The Swinging '60s
I am going to start with an era that is beloved to most Americans and one of the most misunderstood when it comes to Automation. Because Automation ABHORS many realistic 1960s American designs. And you know something?
Automation is at least justified in its hate of 1960s American designs, from a technological standpoint.
And that “technical” thing is important because I don’t think anyone in their right mind could hate 1960s American styling. I mean really; who could hate this?
(This is my other car, by the way. A 1967 Pontiac Bonneville)
But technically speaking, our cars of that era were behind the curve of what much of the rest of the world had. There are reasons for this, some good and some bad, (context is king here; understand that that good or bad is an awfully polar way to describe a complicated issue) but fact is they are NOT the god machines we often revere as. And yeah, you can hate me for saying that but suck it fellow Yanks. We’re not the best; try to argue it. And in the opinion of this author, Europe and Japan had it right.
Okay, lets take this one step at a time through the tabs of the Automation designer:
Platform and Chassis:
This right here is pretty typical of what you would see in an American car of the 1960s. Steel panels, steel body, steel frame. Galvanized or stainless steel frames might have been used on some utility vehicles but don’t quote me on that.
Steel was by and large the most common thing for in fact any car of any nationality of the 1960s to have its body work constructed from. This should be your default unless you have a really good, justified reason for it not to be.
Some exceptions. High-end American sports cars and cargo vans would sometimes forgo ye ol’ steel in favor of much lighter materials:
- The Shelby Cobra had aluminum body work.
- The Chevrolet Corvette had fiberglass body work.
- Cargo vans often used aluminum paneling
Wait… cargo vans?
Yes actually. They are actually one major class exception here that will justify aluminum body work. Because while formed aluminum is expensive and difficult to work, riveted sheet aluminum is dirt cheap. And light. So it was actually quite common for box trucks and panel vans of the era to use aluminum body work because sheet aluminum was inexpensive and the weight saved was weight you could use for cargo. And it saved on gas which commercial buyers sorta did care about.
The takeway: Unless you are building a top-notch American sports car or delivery van, stick to steel.
This right here is pretty much THE NUMBER 1 REASON that Automation hates Murican 60s cars so much. We Yanks used these things called “ladder frames” in whats known as “body-on-frame” construction where the whole body of the car can be removed from its drive train and chassis with the removal of only a couple bolts. Its very heavy; its does not lend itself to safe design; and it allows for lots of body torsion meaning bad handling.
On the other hand, it is very simple to engineer and makes for much easier repairs of chassis damage. This is why the Ford Crown Victoria is such an exalted taxi and police car; refurbishing them after collisions is much much easier than with monocoque aka unibody construction, where the body is designed to be its own support with only a minimal frame then welded on. European and Japanese manufacturers were transitioning into unibody construction in the 1960s (if they hadn’t already >.> Citroen) while the US held onto body-on-frame for most of its vehicles into the early 1980s.
Now, a slight redaction here:
1960s cars from ANYWHERE were steel death boxes. So the extra “safety” delivered by unibody construction is, well, questionable in the early years? and probably moot. And early unibody cars sometimes had no perimeter frame whatsoever which means they were less stiff than body-on-frame cars. The point is that I personally think Automation places too large a penalty on body-on-frame construction in the 1960s which may have been arguably superior. But nonetheless, it is inferior past the 1960s and this is why Automation hates your car. Just an FYI.
Ladder chassis should be your go-to for a realistic 1960s American car, especially if it is a truck / van / offroader.
Some exceptions, mostly smaller cars. Some examples of cars that did use unibody construction:
- GM Y-bodies (1959 - 1963):
- Chevrolet Corvair
- Oldsmobile F85
- Pontiac Tempest
- Buick Skylark
- Ford Falcon
- Ford Mustang
- 1960 onwards Chrysler C-bodies
- Chrysler New Yorker
- Chrysler Town and Country
- Chrysler Newport
- Dodge Monaco
- Dodge Polara
- Plymouth Fury
You could make a fair justification for unibody construction but it just wasn’t that common.
Steel. Not much else to say. As I said before, some trucks and utility vehciles might have used galvanized or stainless steel but I am not to be quoted on that. The main reason you would use either of those is to prevent corrosion and improve vehicle longevity.
Front longitudinal, meaning the engine points straight backwards. Almost without exception. The Chevrolet Corvair had a rear longitudinal engine but that is about it.
Mid engine? Not in any American production car at least but for limited production / concepts it might be appropriate. For instance, the Ford Mustang I concept car was mid engined as was the Ford GT40 race car that won at the 24 Hour Le Mans in 1966.
Transverse? Again, not for production vehicles. The first American cars with a transverse engine didn’t show up until the late 1970s. I am actually not sure if any American concept or race car featured say, a transverse mid engine but I would be skeptical since the transverse mid engine was an innovation of the Lamborghini Miura, debuting in 1966.
Takeaway: Front longitudinal by default. Optionally mid longitudinal for concept / race cars.
For passenger vehicles, i.e. sedans, sports cars, and station wagons, the days of dependent front suspensions were dead. American passenger cars of the 1960s had independent front suspensions using double wishbones. Yes even the unibody cars like the Ford Falcon. MacPherson strut doesn’t come on the scene until the 1970s.
For utility and offroad vehicles, like trucks, vans, and Jeeps, solid axles were still very common for the front and either solid axle leaf or solid axle coil would be appropriate choices. As a note, solid axle leaf gives superior ride height and load capacity compared to coils in case you car about that . The typical linkage system used on coil spring suspensions generally makes it comfortable however.
Not to get too technical but the reason for this is basically because of better suspension isolation and articulation. Coil spring designs also use a trailing arm for forward-backward positioning whereas leaf spring designs use the springs themselves. This means that coil spring solid axle designs tend to be less jarring and do not suffer “wind-up” as badly under hard acceleration.
Almost all American cars of the 1960s had solid axle rear suspensions, either coil or leaf spring. GM tended towards coil springs; Chrysler tended towards leaves but that is not so important. The point is they used solid axles.
- High-end sports cars like again the Chevrolet Corvette and Shelby Cobra had independent rear suspensions, usually double wishbone.
- The first-gen Pontiac Tempest had an independent rear suspension. Its an interesting design - not totally sure how to classify it .
Here are your engine options for a 1960s American car:
- Straight 6
90 degree V8
[end of list]
Okay, that’s not totally true . As always there are exceptions. But as a rule - straight-6 or V8. Because Murica!
- The 1st-gen Pontiac Tempest had a base straight-4. (Yes, the 1st gen tempest was an odd car by American standards)
- The AMC Metropolitan also had a straight-4.
- The Chevrolet Corvair had a boxer-6. All aluminum no less. Obamanotbadface.jpg
- The Buick Skylark / Special had a 90 degree V6. This same engine was later sold to Kaiser and is found in Jeep CJ-5s
- Many Jeeps and International Harvesters used straight-4s, specifically the Hurricane and Comanche straight-4s respectively.
But generally speaking, straight-6 or V8. And on American V8s, you ALWAYS use a crossplane crankshaft. That is what makes them so burbly and cool sounding.
Flatplane V8 cranks were seen on American race cars but as far as I know, crossplane V8 cranks are ubiquitous on production cars, the main reason being they make for a much smoother running engine.
Almost all American engines of the 1960s used cam-in-block overhead valves with two valves per cylinder. Yes Pontiac and Jeep did both make overhead cam straight-6s in the 1960s, but as far as exceptions go, that is pretty much it. OHV was still common around the world but OHC was beginning to have its heyday and this is another reason Automation hates 1960s American cars. OHV is simple and cheap but it doesn’t let engines rev or breath as well meaning lower efficiency engines.
And we made up for our valvetrain tech in displacement. Whereas the rest of the world considered 2.5L or about 150 cubic inches a larger engine, 2.5L was about as small as American engines got. More typically they would be between 3.0L and 4.5L (180 and 275 cid) for straight-6s and 4.0L and 8.0L (240 and 480 cid) for V8s.
Also, most American engines tended to use oversquare designs i.e. having a larger piston bore than stroke. Larger bore than stroke leads to smoother, higher revving engines, and allows for engines to be shorter which was crucial to 1960s American styling which needed low hood lines to achieve their desired look. Normally, the disparity between bore and stroke was only about 5-15 mm (1/5 to 3/5 of an inch) but some engines like the Ford 302 did have a much larger disparity of up to 25 mm (1 inch) with its 4.00 in bore and 3.00 inch stroke (101.6 x 76.2 mm).
Cast iron is love. Cast iron is life.
Aluminum construction was seen in some early 1960s engines like the Buick 215 V8 (which later became the Rover V8 fyi) but the Buick 215 lasted only until 1963 at which point it was replaced by a conventional cast iron design. Even American sports cars used cast iron engines.
You might seen an aluminum head but aluminum blocks were rare.
STAY AWAY FROM THE FUEL INJECTION!
Carburetors were the law of the land. Now not literally of course, but fuel injection was basically just an experiment in the 1960s. Any road car would have a carburetor and it would be running rich. Because gas was cheap and richer mixture means more power!
- Two barrel as a default for any engine unless its a V8 with more than about 6.6L (400 cid) of displacement.
- Single barrel for the basest of base straight-6s. Never on V8s though.
- 4 barrel for mid to high trim engines.
- 2x4 barrel or 3x2 barrel for top-tier performance engines.
This will pain a lot of you, but say goodbye to anything in the 14s or even high 13s for air-fuel ratio. Tuning guidelines:
- 4 barrel performance tuned carbs will be pushing DEEP into 12:1 AFR territory. 12.5:1 is a sorta hot rodder optimal but I’ve heard of people pushing as rich as 11.8 in racing applications.
- 2 barrel and 4-barrel economy carburetors will probably see AFRs somewhere between about 13.5 and 12.5 to one. Generally a 2 barrel should use a less aggressive AFR than a 4-barrel since it sacrifices more by having a rich fuel mixture than a 4 barrel does
- Single barrel carburetors will somewhere around 13.5:1.
If you want the full explanation, see my follow up post on suspension and carb tuning.
Since its visible in this image, lets talk about redlines. You WILL have to quality spam your valvetrain to get some engines to rev as they would realistically. Even larger V8s of the era would redline at around 5000 RPM or even 6000 RPM with certain designs like in the Corvette. But you will find that with OHV, you’re only going to get about 4000 RPM before valve float starts happening.
That being said, American engines of the era were generally low revving. Chrysler slant-6s for instance redlined at like 4000 RPM. An American engine that revs over 5000 RPM in the 1960s would be an exception, not the rule.
An Expose on Power and Torque Ratings
Okay, you American gearheads who just bought this game, we have to talk about something. Sorry Not Sorry, but I have to to break this to you:
You’ve been lied to about 1960s American muscle.
What do I mean? Well…
This is the power torque graph of a recreation of a Pontiac 400 V8 that I made. Those of you who know your Pontiacs might be looking at those figures, doing some conversions and going:
Here is the thing about 1960s American horsepower and torque ratings. They were advertising stunts. Go look up SAE Net versus SAE Gross ratings on Wikipedia. In fact here, I’ll even give you the link:
SAE Gross Horespower
TL;DR - SAE Gross horsepower is a rating method where the engine is rated out of the car and with ALL peripherals removed, and I mean ALL. No alternator, water pump, power steering, air-con compressor, exhaust, not even a fucking air filter. SAE Net ratings however, starting use in 1972, rate engines as they would be installed in the car i.e. with all normal peripherals that SAE gross allows omission of.
So the fact that this Carter AFB, 10.2:1 compression, Pontiac 400 recreation only makes 270 hp when it was advertised at 325 hp is no problem to realism at all because guess which method of rating Automation simulates? Thats right! SAE Net
This would be a typical American drivetrain. Almost all 1960s American cars were rear-wheel-drive with the only notable exceptions being the late 1960s Cadillac Eldorado and Oldsmobile Toronado, which were front-wheel-drive. Trucks, vans, and utility vehicles were usually also rear-wheel-drive but four-wheel-drive became common as an option or even a standard during this era for off-roaders and upper-trim trucks.
- 3-speed manual:
- Never on luxury cars
- Base transmission for most other cars
- 4-speed manual:
- Never on luxury cars, except high performance models
- Optional transmission for any size
- Base transmission on high-end sports cars
- 5-speed manual
- As far ask I know, only ever used on race cars
- 2-speed automatic
- Optional on small and mid-size cars
- Sometimes seen as an option on large cars of entry level brands like Chevrolet
- 3-speed automatic
- Base transmission on luxury cars
- Optional transmission for any size car though uncommon on early 1960s compacts
American cars often have long gearing. The final drive gears (set by the Top Speed setting) are typically between 2.5 and 4.0:1 and gear spacing is usually tight. If you find yourself going above 70 on the Spacing setting, I would be skeptical.
Unless that is to say it is a truck or offroader, which normally did have much shorter gears for better towing and crawling.
- Open diff as a default
- Lockers were rarely default equipment. Normally an option or part of a towing package.
Wheels and Tires
First off: Radials were not common!
The first American road car to make radial tires standard was the 1970 Lincoln Mark III. Cross ply tires were favored for their inexpensive nature and comfort. Radial tires were an option on some higher-end makes, like the Lincoln Mark III, but in general, you should not be using radials on a 1960s American car.
This is in contrast to much of the rest of the world where radial tires started becoming common in the mid 1950s and another reason why faithful 1960s American designs are hated by Automation. Cross ply tires do not have good handling characteristics because they flex more and cannot be made low profile. Get used to 80 and 90 sidewall tires!
A for sizing, here are some guidelines for passenger cars:
- Compact (wheelbase ~110 inches):
- 165 - 185 mm wide
- 13 inch wheels
- Mid size (wheelbase ~115 inches):
- 185 - 205 mm wide
- 14 inch wheels
- Full size (wheel base ~120 inches):
- Limousine (wheel base 130+ inches):
- 215+ mm wide
- 15 inch wheels
Each class would likely have an option for a 1 inch larger diameter wheel. Wheels should be steel. High performance models might have mag or alloy wheels as an option.
Trucks and offroaders are a little bit different and might see wheel diameters as large as 18 inches. 15 or 16 would be a good starting place however. Still would use tall skinny tires though.
Tire compound is largely a matter of your choosing and what market you are targeting.
The brakes on 1960s American cars were not good. Lets start there.
10 or 11 inch (250 - 275 mm) drum brakes were standard on all four wheels and usually also without a booster. Thats right. Manual shittastic brakes! Power brakes were often times still considered options as were disc brakes. And discs, although optional on many American cars starting in the mid 1960s, were usually only optional the front wheels. Some high-end performance cars did have 4-wheel disc brakes that but it was not common.
On the other hand, asbestos brake pads were also a thing and if you didn’t know, asbestos makes
for a high risk of cancer a superb brake lining. Very good stopping force, so cars were able to stop but would still suffer horrible brake fade.
And by good force I mean probably can lock the rear wheels if you are trying but that’s about it. Old American steel doesn’t stop very well. Old cars in general don’t stop well.
Not much to say here. Just basically that 1960s American cars typically did not have aerodynamic improvements like undertrays, wings, spoilers, or brake vents unless they were race cars. Top trim levels might have a spoiler and more attention paid to aerodynamic design, sure, but almost nothing else.
Interior and Amenities
A couple of things to say here.
First of all, if you by the number of seat belts, many 1960s American cars are technically 4-seaters. Yes. The middle passenger did not have a seat belt. But we all know that is a ploy to allow the car to be classified as a 4-seater for safety regulations when really its a 6-seater because most American cars had bench seats.
That being said, small sportier makes like the Mustang or GTO did actually employ bucket seats in the front and were legitimately 4-seater cars since the rear bench would have recesses for the two passengers by the doors; the middle hump was not really intended as a seat. But it still could be.
So for realism, I would say set your car up as having either benches front and rear – 6-seater – or front bucket seats and rear bench – 5-seater.
Trucks were virtually always bench seats. Cargo vans might have bucket seats though since they would only seat a driver and a passenger and when forward control became a concept, the space usually occupied by a bench was instead occupied by an engine cover.
As for entertainment, radios were still a novelty in the early 1960s but transistor technology made it commonplace by the late 1960s.
A guideline for what to include in a car:
Entry level (Chevrolet, Ford, Plymouth equivalent): Radios not standard until the late 1960s. Optional on mid-size and large cars in the early 1960s. Optional on small cars in the mid 1960s onward.
- Stick the Basic or Standard radio options
Premium (Dodge, Pontiac, Buick, Mercury, etc equivalent): Radios not standard until the mid 1960s. Generally optional on all makes though even in the early years.
- Stick to Standard or Premium radio options
Luxury (Cadillac, Imperial, Lincoln equivalent): Radios standard even in the early years. The game doesn’t currently allow for this but 8-track players started becoming optional in luxury makes in the late 1960s.
Manual steering was still common in the 1960s especially on small cars but power steering was, however, normally an option. Mid size and large cars usually had power steering by default starting circa 1963.
American cars of the 1960s had sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooft suspension, typically between about 1.1 and 1.5 hz and often on the lower end of that range. The damping coefficients were similarly soft between like 0.2 and 0.3. Sports and race cars are a different story and will shoot for higher marks around 1.5 - 2.0 Hz, but for passenger cars, these are the targets to hit.
And old American cars bottom out easily – very easily – because of that soft suspension coupled with low ride heights because the lowrider motto of “Low n Slow” was embraced by Detroit stylists as well.
No. Seriously. My 1967 Pontiac – its almost 6 meters long but if you stand next to it and extend your arm horizontal, the roof is a full 15 cm below it. Low ‘n’ slow! There have been times I have gone over speed humps in it and got out to check the oil pan afterwards because I felt a thud and heard a bad noise
As for suspension options:
Is your name Citroen? No? Standard rate springs. Don’t use hydropneumatic. Yes some Cadillacs and Lincolns had air-ride suspensions but that isn’t the same as hydropneumatic which is a Citroen thing.
Progressive rate springs might be seen as an option on offroaders, trucks, and commercial vehicles. Also perhaps on a exclusive luxury makes.
Gas monotube dampers will become an option in the late 1960s - generally reserved for sportier makes
For the full explanation of progressive versus standard springs check out my follow up post.
And here is the big one:
You should strongly consider whether or not to include sway bars!
Many American cars did not have sway bars in the 1960s. AT ALL! And even when they did, they were generally only on the front suspension for two reasons:
- Front sway bars help induce understeer and make the car more controllable
- Sway bars essentially introduce dependent suspension behavior back into an independent design but most American cars still had solid rear axles, a dependent design. Sooo… nah. Don’t need it in the rear.
Starting in the late 1950s, high-end luxury cars as well as many standard full size cars (~120+ in wheelbase) started to include front sway bars to help mitigate excessive body roll in order to make for a more comfortable and controllable ride. Many small and midsize cars still omitted them as a cost cutting measure however, at very least on the base trims. The Corvair is one particularly infamous example of this where a standard front sway bar would have eliminated the handling problems of the pre-1963 models where it was optional.
Sports and muscle cars commonly did include a sway bar standard, often trumpeted as improving handling and ride quality, the former of which though is dubious claim given the still prolific use of crossply tires and the natural front-heaviness of many such cars.
By 1970, a front sway bar was usually standard equipment on most cars with the complete lack of sway bars disappearing during the early 1970s.
Even despite being rear wheel drive, American cars (apart from the Corvair ) will also understeer at their limits. This is true of almost all cars by the way, not just American ones. So make sure to have the car understeering.
That was a lot. Hope this helps answer some questions!