The 20 best American land yachts
A tribute to the glory days of the big V8s.
When I first got DriveTribe, one of the first things I did was create two niche little tribes called 'Cuban Car Culture' and 'Old American Land Yachts'. As you could probably work out, they centred around anything and everything big, old and from the U.S of A.
I've always been in love with the things. The sheer presence, power and iconography of American cars has fascinated me since I was a child. My entire hot wheels collection was a wash of Thunderbirds, Rivieras, Impalas, you name it.
They represent something great that we don't really get anymore. So, sit back and scroll through 20 of what I think, are the greatest.
Image credit: Favcars.com
The last individual cars that Packard ever made were in 1956. One of which being the rather striking Caribbean.
Back in the 30s, the brand was renowned for their innovative excellence and this notion continued all the way up to their demise. The Caribbean was their personal luxury car of the lineup and was a final nod to what made them great.
Little do people know, that Ford once had the Continental name as their own separate brand at one point. It only lasted for a short period of time but nevertheless, the sleek MKII was conceived out of it.
This car was far ahead of its time, in terms of design. It was sleek, cool and you looked like a boss out of a cartoon series when cruising along the road. This was the ultra-luxury coupe which made a Cadillac or Imperial of the same year look like a rounded blob.
DeSoto was one of America's most forgotten manufacturers. But in their prime, they were a noticeable player in the Chrysler group.
The Fireflite was the top-end model which boasted engines that easily out-classed their competitors. But the brand was dropped in 1960, as it proved to be too much of a niche for Chrysler to justify. The Fireflite was still worth a mention though.
The 300 didn't look like much, compared to the existing Newports, New Yorkers etc. But underneath, it was something special.
Made in all sorts of names and versions from 1955 onwards, 300 models were performance-orientated. For example, the 300 F from 1960 pushed out over 400bhp, give or take. It should be stressed that they were built to be cruisers - but the trick being, they could get you going very... very quickly indeed.
Buick Electra 225
Being the plushest model in Buick's full-size lineup alongside the LeSabre and Invicta/Wildcat, the Electra offered the most luxuries a man could get in a Buick - possibly even in a GM car before you consider Cadillacs.
It was always a considerable option alongside the Impala and Olds 98, which it shares its platforms with. But the 1959 model is particularly notable for its sharp, aggressive styling. It's almost villainous!
Possibly the most culturally famous of the genre, the Impala not only sold quicker than Glastonbury tickets throughout its 61-year life, but was also hugely popular in the low-rider culture.
Rappers and their followers of the 90s loved these things, and it comes as no surprise as Impalas up until the early 70s were timeless.
Cadillac Series 62
Moving swiftly onto the top tier of the GM range, Cadillac has epitomised luxury since the beginning. They could be described as the stateside Rolls Royce throughout the pre-war period.
By the time the 50s came along, the Series 62 became the ultimate in the jet-set of the American Dream. In either coupe, sedan, convertible or limousine form, everyone dreamed of owning a Cadillac. And chances are, if you asked someone to draw one, it would be a late 50s or early 60s Series 62.
If you didn't quite have the guts to opt for the Thunderbird as your opulent Ford, the tamer Galaxie was a great option.
Durable, reliable and even popular in British touring car racing, the Galaxie didn't only brag style, but a versatile personality as well.
From the Galaxie to the T-Bird, it'd be rude not to mention what really grabbed people's attention.
The Thunderbird was initially a softer Corvette rival, but the rise of the personal luxury car market encouraged Ford to make one of their own - and so used the T-Bird name to represent something different. It still ended up being distinctively cool.
Oldsmobile's top-of-the-line luxury car came in the form of the 98 trim. The ethos was exactly the same as the Buick Electra, but just under a different brand and body. Though, it didn't have the brilliant Nailhead V8 to boast about.
Nevertheless, this didn't stop the GM brand from making their own little spin on the full-size market a competitive one. The dominant car was down to the buyers, really.
Synonymous with police forces and was kind-of a niche in itself, Dodge's approach to the full-size market tended to be creating those that were slightly more accessible than other Chrysler products.
The Polara boasted a wide variety of engine options, ranging from the 318 to the 440. All of which are highly praised to aftermarket tuners. In the early 60s, the Polara was even a platform for Chrysler's rather insane Super Stock class with the Max Wedge and Hemi engines.
The cousin of the Polara was Plymouth's Fury; and it was great for - once again - exactly the same reasons. How original!
Nevertheless, the Furys boasted some rather gorgeous stacked headlight designs throughout the latter part of the 1960s and became hugely recognisable as a cop car, as so many were used on screen in films.
But aside the media image, the Fury was one of America's finest-built cars. A 1963 example managed to exceed over 1 million miles by a passionate owner.
Contrary to popular belief, the Imperials were not ever badged as Chryslers in their heyday. To compete with Cadillac and Lincoln in the top-tier luxury market, Chrysler had Imperial as a spin-off brand and created some rather fine metal.
Imperials were not only finely-optioned (including the 1968 model getting swivelling front seats with desks!), but the big engines were tuned to suit almost Rolls Royce levels of refinement.
Pontiac's entry to GM's full-size market was the Bonneville. Named after the famous salt flats where daring people go to set records at, this floaty Pontiac was never a speed demon.
What it was though, was arguably a more stern-looking alternative to the Buicks and Oldsmobiles. The third generation even had the 389 and 421 engines available, and those who know will tell you that those engines could easily be tuned into some rather tasty applications.
Pontiac Grand Prix
The Grand Prix was Pontiac's take on the personal luxury car segment. It proved to be a successful one.
It sold well throughout the 60s and was distinct from the conservative-looking Pontiacs via the low roof line - which gave the Grand Prix a generally sleeker profile. And if requested, some rather bonkers H.O variants could be ordered from factory, though these are incredibly rare.
I want to draw particular attention to the Wildcat - and one particular year and model: the 1964 Sport Wildcat with the 425 Nailhead engine with the Power Pack.
Pushing out 360bhp, this boat could get from 0-60 in just 6.8 seconds. American manufacturers produced a lot of fine sleepers, but this is one of my absolute favourites. Not to mention that I believe Buick NAILED the styling for the 1964 model year.
It's a personal mention on this list, but this has to be my favourite of the land yachts. I've had one as my DT profile picture for years!
This was Mercury's take on remodelling the Ford LTD. While it didn't share the same catchy nameplate, it was a cool alternative in its own right.
With more subtle styling than its cousin, it was also only available with the larger Ford engines. The smallest engine available in the pictured 1967 model year for example, was the torquey 390, and ranged up to the powerful 428 (named the 'Super Marauder' in Mercury's division).
I almost feel like cars by the American Motors Corporation are often overlooked when people talk about the land yacht genre. A couple are notably famous for appearing in the Bond film, The Man With The Golden Gun, but not a lot else is really mentioned.
The Ambassador was AMC's top model and in the 1967 model year, it became slightly larger to place in the firing line of Plymouth's Belvedere, Pontiac's Lemans and the Ford Galaxie. One up from the lower-tier Valiants and Falcons. Unfortunately however, customers did get confused by the sudden market push and sales dwindled.
Buick's personal luxury car was probably one of the most distinctive. The 1963-65 ones were so sharp, you could get cut marks from merely staring at them. The sense of unusual-ness continued throughout the latter part of the 60s and in 1971, the boat tail design was introduced.
This is arguably one of the coolest arses to ever exist in the world of car design. Though, despite the big block 455 being a much larger engine than before, emissions regulations strangled the Riviera's sporting image. Maximum power was a mere 260bhp.
Unlike the Continental MKII mentioned earlier, this one didn't have its own separate nameplate. Lincoln was a luxury brand in itself, so it only made sense for the Ford Motor Company to just go along with that rather than create more spin-offs.
Nevertheless, the big Lincoln became synonymous with presidential transportation and absolute success in the USA. I mean, who else did a 4-door convertible with suicide doors? Because of that, the Continentals from 1961-67 were just sublime in my opinion.
Thanks for reading
Well, there we are. I truly hope you enjoyed this article. If you want to throw in any more suggestions or say anything, don't hesitate to get in the comments.