In 1955, contract R16 was awarded to American Car and Foundry to provide 200 subway cars for the BMT and IND divisions of the New York City Subway System.

The cars measured 60 feet in length, and were 12 feet wide. Each car was a fully operable single unit, and they were run in trains of up to ten cars in length. The R16 could be distinguished from the later R27 and R30 series by a porthole front window. Also, the later cars featured longitudinal bench seating whereas the R16's seating consisted of small benches at right angles from each other. They were numbered 6300-6499; the 6300-series were Westinghouse-powered, and the 6400's were GE powered.

The R16's, especially the 6400-series cars, were unreliable from the start. They performed especially poorly in snow, and in the salty air of the seagoing Rockaway line. During snowstorms, they had to be moved to mostly-underground lines, as snowfall clogged the door motors and rendered them all but inoperable.

Due to the New York City fiscal crisis of the 1970s, subway maintenance was almost nonexistant, and the R16's performance continued to worsen. Most of the 6400-series cars were removed from service and stored on-property by the mid-1970's. The remaining cars were relegated to the system's lower-profile runs such as the J, L, and M local lines through the ghettos of Brooklyn.

Retirement of the remaining cars came early, in 1986 and 1987. They were retired before the older, 1948-built R10 cars, and were the only class of post-WW2 BMT/IND equipment that did not survive the Clean Car Initiative of 1988.

(A note on the Clean Car Initiative: Credit for defeating the graffiti artists is often claimed by windbag ex-mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who conveniently forgets that he was the District Attorney of Brooklyn at the time.)

The R16's, by 1986, were allowed to reach a state of decrepitude that was shocking even by the standards of about-to-be retired NYCTA equipment. They were covered inside and out in graffiti, frequently broke down, and seemed incapable of speeds higher than 20 mph. Car #6337 was at the head of the last revenue move of the R16 class, on the M late-evening shuttle in June of 1987.

Another contributing factor to their retirement was the cars' weight of 85,000 pounds. This made them the heaviest car to ever run in the subway system, and made it impossible to retrofit them with air conditioning.

Five R16 cars remain; they are #'s 6305, 6339, 6387, 6398, and 6452. 6452 is painted in the Redbird scheme that the R16's did not last long enough to wear. Further details are on the page of Retired NYC Subway Cars.