by Doug Breithaupt
|William Mitchell dominated automotive design in the United States during
the 1960's and 70's. A pupil of Harley Earl, General Motor's first styling
superstar, Mitchell made his first mark with the 1941 Cadillac 60 Special
and was able to fill Earl's shoes when he became head of GM style in the
early 1960's. While Mitchell was responsible for the Corvettes of 1963-67
and 1968-82 and many of the GM muscle cars so popular today, his best work
may have been saved for GM's personal luxury coupes.
In 1963, Bill Mitchell re-defined the personal luxury coupe with his beautiful Buick Riviera. He followed that with the stylish Pontiac Grand Prix in 1964. In 1966, the unique Oldsmobile Toronado carried the Mitchell touch and that same year, a new Buick Riviera appeared that rivals the original for great lines. Cadillac's Eldorado was transformed in 1967 from convertible to coupe and the look became an instant status symbol for GM. The same long nose, short rear deck was given to Chevrolet's new Monte Carlo in 1970, completing the circle of a top line personal luxury coupe in every GM marque.
Riviera, Grand Prix, Toronado, Eldorado and Monte Carlo are names that brought images of the old world, exotic racing venues and classic automotive design. The 1963 Riviera was strongly influenced by the lines of a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud, seen driving through the London fog by Mitchell. This 'creased-edge' style continued to be a major automotive theme all the way to the early 1980's when Ford's aero-style, as first seen in the Thunderbird, finally brought a new look.
While examples of Bill Mitchell's personal luxury coupes of the 1960's are not plentiful in 1:64 scale diecast, there are decent castings to be found. Five models have been selected here to illustrate the five GM marques.
The 1964 Pontiac Grand Prix by Matchbox is a classic 'regular-wheel' model. This red coupe has opening doors and plenty of style. Later, this casting was offered in purple with Superfast wheels. This model is still the only example of the first Grand Prix.
The 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado was a landmark car for style and it's front-wheel-drive engineering. Siku of Germany was one of the few to produce this model. Siku made the curious choice to cast the pop-up headlights in the open position. Later, Siku added racing wheels and re-cast the headlights as closed.
The 1966 Buick Riviera is a recent addition thanks to Tiger Wheels. The color is correct for '66 and the grill detail is excellent. The wheels, designed for gravity racing, are the weak point of this model. It is easy to see the styling cues shared with the Toronado.
The 1967 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado by Hot Wheels was one of the original models of 1968. While a mild custom, the body is a very good likeness to the real car. The classic red-line tires and black top give the car a racey look.
The 1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo by Revell is a beautiful model. The colors are correct as are most of the other details. The wheels and tires look good too. This model was originally done as a low-rider but this stock version is far more appealing.
1964 Pontiac Grand Prix - Matchbox
1966 Oldsmobile Toronado - Siku
1966 Buick Riviera - Tiger Wheels
1967 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado - Hot Wheels
1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo - Revell