For many decades, Detroit has been trying to figure out how to make money on a small car in the U. S. Even the definition of what a “small car” is has changed over the years. In 1959, when the Falcon, Corvair and Valiant “compacts” were introduced to stem the flow from Europe, they were known as “small cars.”
Today, the definition of a small car is still fuzzy both within and without the auto industry.
We’d all agree the smart fortwo and the Fiat 500 are small cars. Ford and some others label these “A” cars. I’ve never seen a formal definition, but their overall lengths (OAL) are 106 and 117 inches, respectively.
The most successful of the Big Three’s 1960 “small cars,” the 109.5-inch wheelbase Falcon, for comparison, had 181″ OAL, while the VW Beetle it was designed to drive from the shores was 160″ OAL. George Romney’s 100-inch wheelbase Rambler American was 178″ OAL.