1950s Classic Cars

The 1950s was exciting era for car manufacturers. America’s post-war designs became sleeker and models like the Ferrari gained popularity overseas. Learn about models from Bentleys and Rolls Royce to the 1950s Jeep models.


Ford whipped the public into a frenzy back in 1957 with its marketing campaign for the Edsel, "the car of the future." The Edsel was supposed to be everything American car buyers wanted. But — for many, many reasons — it was a terrible flop.

After an unsuccessful (and very expensive) launch in 1957, the Ford Edsel was discontinued in 1959. Everyone knows the Edsel wasn't up to Ford's standards, but was it really as bad as history makes it out to be?

The early 1950s were strange times in the U.S. auto industry. The industry had hit a sales slump, and the Korean War was forcing new rationing policies for steel and rubber. Learn how Willys-Overland and Kaiser-Frazer weathered the 1950s slump.

The 1954 Alfa Romeo 1900 was one of the mass-produced sedans developed by Alfa Romeo to survive in the postwar European market. The 1900 was recognized as one of the most beautiful cars at the time. Learn more about this fine European classic.

The 1953-1955 Nash and Hudson Ramblers were suppose to be volume sellers because of their low prices. Many body styles and different trims were also available. Find out how the Rambler breathed new hope for the two automotive ventures.

The Fury began as a speedy, limited-edition 1956 hardtop, and continued as such for the next two years. Though never a big seller, it cast a performance image over the entire Plymouth line with obvious sales implications. Learn more and see pictures.

Besides being the first modern V-8 from an independent, this classic car put Studebaker at least three years ahead of Chevrolet/Ford/Plymouth. Even by today's standards, the average 28 mpg fuel efficiency is impressive. Get more specs for this car.

Anyone born after 1960 may find this hard to believe, but there was a time when hardtops like the 1950-1952 Pontiac Catalina were quite exotic. They also stood as elegant symbols of Pontiac's postwar turn toward a more luxurious car. Read more.

Where there's a choice, collectors invariably covet the convertible and hardtop coupe over other body styles in a given car line. One of the few exceptions is the Bel Air line, in which the 1955-1957 Chevrolet Nomad is perhaps the prettiest wagon ever built

Arriving for 1958, the Ambassador was basically what Nash and Hudson would have been had they continued. Though the Ambassador would survive all the way through 1974, it would always be too much like mid-size AMC cars to attract much of a following. Read more.

Packards advertising slogan for its 1955 cars was "Let the Ride Decide." Torsion bars mounted differently for the first time provided a remarkable combination of ride and handling. Learn more about the 1955 Packard Patrician/Four Hundred/Executive.

The 1952-1953 Allstate was an odd car that is remembered today (if it's remembered at all) for being Sears, Roebuck & Company's misguided attempt at entering the auto market. Get the story behind the Allstate and get specs for this odd classic.

The 1953-1954 Chevrolet Bel Air provides an excellent example of a popular practice in the Detroit of the 1950s called reskinning -- making an old car look new without changing its basic structure by applying different outer panels. See pictures and get specs.

As ever, early postwar Buicks were big, solid and comfortable, powered by the division's reliable "valve-in-head" straight eight. The 1953 Buick Super was no exception and was part of a lineup marking Buick's 50th year of production. See pictures and specs.

Packards advertising slogan for its 1955 cars was "Let the Ride Decide." Torsion bars mounted differently for the first time provided a remarkable combination of ride and handling. Learn more about the 1955 Packard Patrician/Four Hundred/Executive.

The 1957-1958 Buick Caballero and Special Riviera Estate are prime examples of a short-lived and little-loved Detroit trend: the pillarless hardtop wagon. Poor brakes and indifferent workmanship added to Buick's faltering reputation. Learn more.

The sporty 1952 Buick Roadmaster Riviera hardtop attracted 11,387 buyers. It was a preferred transport for the up-and-coming professional -- the doctor, the lawyer and anybody who could not quite afford a Cadillac. Learn about this classic Buick.

Chevrolet was the first to bring out a low-priced hardtop, the swank-trimmed 1950 Bel Air. Of the many innovative, affordable hardtops introduced in 1950, the Chevrolet Bel Air proved to be the most popular by far, scoring 74,634 sales. Read more.

The 1951-1954 Chrysler Imperial was the highest class of Chrysler, a car competing with the likes of Cadillac, Packard, and Lincoln. However, it suffered because of conservative upright styling. See pictures and get specs for this classic 1950s car.

The 1951-1954 Chrysler New Yorker wasn't stylistically breathtaking, but its advanced engineering drew applause. Few buyers realized it was almost impervious to rust, and would last a couple hundred thousand miles with minimal maintenance. Learn more.

The 1957-1959 Chrysler New Yorker was the happy result of a major overhaul at Chrysler in the mid-1950s. It featured a bold new design and an innovative automatic transmission for the time. Learn more about the New Yorker and see pictures of the car.

The 1955-1956 Dodge D-500, with its flair-fashion styling, helped Dodge shed its stodgy image. And for 1955, it was arguably the most powerful car on the road with a titanic hemi V-8 lurking under the hood. Get more specs for this classic car.

Sterling H. Edwards was a dreamer in San Francisco who envisioned an exclusive, low-production personal-luxury car -- what would become the 1953-1955 Edwards America. Learn why only six were built, get specs and see pictures of this classic car.

The clean-lined, slightly boxy Ford Crestliner was one of the cars that saved Ford Motor Company. As a competitive hardtop model of the postwar era, it was a quality vehicle highly coveted by collectors today. Get specs for this Ford classic.

Plain, unimposing, and dull, it was anachronistic even when new -- which is precisely why it fascinates today. For this was the first -- and so far only -- instance when a U.S. automaker dared resurrect one of its old models. See specs and pictures.