Facts and History

Iconic Cars of the 50s

Iconic Cars of the 50s

The 1950s can be considered as the golden age in many terms like music, fashion, and… cars! This decade was definitely the peak of the automotive industry, and these hot rods certainly made their mark during their time… and beyond.

We have picked up 17 of the most iconic, elegant and revolutionary cars from the 1950s that left their marks in the history of the automobiles. Check out those classic gems here:

1. 1950 GM’s Debut Buick Skylark

A 1953 Buick Roadmaster Skylark Series 70

This 50’s gem was equipped with iconic design elements like waterfall grilles and sweeping sides. In spite of being amazingly expensive in contrast to other models, the Skylark became an iconic car due to its classy looks. It was introduced to pay tribute to Buick’s 50th anniversary.

2. 1950 Classy Jaguar XK120

 A 1950 red Jaguar XK120

The Jaguar XK120 was originally intended as a limited-edition unit, but high demand spurred the company to roll out more of these cars at the time. Its cool exterior design was the brainchild of no less than the Jaguar co-owner, William Lyons.

Not only the Jaguar XK120 was built to please the eye, but it was made to serve as a powerful car. It had a 3.4-liter, double-overhead-cam inline-six that generated 160 brake horsepower.

3. 1955 Ford Thunderbird

A black 1955 Ford Thunderbird 

Car competition had already been fierce in the 1950s. Several manufacturers were competing with each other by producing their own cars that, they claimed, looked more stylish and were more powerful than their rivals.

Ford released the Thunderbird in 1955 as its direct answer to Chevy’s new sports car, the Corvette. Marketed by Ford as a “luxury car,” the Thunderbird featured a 5.1-liter V8 engine that coughed up 245 horsepower. The two-seater automobile eventually outsold the Corvette. The following year, Ford redesigned the Thunderbird for its second-generation release.

4. 1956 Chrysler Plymouth Fury

 A white 1956 Chrysler Plymouth Fury

Initially, Plymouth cars used to be cheap and more real. But with the increasing demand, Plymouth embraced the flashy approach which was trending back then in the 50s. The Fury was introduced that favored style over practicality. Its tailfins and elegant curves made it one of the unique cars of the 1950s.

5. The Mighty Chrysler Imperial of 1950s

A 1953 Chrysler Imperial Custom limousine

One of the most powerful automobiles of the 50s was the Chrysler Imperial with a huge Hemi engine. Besides its luxurious looks and amazing height, it was extremely expensive as well. It was the first car to feature disc brakes and circular signal lights embedded in a chrome grille.

6. 1958 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato

Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato at the Goodwood Festival of Speed

The Aston Martin DB5 gained international recognition in the 1960s as James Bond’s weapon of choice. But its predecessor, the DB4, was a fabulous car on its own merit. Aston Martin rolled out a more powerful edition of the DB4, the DB4 GT Zagato in 1958. It had a 240 horsepower, 3.7-liter, six-cylinder engine, and disc brakes on all four wheels.

7. 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder (Little Bastard)

 A Silver Porsche 550 RS

It is infamously known as James Dean’s “Little Bastard” that contributed to his fatal car crash during an auto race. It is known for its classy and futuristic looks. Touted as Porsche’s first race car, the 550 Spyder featured an extremely light and low body as well as an iconic gray color.

8. 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air

 A red 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air

The 1955 second-generation Chevrolet Bel Air featured eye-catching exterior and newly improved chassis. Chevy’s newly-unveiled 265 cubic inches (4,340 ccs) V8 engine boasted an overhead valve engine that produced 162 horsepower

Another variant is also available which is known as “Power Package”. It features an upgraded engine that produced 180hp).

9. 1957 Advanced Chevrolet Corvette

 A 1957 Corvette Convertible with fuel injection

This exceptional advancement of Chevrolet Corvette was introduced to compete with Ford’s Thunderbird. This car came with a powerful V8 engine and a sleek design that made it an iconic car of the 50s. The Corvette produced 283 horsepower and could reach the speed of 132 mph.

10. The Super Car 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL

A pair Mercedes-Benz 300 SLs

The Mercedes-Benz 300SL never fails to garner instant attention because of one big thing: its gull-wing doors. It was also the fastest car by the time it was released, and also the first car to use the direct injection engine technology that boosted the car’s power by around 25%. Because of these attributes, the 300SL enjoyed high sales.

11. 1955 Futuristic Car Citroen DS

A 1955 Citroen DS

This classic car with futuristic styling became one of the popular cars in the 1950s. It introduced advanced hydraulic suspension and the latest steering wheel style that improved handling and grip. It also highlighted novel technology by introducing a semi-automatic gearbox and disc brakes.

12. 1959 Cadillac Coupe de Ville

 Rear view of 1959 Cadillac Coupe de Ville

The first-generation Cadillac Coupe de Ville maintained its classic exterior form while boasting a 390 cu in (6.4 L) V8 engine which produced 325 horsepower (242 kW). Cadillac improved the car’s rear end to reduce the noise significantly.

13. The Luxury Car Cadillac Eldorado

 Front view of 1953 Cadillac Eldorado

If you think of an ultimate 1950’s luxury car, then the Cadillac Eldorado will perfectly fit the bill. It had a long and shiny chrome body, white-wall tires, conical Dagmar bumpers, and pointy tailfins. The Eldorado was one of Cadillac’s most expensive cars during this decade, and over the years the existing units of this legendary automobile still retain their luster.

14. 1955 Henry Ford’s Ford Fairlane

A blue and white 1955 Ford Fairlane Sunliner

It was named after Henry Ford’s estate, Fair Lane. It replaced the Crestline as Ford’s premier full-size offering. There were six different models launched; all of them attributed the distinctive stainless steel on the sides. For safety purpose, optional padding on the dash was added. Also, an energy-absorbing steering wheel and safety belts were featured for the first time in the Lifeguard Safety Package, which was marked as a significant advancement of the year in the auto industry.

15. 1953 Ford F-100, the indestructible

 A black 1953 rebadged F-100

It is not a car but the best-selling and the longest-running line of trucks in the world that can detect its roots all the way back to the F100. In 1950, the F series was considered to be rough and durable, having the potential of supporting heavy loads. In 1953, two engine configurations were introduced including the 239 CID flathead V8 with 100 horsepower and the 215 CID straight-six with 101 horsepower.

The truck you can see in the picture is the Canadian version of the Ford F-100; they only rebadged it to Mercury M-100.

16. The First American Car, Kaiser Darrin

A yellow 1954 Kaiser Darrin convertible at the 2008 Greenwich Concours d'Elegance

Kaiser Darrin is the first car ever to use fiberglass, beating the Corvette to the punch by its classic features. This Roadster has an easily distinguishable design known as the “Darrin Dip”. At that time, the sales of Kaiser Darrin were low, but still, it was considered the crowning achievement of the industrialist Henry J Kaiser. It came along with some unusual extras like a three-positioned Landau top, a tachometer, and a tinted windshield.

17. 1956 Lincoln Continental Mark II

A 1956 Continental Mark II owned by Elvis Presley

Lincoln Continental offered an ultra-luxurious marquee that incorporates all of the elegance of the 1950s. In addition to its simple grace, it featured a stylish egg-crate grille and a long curving hood that boasted the price tag reflective of its luxury.

If you are a fan of vintage cars especially 1950’s, then you should check out this excellent book ”Cars of the Fabulous 50’s: A Decade of High Style and Good Times” – it contains more than 1,600 photos and illustrations of the best cars of that decade.

Read next: Iconic Cars of the 60s

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