By Phil Hall
It’s here! The “Showdown in I-Town, Ford vs. Chevy” battle of the brands takes place at the Iola Old Car Show and Swap Meet July 11-14, held in the feature tent and surrounding area to the south of the F+W Media buildings in Iola, Wis.
The show has hosted numerous salutes to Fords and Chevrolets over the past 40 years, but for the first time, they will be featured together. The Wisconsin Chapter of Automotive Historians, which chooses the themes and coordinates the display area, is out to put competing years, models and body styles side-by-side. This includes both cars and trucks, as Ford and Chevy fought it out for sales supremacy and the hearts and minds of their loyal customers over most of their history.
There were exceptions, but you could usually find an answer from either brand soon after a new offering came out from their rival. In the collector car hobby Ford and Chevrolet continue to occupy the top two notches in popularity — far and away.
For this year’s show, all examples — from Ford’s start in 1903 and Chevrolet’s less than 10 years later, through the 1983 models — are welcome. As usual, a few standout newer vehicles will be scattered through the feature area.
Expect to see a 1928-’31 Ford Model A and a similar-era Chevrolet with a new overhead-valve “Stovebolt” six nearby. That goes for the 1932-and-beyond Ford flathead V-8s and their Chevy counterparts. Both brands were all-new for 1941 and again for 1949.
Expect a 1950s Bel Air two-door hardtop keeping company with a similar Ford Victoria.
Chevrolet popped out the two-place Corvette for 1953 and Ford showed prototype Thunderbirds in early 1954, though the 1955 was the first production model. After 1957, the Thunderbird went to four-place personal luxury configuration and would change its aim several times in later years.
Ford’s 1954 Skyliner with a partial Plexiglas roof lasted through 1956, then the name was used on its 1957 retractable steel convertible — both of which went unanswered from the Blue Bowtie through the end of Skyliner production in 1959.
Ford also introduced its Ranchero car-based pickup for 1957 and got an answer in 1959 with Chevrolet’s El Camino.
Domestic compact cars came from both for 1960 with Ford’s conventional Falcon taking on the rear-engine Chevrolet Corvair. Later that year, the Monza 900 coupe joined the Corvair ranks, only to be met by the Falcon Futura for 1961.
Ford took the market by surprise with the 1965 Mustang pony car introduced in spring of 1964. It took Chevrolet until the 1967 season to bring out its answer, the Camaro.
Intermediates were big in the 1960s. Ford’s 1962-and-up Fairlane was met by the 1964 Chevelle.
Ford downsized the Mustang for 1974 with the Mustang II, and Chevrolet answered with the 1975 Monza. Ford eventually started growing the Mustang again in 1979, while Camaro kept its size during the period.
Domestic small cars were the rage for 1971, with Ford’s Pinto and Chevrolet’s Vega carrying the banners.
Truck wars paralleled the passenger car skirmishes with both brands fighting for sales leadership and pursuing market trends in close to a tandem relationship.
Not every year and model of Ford and Chevrolet will be at Iola for the show, but there will be enough to keep you busy for hours. Most of us have owned or driven one make or both. You probably have stories, as do the owners of the vehicles that will star in this year’s Iola Old Car Show and Swap Meet.
So which make is best, Ford or Chevy?
We’re not going to make that decision. That’s up to you.
No fisticuffs, please.