Best Cars of the 50s

by | Dec 22, 2018 | Lifestyle

Reading time: 5 minutes

Our favorite cars of the post war era. Find out why

A world in turmoil. Japan in tatters, Germany utterly destroyed and the UK in ruins. The years after the WW2 were hard for everybody. The Marshall plan, the communist block, rebuilding a decimated society, and yet, these years saw the birth of incredible cars designed by genius brains, of such a beauty that are still moving us. In Europe, the Brits Class was clashing against the Italian Blood and the German Power and some marvelous machines were created. All to demonstrate resilience and innovation. Begs the question, what happened to France? They pretty much sailed unscathed. Where are the iconic Citroens and Peugeots of the era? Never mind, here are our Top 10 cars of the 50s.

#1 Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing (1954-1957)

The legendary Gullwing was a direct descendant of the W194, the racing machine of 1952. Immediately successful and today iconic, the 300 SL stood alone with its distinctive doors, first-ever production fuel injection, and world’s fastest top speed. The engine was a 3 Litre, 6 cylinders, capable of 240 bhp and thanks to the excellent aerodynamic and its light weight (1310 kg) it could reach nearly 260 km\h. The original coupé was available from March 1955 to 1957, the roadster from 1957 to 1963. It was a race car made for the street. The 300 SL’s main body was steel, with aluminum hood, doors, and trunk lid. Only about 1400 units were made in the coupe version. We find her as fascinating as a forever young Heidi Klum

#2 Maserati A6 GCS (1953-1955)

The 52 units of this stunner were produced between 1953 and 1955, to compete in the World Sportscar Championship. It featured a 2 Litre engine, 6 Cylinder in-line, capable of 170 Bhp. The CS, for “Corsa Sport,” featured a tubular chassis generally made by Gilco, who also supplied Ferrari and other specialty builders of the time. 48 of them being open spyders and four of them built with the berlinetta body by Pinin Farina. Of the spyders, Carrozzeria Fantuzzi provided the most sinuously shapely bodies, which were crafted from lightweight aluminum. “G” stands for Ghisa which means Cast Iron Engine Block.Sotheby’s is selling one these days for not less than 2,3 Million USD. Zagato made a special version of it in 1956, called A6G 2000. It is so beautiful it hurts.

#3 Porsche 550 Spyder (1953-1956)

They made only 90 of them and today you can’t find one for less than 3 Million USD. The Type 550/550 A is powered by an all aluminum 1,498 cc, capable of 108 Bhp at 6,200 Rpm. The shape was so simple yet incredibly balanced and elegant. It became a race car very quickly thank to its light weight and its reliability. The first win came at the Nurburgring in 1953. After 1956, Porsche introduced a new 5-speed gearbox to replace the previous 4 speed. Perhaps the most famous of the first 90 Porsche 550s built was James Dean’s “Little Bastard”, numbered 130 (VIN 550-0055), which collided with Donald Turnupseeds 1950 Ford Customat on September 30, 1955, resulting in Dean’s death. A classic example of what Germans can do with pure design.

#4 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta “Tour de France” (1956-1959)

Only 77 units were made and this one was specifically produced with a long wheelbase to improve stability in high-speed corners. It featured a 3 Litre Engine with a V12 architecture. It reached a power of 260 Bhp. It was drawn by the magic hands of Pininfarina and Scaglietti. It won the “Tour de France” 3 times, between 1956 and 1958. A jaw-dropping beauty.

#5 Jaguar XK120 (1948-1954)

The XK120 was launched in open two-seater or (US) roadster form at the 1948 London Motor Show. It’s the emblem of the British Elegance that pushed the Italians to the limit in search of who could make the most beautiful machines. Its elegance is transcending and remains an icon till date. It was pushed by a 3.4 Litre engine, 6 Cylinder in Line, developing 160 Bhp up to 220 bhp in the latest versions for racing. All XK120s had independent torsion bar front suspensions semi-elliptic leaf springs at the rear, telescopically adjustable steering column, and all-round 12-inch drum brakes which were prone to fade. 

#6 Lancia Aurelia B24 Spyder (1954-1955)

The Spider was a late special production of the Aurelia Series, which was launched in 1950. Originally it was designed as a family car and then, in the hands of Pininfarina, it became what today can be sold for no less than 1,8 Million USD. (Goodie & Company Auctions). The engine was a 2.5 Litre, V6. Lancia only made 240 units of this beautiful classic. Panoramic front windscreen, distinctive 2 part chrome bumpers, removable side screens, soft top and Pininfarina styling. The second series, produced from 1956, featured with many small alterations to the Aurelia Spider. One part chrome bumpers and wider bonnet air-scoop.

#7 Chevrolet Corvette C1 (1953-1962)

The Chevrolet Corvette C1 is the first generation of the Corvette Sports Cars produced by Chevrolet. It was introduced late in the 1953 model year and produced through 1962. The concept car was very successful but the sales were not as good as expected. But Chevy stayed strong and soon enough could build the icon that is well known today. The first engine was a 3.8 Litre, capable of 150 bhp, 6 Cylinder, soon replaced by a V8 in 1955, capable of 195 Bhp coupled with a Powerglide automatic transmission until the middle of the production year when a manual 3-speed became available. The success of this car triggered other American manufacturers to invest in this segment that was so popular in Europe at that time. When production ended in 1962, nearly 70,000 units were sold. We find it gorgeous.

#8 Ford Thunderbird (1955-1957)

The 1955 Ford Thunderbird was the answer to Chevrolet, which just launched the Corvette. Both were the American interpretation of a luxury, sporty two-seaters that were very popular in Europe. It featured a V8 Engine and focused more on comfort rather than performance. It included fender skirts and a removable fiberglass top as standard equipment, with a fabric convertible top as a commonly specified option. We madly love the design of it.

#9 BMW 507 (1956-1959)

The 507 made its debut at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York in the summer of 1955. Production began in November 1956. BMW made only 252 units of it and it was in competition with the Mercedes 300 SL. As of today, there are still 202 units running healthy. This incredibly elegant and modern machine was the cause of a great loss for the German titan which decided to stop the production way before the intended time. It had a V8 Engine, 3,2 Litres which delivered 150 bhp. It was capable of 200 km/h. The body was almost entirely hand-formed of aluminum and no two models were exactly the same. 11 cars were sold with an optional hand-fabricated removable hardtop. Because of the car-to-car differences, each hardtop fits only the car for which it was made. Its value grew exponentially in the last decade. At the Amelia Island Concours in March 2014 a 507 sold at auction for $2.4 million. We are still stunned by its modernity and its elegance.

#10 Land Rover (1948-1958)

Even though the very first version of this icon was launched in 1948, the major changes of the early 50s made the Land Rover 80, Series I, a true all rounder. In 1952 and 1953, a larger 2.0-litre petrol engine was fitted. The 1954 model year brought major changes. The 2.03 m wheelbase model was replaced by a 2.18 m wheelbase model, and a 2.72 m wheelbase “Pick-Up version was introduced. It became the legend that we know today. The benchmark for tough off roading, unbreakable structure, simple finishing and everlasting mechanics. September 1955 saw the introduction of the first five-door model, known as the “Station Wagon”. Series I lasted till 1958

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