2015 follows 2014 and 2013 as particularly rich years for automotive milestones. Here are five of our favorite automotive anniversaries that we’ll celebrate in the new year:
1. 1955 Ford Thunderbird
The Corvette may have been the first post-war American two-seater from one of the Big Three, but it was the Thunderbird that was the most popular. In fact, after a disappointing first two model years, Chevy ws considering killing the Corvette until the runaway popularity of the 1955 T-Bird made them reconsider. Made famous in George Lucas’ film, “American Graffiti,” the 1955-57 two-seater “baby birds” remain the most collectible T-Birds. Happy 60th.
2. 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air
The 1955-57 Bel Air is probably the quintessential American collectible car, and it introduced another American milestone — the Chevy small-block V-8. The brainchild of Chevrolet chief engineer Ed Cole, the small block was relatively light, easy to service and expandable — from its original 265 cubic inches up to the ubiquitous 350 and beyond. The Bel Air was just the car to showcase the new overhead-valve V-8.
3. 1990 Mazda Miata
This one makes a lot of us feel old: The Miata is 25. Introduced in late 1989 as a 1990 model, for all intents and purposes, it was a British roadster that wouldn’t leak oil in your garage, or decide not to start below freezing or spontaneously set its dash on fire (not necessarily in that order). Mazda took all the good that we remember from British roadsters (they allegedly dissected several of one of the best, the Lotus Elan) — from sharp handling to a smooth short-throw gearbox — and added five speeds a modern twin-cam engine as well as a beautifully designed manual convertible top. Low mileage creampuff first generation Miatas amazingly still trade for under 10 grand. Happy 25th. We doubt that those prices will hold steady by its 50th.
4. 1955 Chrysler 300
The first of the “letter series” 300s was originally just known as the “300,” although it was succeeded by the 300B, 300C, etc. A gorgeous pillarless coupe that was really only built to go racing in NASCAR, it was powered by a 331-cubic-inch Hemi V-8 and was capable of nearly 130 mph, an amazing figure for the day. Just over 1,700 were built, but it was the inspiration for the sensational sedan introduced by Chrysler in 2005. Happy 60th to the original 300 and happy 10th to the reboot.
5. 1975 Porsche 911 Turbo
The mid-1970s were the dark ages of automotive performance, taking on the moniker “The Malaise Era,” which is known for low compression, emission controls and generally excruciating dullness. The Germans didn’t get that memo and, building on years of racing experience using exhaust-driven turbochargers, Porsche introduced the outlandish 911 Turbo Carrera, otherwise known by the internal project number “930.” Porsche used nearly as crude a setup as the turbo employed by the Corvair a decade earlier, and early 930s were very much an on-off proposition with turbo lag aplenty. But with 0-60 times of around five seconds, the 930 would put most muscle cars to shame. Many owners got caught by surprise by boost coming on while entering a corner — lift off the gas or brake and the rear-engine weight bias plus physics would take care of the rest. A fair number of dentists and pro athletes wrapped 930s around trees. The 40th anniversary has been preceded by a dramatic upswing in 930 prices.