with the evening newspaper to see what happened today. I guess today’s paper must be the year end edition, as Roadtrip-'62 ™ takes a look at several things that happened in 1962 around the United States. We recently looked at international news, but today, let’s see what’s happening at home.
On April 16, 1962, Justice Byron White was confirmed as a Justice of the Supreme Court. Justice White had previously been a law clerk to Supreme Court Chief Justice Fred Vinson and had a successful corporate law practice in Colorado. He worked in John F. Kennedy’s campaign in that state in 1960. President John F. Kennedy appointed Byron White to the position of Deputy Attorney General shortly after being elected. President Kennedy appointed another justice, Arthur Goldberg, in September, 1962.At the time of his appointment, Justice White became one of six Democrats of the nine justices on the Court.
During the 1962 session of the Supreme Court, one case ruled on regarded apportionment, or drawing of legislative districts. In Baker v. Carr, the Court reversed their previous finding that apportionment matters were political and not within their review. Not surprisingly, the change created a cascade of new lawsuits around the country. At the time, legislative districts commonly had not been redrawn for decades and disproportionately represented rural dwellers. Opinion at the time noted that the opinion of the Court would likely result in increased political power for city dwellers in the future, a change which has indeed come to pass. There has lately been concern about this again, as several courts around the country have dealt with the “gerrymandering” of legislative districts. The issue is again before the Supreme Court for its 2017-18 term. Justice White retired in 1993, becoming the twelfth longest-serving Supreme Court justice.
On May 28, 1962, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 5.7%. This is on a par with what we now call a “flash crash”, like the one that happened in just 20 minutes when the Dow lost 9% on May 6, 2010. One noticeable difference is that today, they are blamed in part on computer trading, where computer trading programs see a drop and sell, feeding the drop the next computer sees. Back in 1962, trading was still done by real people writing paper orders, so what happened? People couldn’t keep up with the trading. The ticker, which showed everyone else what was happening, got backlogged and didn’t finish reporting for nearly 2½ hours after the market closed. So traders kept feeding a downtrend instead of stepping in to buy at the low prices. Who needs computers to cause a panic?
The year had started with a decline in the stock market, which was accelerated after the President badgered the steel industry into rescinding a price increase early in the year. Business in general was wary of a President who could have such negative effects on them through bad press. Adding to that, the unemployment rate, which had improved from 6.7% at the end of 1961 to 5.5% at the end of 1962, was still seen as too high compared to the late 1950s. In final bad news for the stock market, the Cuban Missile Crisis in October scared just about everyone with the possibility that Armageddon was near, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the year about 700 points lower than where it began. Considering 1962 levels, that was about a 12% loss, equivalent to about 2600 points today.
Aftermath of 1962 Columbus Day Storm, in and around McMinnville, Oregon. (video by family of Ron Fulham)
There were 22 federal disaster declarations for 1962, including 12 incidents of storms or floods, 8 incidents of high tides, and a barge accident that was responsible for 2 incidents. The two worst storm incidents were known as the Columbus Day Storm on the Pacific coast and the Ash Wednesday Storm on the Atlantic coast. The Columbus Day Storm of October 12, 1962 ravaged Oregon and Washington. With coastal winds of up to 140 miles per hour, things were bad enough inland that they even closed the Seattle World’s Fair. In San Francisco, near the storm’s landfall, the sixth game of baseball's World Series at Candlestick Park was postponed. More than 150 families lost their homes, and over 50 people were killed. More than one billion board-feet of lumber fell in various state-owned forests. The storm began as Typhoon Freda in the South Pacific and had weakened into an extra-tropical storm near Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, but then it veered south, regenerated, and picked up speed. No other storm of this size and intensity has occurred either before or after in the written history of the Pacific Northwest.
The Ash Wednesday Storm hit on March 7, 1962 and affected the coast from Florida to New England. Ocean City, Maryland sustained major damage when a 3-mile stretch of the boardwalk was wiped out and wind gusts hit 60 to 70mph. The high winds caused 40-foot waves and tides that ran 2 to 6 feet above normal. Overall, the Ash Wednesday Storm caused over $200 million dollars in property damage (in 1962 dollars) and major coastal erosion from North Carolina to Long Island, New York. The Red Cross recorded 40 people dead and more than 1,000 injured. Because it hit during a tidal period when the sun and moon are in phase, tides reached 9 feet above normal at Norfolk, Virginia. Besides coastal damage, heavy snows fell in the Appalachian Mountains. Big Meadows, Virginia recorded that state’s highest 24-hour snowfall, with 33 inches. It is still classed as one of the ten worst storms in the United States in the 20th century. An unusual lasting positive effect was on the National Park system. During the 1950s, over 5,000 private lots on Assateague Island were zoned and sold for resort development. The Ash Wednesday Storm halted the plans for development, destroying the few existing structures on the island and ripping roads apart with wave action. The undevelopable land was acquired by the federal government and in 1965, Assateague Island became a National Seashore.
In case you thought that the US House of Representatives always has 435 members, you would be generally be correct, but NOT for 1960. In that year, 1 new representative was added for each of the new states of Alaska and Hawaii. That was because all the other seats had already been apportioned using the 1950 census. It went back to 435 seats with the 1962 election because representation was re-apportioned using the new 1960 census. As a result of this and election results, the Democrats lost 3 seats in the House, though they still held a majority. The Democrats also held a majority in the Senate, and picked up 3 seats from the Republicans there in 1962.
In other election news, President Kennedy’s brother Edward (Teddy) Kennedy was elected to the US Senate in Massachusetts, Mitt Romney’s father, George Romney was elected Governor of Michigan, and former Vice President Nixon lost his bid to become Governor of California. As a result of the loss, political commentators regarded Nixon's political career over. Donald Rumsfeld, who many of remember better as a Secretary of Defense, was elected to the freshmen class of the House of Representatives. Minnesota presaged the tight election of 2008 when Minnesota Senator Al Franken was elected with a margin of only 312 votes after months of recounts. The 1962 Minnesota Governor’s race was also in doubt for over four months as ballots were recounted all across the state. Eventually, Governor Elmer L. Andersen was re-lected by just 91 votes. Some things never seem to change. Or maybe some things do: I doubt anyone will ever win again with 96% of the vote, as Alabama’s Governor George Wallace did in 1962!
On January 12, 1962, the first U.S. combat troops arrived in Vietnam. President Kennedy began the operation because the downfall of Saigon, the capitol of South Vietnam, seemed immanent. I find the most interesting aspect to be the fact that he did so without announcing the move to the public. While he did hold a press conference, Kennedy stated only that the U.S. was assisting South Vietnam with training and transportation. US involvement was seen as necessary to prevent South Vietnam from falling to Communist domination, at a time when adjacent Laos was losing to Communist forces. Kennedy began slowly, first by sending supplies and training Vietnamese troops, but by May our troops were engaged in combat. US Marines were also sent to nearby Thailand at that government’s request in April, as Thailand feared being attacks by guerillas from Laos. By the end of 1962, we had about 10,000 forces in Vietnam alone and the number went up from there. As it turned out, we would be in an undeclared war there until we abandoned it in 1973, in an ignominious retreat from the very rooftops of the South Vietnamese capitol of Saigon. We lost, and judging by our activities in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years, we may not have learned any useful lessons.
That’s enough news for one day. So I’m going to put my newspaper down and pick up a comic book for some lighter reading. Maybe the first issue of Bullwinkle, or The Incredible Hulk, or Mr. Ed the Talking Horse, or Boris Karloff Thriller. There are plenty to choose from and you can find them all at the Grand Comics Database. See you soon again here at Roadtrip-'62 ™!
Made on US-4 in 1962
As I started to write about highway US-4, I noticed that President Trump declared last week as “Made in America Week” at the White House. So I took up that theme and here are some products made along US-4 in 1962. Highway US-4 does not cross any of Roadtrip-'62’ ™ full-length, virtual roadtrips. Instead, US-4 is another short route, running through only 253 miles through Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York. Beginning in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the route has started at Portsmouth Circle since probably 1956...at least officially. Strangely, actual signage at the at that point suggests a couple of other endpoints, traveling part of the Spaulding Turnpike to the I-95 freeway. In Vermont and New Hampshire, the route is signed east–west, which is standard for even-numbered US-numbered routes, but New York signs it north-south because it physically travels that direction there.
In Concord, New Hampshire, we find a longtime manufacturer of some commercial kitchen equipment that we seldom consider: the deep fryer. But if you’ve ever had french fries, fish fillets, chicken, or mozzarella sticks at a fast-food restaurant, even back in 1962, they may have been fried in a Pitco Frialator. Somewhere back in history, someone discovered that the deeper the frying pan, the better the frying, and eventually the deep fryer became a standard piece of kitchen equipment. Pitco has been making these since 1918, when they introduced an innovation that allowed food particles to fall below the heating element into a cooler zone. This meant that the bits did not overcook, scorch, or burn, keeping the flavor of the frying food free of burns and other unwanted tastes. Pitco produces a complete line of commercial frying equipment for all our favorite roadtrip foods, including floor fryers, countertop fryers, donut fryers (yum-yum!), and even pasta cookers.
Concord is also home to Duncraft, since 1952 a manufacturer of products for backyard bird feeding. Even then, it was one of the largest hobbies in America. The owner, Gil Dunn started with a design called the Flight Deck Windowsill Feeding Station, which combined offerings of birdseed, water, and even peanut butter for backyard birds. He began with just a small tear-out ad in the New Yorker magazine and by the 1960’s Duncraft published a 16-page, black-and-white, mail-order catalog. There are now over 500 bird feeding products made by Duncraft in Concord and nearby Penacook, New Hampshire. The company is still owned and operated by the same family. As we leave Concord, we cross US-202, which I wrote about previously.
At Lebanon, New Hampshire, we would have found H.W. Carter & Sons back in 1962, though they are gone today. The company, established in 1859, made clothing here and employed more than 175 people at its peak operation in the 1920s. Carter was known for sturdy clothing such as dungarees, overalls, hunting gear, ski jackets, industrial aprons, and lab coats. Some time after 1890, they acquired another New Hampshire clothing manufacture and continued under the trademark of “Carter’s Watch the Wear”. The business was family-run for more than a century, first by Carters and then by the Jackson family. But in 1967 the company was sold to outside investors who moved operations south where labor was cheaper. The Lebanon factory manufactured its last pair of overalls on in 1985. Other than H.W. Carter & Sons, Lebanon’s industries included furniture mills, a leather tannery, machine shops, and a woolen textile mill. The industrial district was in decline from the 1950s and 1960s, with a major fire in 1964 that destroyed a large portion of the district. But the Carter factory was spared and the AVA Gallery and Art Center acquired the building in 2003. It now houses studios for local artists, art classroom, and gallery space. It’s also full of artifacts from H.W. Carter & Sons past. In 2012, a pair of entrepreneurs revived the Carter brand, for awhile selling chore coats, shirts, aprons, work trousers, and other clothing based on original designs at J. Crew, online, and in other stores. But they seem to be gone now so we can no longer buy Carter clothing.
At West Lebanon, we cross the Connecticut River into Vermont. We saw the headwaters of the river in my article about US-3, which began near them. This area has several scenic rivers, as they make their way down from mountains to the Atlantic Ocean, which in only a couple hundred miles away. So even though I’m focusing on Made in America today, we have to do some sight-seeing as we travel US-4. One of the most scenic spots in this part of Vermont is the Quechee Gorge. The gorge was formed by glaciers and their meltwater approximately 13,000 years ago. Highway US-4 crosses the gorge on a scenic steel arch bridge and provides good views down to the Ottauquechee River, which has carved the gorge. Below on the river, with good views backwards up the 165-foot-deep gorge to the bridge, is Quechee State Park. The land for the state park was originally the site of the A. G. Dewey Company, a major wool processor in the 19th century and up to 1952. The mill closed that year and the buildings were demolished. Almost immediately after the mill closed, the US Army Corps of Engineers began taking land in the area for a flood control plan. The North Hartland Dam and the reservoir at the park are the result. Construction of the state park campground and picnic areas began in 1962, so we probably could not have used them during that year. Today there is also hiking up Quechee Gorge.
Our next point of interest is at Proctor, Vermont, just a few miles north of US-4. Proctor is the site of the Vermont Marble Museum, and also formerly of the Vermont Marble Company. Vermont Marble had a large quarry here, and blocks of their marble still dot the museum site. When I visited in 1976, and likely back in 1962, you could see some of the quarry's operations around the adjacent buildings. The quarry itself appears to have been underground, as is another in Danby, Vermont. The museum of course highlights the Vermont Marble Company, which supplied marble for the Jefferson Memorial, the US Supreme Court Building, and hundreds of other monuments and buildings worldwide. They are no longer in business. The display of various colors of marble from around the world was my favorite part at the museum, which is still open. Nice gift shop too; above is a photo of a lamp I bought there.
We’ll wrap up today’s trip at Troy, New York, home of the Troy-Bilt Rototiller and other gardening products. In 1937, C.W. Kelsey created the first American-made, rear-tine, rototiller, which he based on a German machine known as the Earth Grinder. He designed his rototiller to be suitable for the rocky American soil he was used to, with rear power-driven wheels. The company, which was originally named Rototiller, Inc., was sold to its chief engineer, George Done, in 1963. In 1962, Done had designed a heavier and more powerful Trojan Horse model. An electric starter was added a few years later. Eventually, Troy-Bilt was purchased by MTD Products, who had also purchased Sehl Engineering Ltd. of Canada in 1962. Today, Troy-Bilt manufactures tractors, mowers, tillers, cultivators, trimmers and a variety of outdoor power tools, but up until 1968 they made only rototillers. And the MTD Company includes many other long-time popular brands including Cub Cadet, Yard-Man, White Outdoor, Yard Machines, and Bolens. The company headquarters moved to the Cleveland, Ohio area and production ended here in Troy long ago.
Highway US-4 continues another 11 miles south to end in East Greenbush, New York, at US-9. I’m sure we’ll take a look at something fun along US-9 someday here on Roadtrip-'62’ ™, so stick around!
5 Obscure Cars of 1962
Besides the lovely 1962 Chevrolet Impala I imagine myself driving across the country on Roadtrip-'62 ™, there were many other great cars built that year. Ford created an experimental version of their famous Mustang, which would hit the streets as a production nameplate in 1965. But the car’s official introduction was at the race course at Watkins Glen, New York in October 1962, during the United States Grand Prix. There were also many cars from that year you may never have heard about, but I’m here today to remedy that situation with some stories, photos, and videos of some of the more obscure cars of 1962.
First up is a General Motors product, the 1962 Chevrolet Corvair 95 Rampside Pickup. The entire Corvair line was GM’s attempt to compete with the Volkswagen, which had been growing in popularity ever since its post-war introduction to the United States. Ford, Chrysler, and Studebaker all also introduced compact cars in the late 1950s, but only the Corvair line copied some of the truly different features of the Volkswagen, including a 4-cylinder, air-cooled, rear engine. It was also produced in various configurations from small car through bus-shaped wagon, and even light trucks. All were slightly larger than their Volkswagen counterparts and had larger engines, to attract American buyers used to both. The Rampside was one of two pickups in the line and featured a truly unique side ramp in addition to the traditional pickup tailgate. Because the regular payload floor was raised to accommodate the engine underneath, it was more difficult to access than standard pickups. But the side ramp meant you could walk right up, or even roll equipment into the truck! The Rampside was a favorite of the Bell Telephone Company, because of the ease of loading and unloading cable drums. I think it would also be great for lawn care companies to load a couple of standard walk-behind mowers. Rubber trim on the edge kept the paint from being scratched when the ramp was lowered to the pavement. The Rampside sold well at the start, with production totaling 13,262, but in 1962 sales slumped to just 4,471. Sales of this unique vehicle continued downward until the pickup was discontinued in 1965. But while it lasted, it was popular enough that Structo, a maker of heavy steel outdoor toys, made a version so every kid could play with a Rampside in their sandbox!
Speaking of small cars, the World’s Smallest Car was introduced in 1962, in the United Kingdom. The Peel P50 was only 54″ long and 41″ wide and had only three wheels. It was strictly a one-passenger vehicle and was even advertised as capable of seating "one adult and a shopping bag". The P50 also had only one door, one headlight and no reverse gear. It weighed so little that you could pick it up by a handle at the rear and reposition it when you needed to turn around! It was invented by the Peel Engineering Company’s owner Cyril Cannell. His quest was to design an ultra-compact, capable of travelling at 40 mph while seating one adult and his briefcase. The engine was a DKW (Dampf-Kraft-Wagen) German engine, suitable for a moped. The Peel P50 ended production in 1964, but the company resurrected it in 2010, with some improvements. Today’s model includes a reverse gear, fully independent suspension, all wheel braking, and comes with either a 49cc, four-stroke gasoline engine or an all-electric model with gelled-electrolyte batteries. The top speed of either model is about 28 mph. It is street legal in the United Kingdom and European Union and classified as a motorcycle in the United States. And it’s still light enough that you can pick one end up and roll it like luggage…right into your office…to save on parking fees.
Test track video of Chrysler’s 1962 Gas Turbine Car.
Not all the unusual cars of 1962 were compacts, as Chrysler’s Gas Turbine Car shows. This was somewhat experimental, as only 55 examples were built between 1962 and 1964. Only nine remain intact today; all the rest were crushed after the experiment was over. A few are in museums and some in private collections: Jay Leno owns one. One that still runs was at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum, but that closed at the end of 2016. The vehicle collection is still owned by Fiat Chrysler America, but no longer on display. These turbine cars captured the spirit of the Space Age, with what sounded like a jet engine under the hood. The body was designed by Italian automobile builder Ghia, making it a rather handsome car for the period.
While unusual, it was not the first or only turbine engine car. General Motors had experimented with a Firebird III Gas Turbine Car in 1956. But probably the most famous turbine engine car is the Batmobile used on the TV series “Batman”. The show debuted in 1965, just after the end of Chrysler’s experiment with turbines. George Barris’ customizing firm created the Batmobile, using a 1955 Lincoln Futura one-of-a-kind concept car from the Ford Motor Company as his base. This car was constructed for Ford at the Ghia Body Works in Turin, Italy. It made its public debut in pearlescent Frost-Blue white paint in the 1955 Chicago Auto Show. And was next seen in 1959, sporting a fresh red paint job, in the movie “It Started with a Kiss”. In just three weeks in 1965, Barris’ team turned it into the iconic Batmobile, complete with the flaming rear exhaust.
1962 El Tiburon “Shark” Roadster, presented by its owner, Geoff Hacker.
More unusual than either the P50 or a gas turbine engine was the 1962 El Tiburon “Shark” Roadster. The name is based on the Spanish word for shark. Only about six are known to have been produced and remarkably; two remain and one is fully restored. There is a report that a third body has been found. The Shark is built on a 1959 Renaut chasis, with a rear-mounted Renault 4CV engine. The Tiburon was one of several cars built by Henry Covington, who set out to prove that fast cars did not need big engines. He went the other way and reduced the weight, allowing small engines to power his need for speed. The Tiburon was also small; it boasted only a 82 inch wheelbase. All the fiberglass bodies were hand built by Covington and friend Glen Gums, who went on to found a fiberglass molding business. The current owner of the restored Shark is Geoff Hacker of Forgotten Fiberglass, who bought it used 37 years ago, when he was only 18. Geoff specialises in fiberglass body cars and this was his first project. In an unusual twist of fate, the car’s creator Henry Covington died in 1962, and Geoff Hacker was born that year. Glenn almost lost possession of the car at one time, when he donated it to a museum, but the museum only kept it for 5 years and then gave it back. You may recall a more recent Tiburon automobile, because South Korean manufacturer Hyundai built a model with that name from 1996 to 2008, but the name is the only similarity.
And finally, what review of 1962 cars could be complete without mentioning a James Bond car? The 1962 Sunbeam Alpine Series II was used in the very first Bond film, “Dr. No”. The Sunbeams were one of Britain’s top pre-war nameplates, being multiple Grand Prix winners. But they never made much of a show in the United States, despite trying. The 1961 model was given fins specifically for the US market, designed by someone who had worked in Raymond Loewy's studios in the early 1950s. But this was just a fins were finished here. And the ride was almost large-car smooth, another design feature for the US market. Marketed as a sports car, the Alpine nonetheless had roll-up glass windows, luggage space, working heat and plenty of room. Motor Magazine noted that, “It belongs to a new breed of sports car which is weatherproof when required, but offers two people greater comfort than they would enjoy in many quite expensive touring cars." There were almost 20,000 Series II Alpines built by 1968 but they're not common today.
In “Dr. No”, James Bond drives a lake blue Alpine Series II Roadster as a rental car in Jamaica. The car’s most notable scene is where Bond drives it under a truck to escape from pursuing hit men. Of course, the pursuers are in a much taller vehicle, which hits the truck, resulting in a fiery crash! Though the car was reportedly borrowed from a local resident as the only suitable sports car available, in the Ian Fleming novel the movie is based on, a Sunbeam Alpine was the car used by Secret Service agent John Strangways.
There we are, but in case you haven’t had enough cool 1962 cars yet, here’s a bonus car that I previously wrote about on Roadtrip-'62 ™, the 1962 Studebaker Avanti. Keep coming back, and I’ll write about more cars in the future!
All photos by the author and Copyright © 2017 - Milne Enterprises, Inc., except as noted.
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