11 Most Popular Cars in the 1950s (with Pictures)
The war had ended, and the U.S. was experiencing a financial boom. Factories that had been used to manufacture war machines were turned over for the production of civilian vehicles including cars and trucks. The decade also saw the introduction of the rock ‘n’ roll era, personified by Elvis Presley who, by 1956, was a global music sensation.
Below are 11 of the most popular cars from the 1950s: while the list is made up predominantly of American-manufactured cars, this isn’t true of every entry on the list.
The 11 Most Popular Cars in the 1950s
1. Buick Roadmaster
The Buick Roadmaster has been through several iterations and was first manufactured between 1936 and 1942. It was reintroduced in 1946 and was produced until 1958. It was the top of the line in the Buick range and following the introduction of the iconic grille, the gun-sight hood ornament, and a host of other additions in 1949, its sales doubled in 1950. From 1952, the Roadmaster had its styled fins that would later become popular on other American cars.
2. Buick Skylark
The Skylark was produced over six different production runs from the 1950s to the 1990s and each iteration brought a distinctly new design. The first of the Skylarks were produced in 1953 and was a convertible model. Roughly 1,690 of the model were produced and the design very closely mirrored the design of the Roadmaster convertible. The Skylark was expensive, costing even more than the Roadmaster convertible.
3. Cadillac Coupe de Ville
The Cadillac Coupe de Ville was a luxurious two-door coupe, and such was its popularity that it was selling more than 20,000 units a year by the end of the 1950s. By the end of the 1950s, the Coupe de Veille had stunning tail fins and the car became a popular feature in comics and other forms of media in this form.
4. Cadillac Series 62
Before the Coupe de Ville came the Cadillac Series 62. In fact, the Coupe de Ville was a special trim variant of the Series 62 before it became a model of its own. The Series 62 was meant to compliment the entry-level Cadillac Series 61 and was in its third generation by the time the 1950s rolled around. This series had Lockheed-inspired tail fins and retained the flathead V8 of earlier models. The fourth generation, introduced in 1954 had a redesigned bumper while the fifth generation was smaller and lower. The sixth generation was the last to be produced in the 1950s and had massive tail fins and tail lights.
5. Chevrolet Bel Air
The Chevrolet Bel Air became an icon of car manufacture, but it took a rebranding before the model really took off. The Bel Air started out as the Deluxe Styline, but poor market traction saw the name changed to the Bel Air in 1953. It had a distinctive egg-crate grille and long tail fins and is what many would consider a typical Chevy.
6. Chevrolet Corvette
While the Bel Air might have the traditional look of a Chevy, it is the Vette that can be considered the company’s iconic sports car. The Vette started as a concept car, first seen at the 1953 GM Motorama and it went on sale later that year in two different styles. The fiberglass-bodied car didn’t prove as popular as general manager Thomas H. Keating initially hoped but the introduction of the V8 engine in 1955 saw its popularity rise.
7. Ford F-100
The Ford F-100 is another 1950s model that has spawned generations of popular Fords. In fact, the modern equivalent is the world’s best-selling vehicle thanks to the pickup’s popularity in the home market. Originally called the F1, the F100 was born in 1953 and the 1953-1956 models of the F-100 are true collectors’ items that can fetch a small fortune if in good condition.
8. Ford Thunderbird
In the 1950s, Ford decided that they needed a sportier model to add to their existing line-up of cars. The resulting T-Bird was a two-seater canvas-topped car with a V8 engine, and it was competitively priced for a sports car of its type. It had a top speed of over 100 miles per hour and better acceleration than the competition. The Thunderbird was first shown at Detroit’s 1954 motor show and was subsequently manufactured from the end of that year.
9. Hudson Hornet
The Hudson Hornet was one of several models released by Hudson, although its popularity means that it is the only one that most people remember. It was an affordable alternative to other performance cars of the time. It was a NASCAR winner, and such is its iconic status that it has been further immortalized as Doc Hudson in the animated movie series Cars. The Hornet was only manufactured for 6 years, between 1951 and 1957, but sold more than 40,000 units during this time.
10. Porsche 550 Spyder
The Porsche 550 Spyder may have been manufactured for three years, but less than 100 were made during this time, so it was rare even during the height of its production. The German car was a 2-door spyder and its rarity, as well as its incredible looks and its racing heritage, has seen examples of the Porsche selling for approximately $6 million in recent years.
11. Volkswagen Type-1
Nowadays, it is better known as the Volkswagen Beetle, and nearly 22 million of the Type-1, in its various iterations, have been manufactured from 1938 to 2003. The German car came about as a result of Germany’s then leader, Adolf Hitler, wanting a car that was functional and for the people. It was affordable and reliable, and despite the world’s reluctance to associate with anything German following World War II, it went on to become one of the most popular car models globally.
Cars help define eras and are often shaped by the decades in which they are manufactured. 1950s America was a time of celebration and saw the emergence of the rock ‘n’ roll era. With it came a host of cars, including luxury Cadillacs, more affordable Hudsons, and even some exotic Porsches. Above, we have listed 11 iconic cars from the decade, but dozens of others could rightfully earn a place on the list, as well as dozens more from around the world.
Featured Image Credit: JayMantri, Pixabay