The 1950s are widely considered to be the golden age of automobiles. Even a quick look at some of the finest cars made back then is enough to understand why.
These automotive gems defined an era—the sleek designs, powerful engines, and technological innovations that made the 50s a remarkable chapter in automotive history. From iconic classics to forgotten treasures, prepare to be transported to an era of tailfins, chrome, and unforgettable rides.
The 1953 Corvette was the first generation of the iconic American sports car. Originally designed to compete with European sports cars, the Corvette came powered by a Blue Flame inline six-cylinder engine rated at 150 horsepower. A much more powerful V8 engine quickly replaced this underpowered motor.
The car featured a sleek, streamlined design with a long hood and short rear deck. Despite initial sales struggles, the Corvette quickly became a hit and established itself as a symbol of American automotive excellence.
The 1954 Ford Thunderbird was a unique car in several ways. It was the first two-seat Ford model since the 1928 Model A, and it was designed to compete with European sports cars- similar to the Corvette. However, Ford's drop-top was all about luxury rather than performance.
The Thunderbird was available as a convertible or a removable hardtop, and it featured a powerful V8 engine that was capable of producing up to 145 horsepower. The car was known for its elegant, sleek design, which included a long hood and short rear deck.
Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing
This German icon needs no introduction. The Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing is the finest example of automotive excellence. Its most distinctive feature is the upward-swinging Gullwing doors, which were a necessity due to the car's tubular space frame chassis.
Under the hood, the Gullwing housed a groundbreaking inline-six engine with mechanical fuel injection, a first for a roadgoing production car. Derived from a successful racing lineage, the 300SL brought proper motorsport performance to the streets. Today, it remains one of the most sought-after classic cars in the world.
Ferrari 250 GT
This Italian legend is primarily known for its remarkable performance. However, many petrolheads also appreciate this classic for its timeless design, as well as its overall impact on the automotive world.
Powered by a 3.0-liter V12 engine, the Ferrari 250 GT delivered exceptional power and speed. The 250 GT earned a reputation on the track, securing victories in prestigious races like the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Targa Florio. With its stunning design, potent engine, and racing pedigree, the Ferrari 250 GT remains an enduring symbol of Italian motoring excellence like many of its successors.
The 1950s Chrysler 300C was a powerful and stylish car that was known for its performance and luxury features. The land yacht came equipped with a 5.4L V8 engine that produced up to 355 horsepower, making it one of the most powerful cars of its time.
In addition, the 300C came with a number of luxury features, such as leather seats and power windows, which made it a favorite among wealthy buyers.
Designed by Albrecht Graf von Goertz, The BMW 507 remains an iconic symbol of German automotive artistry. Its sensuous curves, long hood, and distinctive twin-kidney grille all make this elegant drop-top one of the most beautiful cars in existence.
Beneath the hood is a 3.2-liter V8 engine delivering 150 horsepower. The car saw a very short production run; only 252 units were created by the German automaker out of the 5000 that were initially planned. BMW lost money on every single 507 built.
Buick sold three different generations of the full-size Roadmaster throughout the 1950s. The straight-8-powered fifth-gen was carried over from 1949 before eventually making way for the V8-only-powered sixth generation in 1954.
The new Roadmaster was bigger and more extravagant than its predecessors, at least in terms of exterior design. The Fireball V8 motor was mated to a two-speed automatic gearbox.
The Bel-Air is easily one of the most iconic American cars of all time. This full-size beauty first hit the market for the 1950 model year and remained in production for over three decades.
The 1950s saw a total of four generations of the Bel-Air, some a lot more successful than others. Buyers were spoilt for choice when it came to body styles and engine options, including a big-block V8 for the highest trim levels.
The Porsche 356A, introduced in 1955, represents a pivotal chapter in automotive history. It refined the original 356, blending timeless design with enhanced performance. Porsche offered this beauty in various body styles, including coupes, convertibles, and the iconic Speedster.
Under its sleek exterior, the 356A was powered by an air-cooled flat-four boxer engine, delivering sufficient performance for even the most demanding drivers. This model's legacy lies in its contribution to Porsche's reputation for precision engineering, handling prowess, and innovation.
Initially introduced as an optional package for the Plymouth Belvedere, the Fury eventually became a separate model at the end of the 1950s.
1959 was the first year of the standalone Fury. Buyers could pick from four different small-block V8s to power this beauty or opt for the Sport Fury model, which was dropped at the end of the year.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider
This open-top Italian sports car featured a design characterized by its graceful lines and a compact, lightweight body. The Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider, debuting in 1955, remains an iconic 1950s classic that's criminally underrated.
Beneath the hood lay a 1.3-liter twin-cam four-cylinder engine, delivering 80 horsepower. Despite the low power output, this lightweight Spider is an absolute joy to drive. With its blend of Italian flair and a fantastic driving experience, the Giulietta Spider captured the hearts of enthusiasts.
The Jaguar XK120 is a symbol of British automotive history. Its unmistakable design remains iconic.
Beneath the hood sits a 3.4-liter inline-six engine that delivers a remarkable 160 horsepower, which is plenty of power given the car's lightweight body. As a result, the XK120 can accelerate to a top speed of 120 mph. The XK120 was not only beautiful, but it also handled just like a street-legal race car. Renowned for its racing achievements, it triumphed at various events, earning its status as a true icon.
Born from the Bel Air line, the Chevy Nomad was a striking two-door station wagon characterized by its sleek, sweeping lines and distinctive roof design, featuring a tapered, curved rear end. The unique design is what made the Nomad an undeniable icon of the 1950s.
Inside, the car provided comfortable seating and versatility for all occupants, as well as plenty of room for cargo. The Nomad came with various V8 engine options under the hood. While production numbers were relatively low, it left a solid mark on automotive history.
Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa
The Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa, created in the late 1950s, is a proper motorsport legend. Its name, "Testa Rossa," meaning "red head" in Italian, referred to the red valve covers on its powerful V12 engine. This was the first use of the legendary nameplate, which later appeared on the 1980s supercar.
The 250 TR dominated endurance racing, securing victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The 250 Testa Rossa exemplified Ferrari's racing heritage and commitment to excellence.
It's a shame that cute microcars such as the Isetta never really took off. Can you imagine one of these tiny automobiles driving around the city?
The most distinctive feature of the Isetta was its front-opening "bubble" door, allowing easy access into crowded city streets. The Isetta's small but efficient engine was the ideal solution to post-war fuel shortages. It quickly gained popularity as a practical urban vehicle, though the car was soon forgotten together with other microcars.
The Eldorado, Cadillac's flagship luxury car, first debuted in the 1953 model year. Initially offered only as a two-door convertible, a hardtop variant soon followed for the second-gen the following year.
Under the hood, the original Eldorado packed a 331-cubic inch V8 motor mated to a four-speed Hydramatic auto transmission. GM offered all kinds of body styles to choose from, including drop-tops.
The Kaiser Darrin is one of the rarest American cars released in the 1950s. It has gone down in history thanks to its truly unusual and polarizing design. It boasted a sleek fiberglass body, sliding doors that disappeared into the front fenders, and a prominent grille.
Under the hood, the Darrin housed a 2.6-liter six-cylinder engine producing less than 100 horses. Very few petrolheads know that the Darrin was actually one of the first production cars to feature a fiberglass body.
The Fiat 500 is a cute Italian classic known for its endearing personality. This pint-sized car, often referred to as the Cinquecento (meaning 500 in Italian), featured a compact and practical design tailored for urban living. Its diminutive size made it ideal for navigating tight city streets.
Under its petite hood resided a modest but efficient four-cylinder engine. The Fiat 500 became a symbol of affordability and accessibility, providing millions of people with their first taste of personal mobility in post-war Europe.
General Motors unveiled the all-new second generation of the Oldsmobile 88 for the 1954 model year. The car was longer and lower than its predecessor.
The restyled 88 also came with a larger V8 motor beneath the hood, rated at 185 horses for the Super 88 version. Buyers could choose between two-door and four-door body styles, as well as a Holiday hardtop variant.
The Citroën DS is a real masterpiece that's known for its revolutionary design and groundbreaking technology. The distinctive front end of this sleek sedan included innovative swiveling headlights.
The highlight of the Citroen DS is its hydropneumatic suspension system, which provides an unparalleled smooth ride. The DS was also one of the first cars to offer power steering and a semi-automatic transmission, while its futuristic interior boasted unique dashboard controls.
The second generation of the Hudson Hornet debuted for the 1955 model year. The original Hornet quickly rose to fame in the NASCAR world, having won 27 out of 34 NASCAR Grand National races in '52.
The second-gen Hornet was initially offered by a slant-six motor, though later units came powered by a much more powerful V8 engine.
Studebaker presented the redesigned fourth generation of the Champion in the early 50s. Unlike its predecessors, the fourth-gen Champion was a midsize car and not a full-size.
The new Studebaker Champion came powered by the same 85-horsepower inline-six, which was eventually replaced by a more powerful inline-six powerplant in '55.
The gorgeous and distinctive design is what made this convertible stand out from the crowd back in the 1950s. This beauty featured a power roof, an optional tri-tone color scheme, and a monstrous V8 rated at 275 horsepower beneath the hood.
Inside, the Caribbean featured high-quality leather upholstery, as well as plenty of features, including power windows, power seats, and an advanced push-button radio.
Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud
The Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud was the pinnacle of luxury for European buyers in the 1950s. This regal sedan featured an elegant and understated design characterized by a distinctive grille. This absolute land yacht debuted in 1955.
Under the hood, you'll find a refined inline-six or V8 engine, depending on the production year. The Silver Cloud's interior exuded opulence with meticulous attention to detail and the use of the highest quality materials. It quickly became the preferred choice for heads of state, celebrities, and royalty worldwide. Elvis Presley, Coco Chanel, and Frank Sinatra all had one.
This beautiful wagon was celebrated for its blend of style and practicality. Its distinctive design was accentuated by sleek, flowing lines and the signature "Breezeway" rear window, which could be lowered for improved ventilation.
The Mercury Monterey came powered by a robust V8 engine, which provided plenty of power at the time. The Monterey was also known for its reliability and affordability, making it the ideal choice among families.
Maserati 3500 GT
This Italian beauty is known for being the perfect blend of elegance and thrilling performance. The Maserati 3500 GT is a luxurious grand tourer that features a stunning design inside and out.
The 3500 GT came powered by a 3.5-liter inline-six engine, delivering an impressive power output of 235 horses. The 3500 GT was renowned for its effortless long-distance cruising capabilities, making it a favored choice for grand touring across Europe's winding roads.
Although the Beetle theoretically debuted before the 1950s, the car truly rose to fame during that decade. The Beetle featured a distinctive and functional design, which was the brainchild of Ferdinand Porsche. The round shape and rear-engine layout are similar to what can be found in the iconic Porsche 911 sports car.
The 1950s saw the Beetle's global expansion, becoming a symbol of practical and affordable transportation. With its air-cooled engine and simple mechanics, it was easy to maintain and loved by millions across the globe.
The DeSoto Adventurer is another American icon of the 1950s. Celebrated for its blend of power and style, this beauty saw a short production run limited to just around 11,000 units.
Under the hood, the Adventurer featured a massive V8 engine churning out an impressive 320 horsepower. The car's futuristic design included dual hood scoops, a distinctive two-tone paint job, and stylish tail fins.
Aston Martin DB2
It's impossible to distinguish which grand tourer from Aston Martin's DB Series is the most iconic. This grand tourer combined a sleek design with a potent inline-six engine, paving the path for Aston Martin's reputation for both performance and style. In the next decades, the DB became a legendary nameplate across the globe.
With racing successes at Le Mans and other events, the DB2 demonstrated its excellent performance on the track. Inside, it offered comfort and luxury expected from a lavish grand tourer. This made it suitable for long-distance touring, as well as the occasional weekends at the track.
Lancia Aurelia B24
This convertible roadster embodied Lancia's commitment to craftsmanship and engineering excellence. The Lancia Aurelia B24 Spider is known for its sophistication and performance.
The Aurelia B24 Spider featured a smooth and aerodynamic design, with a powerful V6 engine under the hood. The car's simple yet luxurious interior offered comfort and style. Its rarity, with a production run limited to just 240 units, makes it a highly sought-after classic today.
The Lincoln Premiere was a real automotive gem of the 1950s. This luxury car was renowned for its striking design, showcasing a sleek body accentuated by tailfins and ample chrome accents.
Under the hood, the Premiere featured a powerful 368 cubic inch V8 engine, delivering plenty of power. Inside, the occupants were greeted by an upscale interior complete with plush seating and a host of modern amenities. The Premiere was also one of the first cars to introduce the automatic headlight dimmer.
The Edsel Citation was notable for its unique design and innovative features. The car's most prominent feature is its bold vertical grille. It is rightfully considered one of the most unique cars of the 1950s in terms of automotive design.
Under the hood, the Citation boasted a powerful V8 motor rated at an impressive 345 horsepower. It was also one of the first cars to introduce a "Teletouch" automatic transmission control located in the steering wheel hub. The car was only produced for a year.
The Studebaker Lark unveiled at the very end of the 1950s, marked a turning point for the American automaker. In response to changing market demands for smaller, more fuel-efficient cars, the Lark emerged as an option that was both compact and economical.
The Lark's clean and straightforward design and a variety of body styles made it an attractive choice for families and buyers on a budget who wanted that extra bit of style. The Studebaker Lark's introduction breathed new life into Studebaker's business. The success was short-lived, as the automaker eventually filed for bankruptcy in 1966.
The Triumph TR3 is a symbol of British sports car heritage. This agile roadster combined an elegant design with a potent, playful punch. Its sleek design featured a distinctive grille and sweeping fenders inspired by automobiles from the pre-war era.
At the heart of it all lies a 2.0-liter inline-four engine, rated at over 100 horsepower. The TR3 quickly gained popularity for its excellent handling and affordability, making it a favorite among sports car enthusiasts on a budget.
There's a great chance that you have never heard of this quirky machine. The Volvo PV544 is known for its unassuming elegance and practicality. This compact family car blended functionality with clever engineering.
The Volvo PV544 came powered by a range of dependable four-cylinder engines. Its interior was praised by the automotive press for its simplicity and durability. What set it apart was Volvo's early focus on safety, including the introduction of three-point seatbelts.
The Peugeot 403 may be a little spartan at first sight. However, this utilitarian French automobile does have quite a bit of charm to it. This family sedan combines a simple yet elegant design with robust engineering. The 403 was never pretending to be worthy of classic car concourse or winning races. It was simply a car for regular people.
Powered by a dependable inline-four engine, the 403 offered a comfortable ride. Its reliability and affordability made it a popular choice for both city dwellers and rural families.
The Chevrolet Impala, launched in 1958, stands as an iconic American automobile known for its striking design and broad popularity. Over the years, it evolved with various iterations and body styles, including coupes and convertibles.
The Impala quickly became a symbol of American automotive excellence, achieving record sales figures. It also played a role in motorsport, earning recognition on the NASCAR circuit.
The fourth-generation Oldsmobile 98, launched in 1954, was celebrated for its innovative engineering and impressive performance.
At the heart of this classic American car was a robust Rocket V8 engine. This innovative engine had a displacement of 324 cubic inches and delivered 185 horsepower. This powerplant was known for its smoothness and ample torque, making for a luxurious yet spirited driving experience.
Volkswagen Karmann Ghia
This compact coupe and convertible, designed by Carrozzeria Ghia, featured sleek lines and a graceful silhouette unlike any other Volkswagen automobile. In fact, the Karmann Ghia offered a blend of German engineering with beautiful Italian design.
Underneath, it shared the dependable VW Beetle's chassis and mechanical components, including an air-cooled boxer powerplant mounted behind the driver. The Karmann Ghia became a symbol of affordable sophistication, offering a stylish alternative to the utilitarian Beetle.
The Citroën 2CV, affectionately known as the "Deux Chevaux," is a legendary French car. Although theoretically introduced in the late 1940s, it had become an enduring symbol of affordable and practical motoring through the next decade.
The 2CV featured a unique corrugated metal body, making it instantly recognizable. It was powered by an air-cooled engine, which provided modest but efficient performance. The 2CV's suspension was praised for its ability to navigate rough terrain with ease.