I can remember the excitement when the new 1950s car models were introduced. We would stop by the car dealer’s showroom just to see them. For days leading up to the big reveal the dealers would paper their showroom windows to hide the new car models until they were ready for the grand opening type event. It was a big deal! Everyone talked cars, discussed the new models and knew the specifics like horsepower, cubic inches, features and of course, the cost.
Henry Ford put America on wheels but Detroit in the 1950’s gave us style, splendor and even pizzazz! No decade in history was better parodied by the automobile.
While the fashion and architecture of the day portrayed conformity the American car screamed out the Country’s optimism and enthusiasm in a decade of hope. Detroit’s car manufacturers looked at conformity as an alien concept and did everything in their power to excite buyers to flock to their new car showrooms.
Crosley Motors threw in the towel in 1952 having misread the market for compact cars. Hudson who had been making cars since 1910 was forced to merge with Nash Motors by late 1953 and form the American Motors Company (AMC).
Kaiser-Frazer after having phased out Frazer models by the end of 1951 acquires Willys Overland Motors in 1953 but succumbs to market pressure and moves its operations to Argentina where it continues to sell cars.
Studebaker, with clearly one of the most innovative designs of its time merges with Packard Motor Company in 1954 looking for a larger footprint and combined manufacturing to compete with the “Big Three”. Packard would all but disappear by 1957. Studebaker survives the decade with a resurgence in sales in 1959 and would keep making cars until 1966 but was never again a serious competitor. Of course Ford’s Edsel fiasco gets its own page on this site.
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In 1950 there were 40 million cars on the road by the end of the decade that number would almost double. The car became the epicenter of our collective success. We wanted it bigger, taller, more powerful and dripping with chrome. Tailfins resembled deep sea monsters. As the Europeans were churning out sub-compact autos and sports cars the American car manufacturers would have no part of it. Heavy metal could have been the catch phrase for Detroit cars in the 1950s.
While the “Big Three” (General Motors, Ford Motor Company and Chrysler Corporation) duked it out to keep their top spots there was still room for some pretty healthy competition.
Crosley, Hudson, Kraiser-Frazer, Nash, Packard, Studebaker and Willys were all stiff competitors and managed to substantially water down market share for GM, Ford and Chrysler. More importantly however they brought important innovations and features to the car buying public.
1950 Pontiac Chiefton
1951 Crosley Hotshot
On the following pages you will find our favorite 1950s cars. They weren’t economical, environmentally friendly or particularly safe but o’boy were they gorgeous. If you enjoy opulence and grandeur than you are going to have fun here!
Thanks for stopping by and enjoy!!