Most Popular Racing Cars of the 1950s

The 1950s was the golden era for racing cars and competitive racing. Due to World War II, most countries had cars on their roads that preexisted before the war and were in very bad condition. There were restrictions on the production and manufacturing of new automobiles in many countries. In 1950, several companies all over the world started focusing on rebuilding and renovating the factories to expand and strengthen the highway systems.

During this era, new technologies related to aircraft and car engines were developed. These new technologies allowed cars and aircraft to have better speed, handling, and durability. These improvements in technologies had an expanded effect on racing cars too. The capability of racing cars had improved to an undeniable level, which resulted in the manufacturing of the most famous racing cars of the 1950s.

These famous racing cars included:

  • The Jaguar C type
  • 1953 Chevy Corvette
  • 1956 Aston Martin DBR1
  • Porsche 356 A
  • Ford Thunderbird
  • Alfa Romeo Disco Volante
  • Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing

The racing cars mentioned above are just a few out of many famous racing cars of the 1950s, and the beauty of these cars is undeniable.

1. The Jaguar C Type


Jaguar is one of the legendary and most famous cars of the 1950s. In 1950 this company introduced three of its C-type racing cars that raced at the Le Mans the same year. During this time, the C types were considered to be produced for racing only, and it was possible with a lighter weight and better thermodynamics.

Jaguar XK120C 1951


The Jaguar XK 120C 1951 was the first car of this company that won its first race at the classic French competition and came first at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This car was designed explicitly like its ancestor car, i.e., The XK 120, and had many of the stock parts of XK 120, but the new thing about the latest XK 120C was that it had:

  • An aerodynamic body that was freshly designed.
  • Space frame chassis.
  • The brand new suspensions.
  • Twin-cam 3.5 liters, six-cylinder, inline engine tuned to 204 horsepower.

The C in the car’s name comes from the word competition. Themodel was also famous because of the Dunlop aircraft disk brakes that were used in it. These brakes had the capability to allow the car to brake straight from the speed of 150mph or close.

In Monaco, at Bonham’s auction, a rare Jaguar C type POV 114 was sold for $7,540,541.

2. Chevy Corvette

Chevy Corvette

Today’s American legend, the Chevy Corvette, debuted in the year 1953. The company manufactured only 300 Chevy Corvette in the first year. This car became the crowd favorite when first introduced at the GM Motorama in 1953. It was the first racing car in America to have a double seat. Its body was made from fiberglass. By 1956, the Chevy Corvette became one of the most famous racing cars because of its V8 small block engine.

Throughout the 1950s, the company introduced a variety of cars in the Corvette theme, this variation includes:

  • Chevrolet Corvette Convertible Coupe (1954)
  • Chevrolet Corvette Roadster (1955)
  • Chevrolet Corvette (1956)
  • Chevrolet Corvette Roadster (1957)
  • Chevrolet Corvette SS (1957)
  • Chevrolet Corvette (1958)
  • Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray (1959)

The value of the first 300 Chevy Corvettes in 2013 was around $300,000. These Chevy Corvettes had automated transmission with dual speeds and a 150hp, 6-cylinder engine with white exteriors and red interiors.

3. Aston Martin DBR1

Aston Martin DBR1

The famous Aston Martin DBR1 was manufactured for one sole reason, and that was to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The company manufactured only five of these Aston Martins, and they were specially designed by Aston’s chief designer Ted Cutting.

This car had:

  • A 3.0-liter V-12 engine.
  • Wire spoke wheels.
  • Ultra-thin gauge alloy bodywork.
  • A draped spaceframe chassis.
  • Organically shaped front-fender vents.
  • Small scoops for cooling down the rear brakes.

In 2017, at a Monterey auction, an Aston Martin DBR1 was sold for $22,550,000. Undoubtedly, it was one of the best racing cars of the 1950s.

4. Porsche 356 A

Porsche 356 A

In the 1950s, Porsche hit their stride after introducing its first car with full racing abilities named Porsche 356 A. The first Porsche 356 A was introduced in 1955, and it had a light body with a flat-four 1.3-liter engine having 44 brake horsepower.

The main difference between the original 356 and 356 A was the curved panoramic windscreen. The horn grille had the front indicators always integrated into it, and its taillights were of tear-drop shape. The Porsche 356 proved to be one of the most popular racing cars in its time with all of its amazing features.

5. Ford Thunderbird

Ford Thunderbird

In the 1950s, the USA joined the racing car fray by introducing the Ford Thunderbird. This car was designed as an upmarket rival of the Corvette 1953. The earlier models of this car came with a lump upfront of a 4.8-liter engine. Its speed was about 110mph. The car got extraordinary attention in the initial days of its release; about 3500 orders were placed for the car in the first ten days. The first generation of Ford Thunderbird was a double seat convertible.

The Thunderbird came with a convertible fabric top and a removable fiberglass top. The 1955 Ford Thunderbird had a292-cubic-inch OHV 292 Y-block V8 engine. There was a dramatic shift in the power, styling, and market position in the first decade of Thunderbird’s production.

6. Alfa Romeo Disco Volante

Alfa Romeo Disco Volante

The Disco Volantein this car’s name means “flying saucer” in Italian. Disco Volante was earlier introduced just as an experimental series of a sports car, but the hype it created was outstanding. These cars were manufactured in a very limited amount, but their early aerodynamic design is recognized as a triumph to date.

These lightweight cars were initially powered by a 2-liter putting 156 brake horsepower through its rear wheels. Alfa Romeo Disco Volante had a 227bhp 3.5-liter straight-six engine that allowed this little car to approach the speed of 150 miles an hour.

7. Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing

Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing

A discussion about the best racing cars of the 1950s can never end without mentioning this beauty named Gullwing. This car, when introduced in the market, got extra attention. The Gullwing was available in both variants – coupe or convertible. Around 1,400 coupes and 1,858 convertibles were sold, and a large part of this was sold in America.

These cars had a straight-six 3-liter 170bhp engine with advanced extraordinary aerodynamics. The space frame of these cars was completely made of aluminum. This frame design made the iconic doors of Mercedes –Benz a necessity, and these doors became the design feature of Mercedes too. It should be noted that in the time when most of the companies were naming their cars after the names of birds, Mercedes built the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing directly from the inspiration they got from the avian world.


The 1950s gave the world amazing, superfast, and beautiful racing cars. The cars were manufactured with passion and inspiration, and the hype these cars create till today shows it all.