10 Most Iconic Cars Of The ’50s

10 Most Iconic Cars Of The ’50s

The 1950s were a time of change for the automotive industry. The world was finally recovering from World War II, with industry at a peak. With the suburbs growing, cars were now a necessity for many, and a new style was taking over. Cars in the ’50s were still quite exclusive, but automakers realized mass-producing cheaper models could be better for the long term. At the same time, they just had to incorporate some lavish design features that ended up making those cars so memorable.

Among the scores of typical sedans, some cars stood out from the pack, not just in style but also in performance. They could be gorgeous machines while also innovative enough to inspire scores of models to follow. That was especially true in Europe, where names like Ferrari were beginning to take off. These are ten of the most iconic rides of the 1950s and the fact that many remain beloved classics today proves just how important this decade was for the entire auto industry.

10 1957 Cadillac Eldorado


Cadillac came out with some great cars in the 1950s, but the Eldorado was a stunner. After a few expensive early models, the third generation was the Eldorado that everyone came to love thanks to a terrific redesign by Ed Glowacke.


It trimmed down the massive size a bit but kept those gorgeous tail fins, grille, and a top-notch engine that made it one of the first production cars to roll out of the factory with 300 hp. The style inside and out kept to the luxury label as this model of the Eldorado was finally a true hit with consumers while aiding Cadillac’s performance in the market for a while.

9 1956 Porsche 550 RS Spyder

1955 Porsche 550 Spyder Cropped
Via beverlyhillscarclub.com

A regular 1956 Porsche 550 is already a fine car that would rank as a classic. But the Spyder variant is simply a step ahead of an already classic machine. Each model was hand-built and thus unique enough that no two are precisely the same.

Porsche 550 Spyder-
Via: Auxietre & Schmidt

Despite its top speed, it was easy to handle thanks to the aerodynamic design and mixed a typical racing car style with the elegance and class of a Porsche. The minimalist design actually aided its cool look with the open-top that carried several drivers to victory. With only 90 built, it’s among the rarer Porsches but also the best.

8 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL

Mercedes-Benz 300SL
Via classiccars.com

Plenty of cars have had the gullwing door style, but somehow, none pull it off like the 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL. Those doors swinging open are always a sight and a key reason this car is a must-have for classic car collectors.

1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL
Via alphacoders.com

The interiors can put most modern luxury cars to shame with the plush leather seating and sculpted paneling and are still roomy enough to stretch out in. The 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder could push 215 hp and 138 mph, so it had the speed to go along with its style. Its low production numbers only add to its legacy as the 300SL set a new tone for style at this time.

Related: These 1950s Cars Sold Like Hotcakes In America

7 1955 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud

1955 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud Series I side
Via: Reddit

There has to be a Rolls-Royce entry on this list, and it might as well be one of their best in any decade. This was a break-in style for Rolls-Royce—big but not the boxy style of past rides, looking more like a Bentley but still sporting the distinctive touches like the huge front grille.

Via supercars.net

Throw in power steering and air conditioning along with engine options from a 4.9-liter straight-six to a 6.2-liter V8 and it’s even better. It could achieve speeds of over 100 mph, but the style counted as Rolls-Royce adjusted to the post-WWII era nicely for a modern ride.

6 1956 Lincoln Continental

1956 Continental Mark II--Bring a Trailer
via: Bring a Trailer

When it comes to classic American luxury cars of the 1950s, the Lincoln Continental is hard to beat. This was a rarer breed of the model with only three thousand built, but it was bursting with class unheard of for the American consumer at the time. Options included air conditioning and a good stereo system.

1956 Lincoln Continental Mark II
Via: Hemmings

Each one was hand-crafted, so there was a nice feeling of uniqueness to it alongside a strong 6.0-liter V8 with nearly 300 hp. Sadly, being the most expensive American car of the time meant it was too expensive to last, but it did stand out as a classic machine proving American cars can be just as luxurious as their European counterparts.

Related: Everybody Loved These Cars From The 1950s

5 1958 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa

1958 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa Spyder
Via: Sicnag on Flickr

There are two categories for classic Ferrari race cars: The 1958 Testa Rossa and everything else. The looks alone set it apart—a stunningly gorgeous style only Ferrari could have pulled off. That would get enough attention without the 3.5-liter 12-cylinder producing a then-outrageous 300 hp.

Via: New Atlas

Lightweight and slick on the track, the 1958 Testa Rossa broke records and paved the way for more from the brand to remake what a sports car could be not just in 1950s but beyond.

4 1956 Aston Martin DBR1

1959 Le Mans Winner 1956 Aston Martin DBR1
Via: Facebook

Putting a pure race car in this list might seem like cheating…but it’s hard to argue when it’s the Aston Martin DBR1. James Bond himself would envy this marvelous machine that rewrote the rules for a race car in the 1950s.

Aston Martin DBR1
Via : Robb Report

Sir Stirling Moss raced this to victory, and he wasn’t alone as others benefited from the DBR1’s revolutionary inline-six that could gain up to 254 hp and reach 155 mph. It may not have been the safest car around, but it was one of the most gorgeous speedsters and an important step for Aston Martin as a company.

3 1955 Thunderbird

Ford Thunderbird
Via hillbankusa.com

It’s always tricky to judge a legend, but that’s what the 1955 Thunderbird is. Sure, the later models boasted more power, but they couldn’t match the first generation’s wonderful style. Instead of being about performance, this was a luxury roadster, emphasizing comfort and style in a good ride.

1955 Yellow Ford Thunderbird
Via MecumAuctions

Yet, it still had a fine 4.8-liter V8 good for 198 hp, which was amazingly impressive for the time. It also looked mean and powerful on the road and still had a luxury feel unlike most cars of the time. The Thunderbird’s first model set the bar for all that followed and remained a terrific classic to this day.

Related: We’d Drive These ’50s Performance Cars Over A Classic Muscle Car Any Day

2 1953 Chevrolet Corvette

1953 Chevrolet Corvette
Via corvsport.com

There’s taking care and then there’s the 1953 Corvette. Chevrolet benefited from the times as the Corvette was one of the first fiberglass cars, making it a mass-produced vehicle that was lightweight and able to be powered by a top six-cylinder engine for a then-top 150 hp.

The Classic 1953 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible Roadster
Via: Mecum

Then there was being one of the best convertibles ever seen at the time as taking down the top transformed this Corvette into a machine guaranteed to turn heads with envy for the driver. While scores of Corvettes followed, this remained one of the best ever for a gorgeous ride in any time period.

1 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible Classic Car
Via: Mecum

Long a “workhorse” car for Chevrolet, the Bel Air was transformed in 1957 into one of the most gorgeous roadsters around. Even those not into cars will recognize a Bel Air by its distinctive style, from the large front to those wonderful tail fins. While referred to at the time as the “poor man’s Cadillac,” there was nothing poor about this.

bel air 2
From Facebook

It had a then-revolutionary 283 cubic inch Super Turbo-Fire V8 and then-new options ranging from air conditioning to a great stereo. It’s the style that makes the Bel Air a classic for anyone who can afford it and the epitome of 1950s design.

Sources: Hemmings.com, supercars.net, caranddriver.com, autowise.com

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