It's Time To Celebrate America's Biggest Cars

Classic Cars / 3 Comments

Several of these cars are longer than a modern Cadillac Escalade ESV.

For many enthusiasts who drive for enjoyment and not just as a means of getting from point A to B, the continuing trend of cars growing larger and heavier from one generation to the next isn't a good thing. The current BMW 3 Series is nearly the same size as the E39 5 Series. Yes, it's more comfortable than it once was, but it doesn't drive with the same delicacy as the much smaller E36 3 Series. The new-gen Kia Sportage is another example, being a full 7.1 inches longer than the outgoing model.

But not all older cars were known for their more compact dimensions, and the latest Audrain Automobile Museum exhibit is a stunning reminder of this. The museum's Land Yachts - Cruising the Interstate Highways series is a celebration of unbelievably large, flamboyant cars from a bygone era where size and excess were celebrated, not frowned upon.

Audrain Automobile Museum
Audrain Automobile Museum
Audrain Automobile Museum

The exhibit opened earlier this month and will run through September 4. The museum describes it as "cars as large as the motor yachts that grace the historic Newport harbor during the summer season."

One look at the 1948 Hudson Commodore Eight, and you start to understand the comparison to actual yachts. This was the largest, most luxurious car Hudson produced in the era, and the one seen here has only logged 27,000 miles. At 207.5 inches in length, it's nearly as long as a full-size modern sedan like the Audi A8. The plethora of chrome and heavy-set design give it an intimidating, although ungainly, stance. The Commodore is joined on the exhibit by several classic Lincoln, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Ford, Oldsmobile, and Chrysler models.

Audrain Automobile Museum
Audrain Automobile Museum
Audrain Automobile Museum
Audrain Automobile Museum
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The even more enormous 1957 Lincoln Premiere has a length of 224.6 inches and is over 80 inches wide. It is the longest standard car on display - beaten only by the Ford Edsel with its optional Continental kit and extended rear bumper - and is finished in Flamingo Pink. No other aspect of this Lincoln has much in common with the dainty bird, though, including its weight of over 4,600 pounds. Its 368 cubic inch V8 and plush power seats made for a comfortable cruiser.

One can't talk about this era without mentioning the iconic Chevrolet Bel Air. This 1957 example is exactly 200 inches long and is finished in two-tone Matador Red and India Ivory paint. The roof could be lowered at the touch of a button, and there was enough space inside to accommodate six adults. At almost 20 seconds for the quarter-mile sprint, the car encouraged lazy cruising.

Audrain Automobile Museum
Audrain Automobile Museum
Audrain Automobile Museum
Audrain Automobile Museum

The 1958 Ford Edsel Citation with its comically long rear overhang - thanks to that optional kit and extended rear bumper - has an astonishing 233-inch length. The modern Cadillac Escalade ESV is six inches shorter than this imposing Ford. Unfortunately, the Citation convertible's styling wasn't well-received, and we wouldn't disagree as that vertical grille is the opposite of graceful. Its positioning as an aspirational model didn't convince shoppers, either. This one is finished in Copper Metallic and Frost White, and its 410 cubic inch V8 made a decent 345 horsepower.

One of two Chryslers that are part of the exhibit is the 1965 Imperial Crown. Because the Imperial was Chrysler's luxury brand at the time, this car was quite a status symbol for celebrities and well-heeled businessmen alike. This particular example was owned by actress Katherine Hepburn. It's more conservative than some of the older cars on this list, but its sheer size (227.8 inches in length and with a weight of 5,511 pounds) will get you noticed in a hurry.

Audrain Automobile Museum
Audrain Automobile Museum
Audrain Automobile Museum
Audrain Automobile Museum

While most of the cars on this list prioritize luxury rather than speed, the same can't be said of the 1970 Plymouth Superbird. The rear wing will makes the one on a Subaru WRX STI look decidedly underendowed, and the extended cone nose is another legendary styling element of this Plymouth. In this period, automakers had to sell over 500 cars to the public to compete in the NASCAR series. This, together with pressure from Ford, contributed to the Superbird's development. This example makes 390 hp, can reach 60 mph in under six seconds, and is 221 inches long.

Other models featuring at the exhibit include the 1950 Chrysler Windsor Newport, 1955 Packard Caribbean, 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz, 1957 Ford Thunderbird E-Code Convertible, 1956 Desoto Fireflite, 1961 Chrysler 300 G, a modified 1968 Buick LeSabre, and a 1966 Oldsmobile 4-4-2 Tri-Power.

"Many of the cars in the exhibition are among the largest of all time and brilliantly communicate the postwar confidence and booming economy of the USA in the 25 years following World War II," said Audrain's CEO, Donald Osborne.

Audrain Automobile Museum
Audrain Automobile Museum
Audrain Automobile Museum
Audrain Automobile Museum
Audrain Automobile Museum

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