Nash introduced the Rambler in 1950 as its lowest-priced model at $1,800, which wasn’t cheap by any means. But buyers got a car that was loaded with standard equipment, including a radio, heater, courtesy lights, an electric clock, custom upholstery, wheel discs, and more. The Rambler was also the company’s smallest model; in fact, its relative diminutive size, with respect to the rest of the Nash lineup (and indeed the entire American car market), made it one of the first compact cars.
“Chrysler’s early Hemi grew out of experience gained during World War II with developing Hemi-headed aircraft and tank engines for the war effort. After the war, Chrysler needed to remain competitive with the new Caddy and Olds overhead-valve V8s, so it began developing brand-new motors. Early testing of alternative head and valve layouts revealed that the hemispherical combustion chamber was superior to other designs.
The result was the 1951 debut of the 331 Chrysler Hemi. DeSoto and Dodge Hemis followed in 1952 and 1953, respectively. Each division’s Hemi had a unique block, heads, and cylinder-bore spacing. Virtually no internal parts interchange between them. In the Chrysler line, the 331 grew to 354 ci in 1956, and finally–using a raised-deck block–to 392 for ’57 to ’58. In the process, hard-core racers quickly discovered the engine’s potential. The Hemi’s efficient combustion chambers responded well to the new high-octane gas and was unsurpassed while running on alcohol and later nitromethane, a legacy maintained by the
In 1952, cars that could hit a top speed of 115mph were uncommon. Cars that could cruise at 100mph with four occupants (and luggage) were unheard of – until the R Type Continental. Although only 208 were produced, the R Type Continental created a template for Bentley grand touring that lasted decades. It even inspired the design team working on the first Continental GT, fifty years later.
“The Chevrolet Corvette may have become “America’s sports car,” but its roots are surprisingly European. As American GIs returned from World War II, they were influenced by the MGs and other European sports cars that dotted the region’s country roads and wanted something similar once they returned home.
Famed designer Harley Earl implored General Motors to build a sports car to capitalize on this interest, and it began to take form as the 1951 “Project Opel.” The results were first shown at the 1953 Motorama as the EX-122, a hand-built, pre-production prototype.
The finished product was the first Corvette, a two-seat roadster with a gaping chrome grille, upbeat-looking single headlights, and a curved windshield. All 1953 examples were white, with a red interior. The fiberglass-reinforced plastic body was revolutionary for the time, and set a precedent that GM would carry on with future Corvette bodies.”
“In most cases, a road car comes first and a racing version follows. But for the Mercedes-Benz 300SL, the radical-gull-wing door coupe that hit the market in 1954 was directly derived from the sports racing car that won the Carrera Panamericana and the 24 hours of LeMans in 1952.
The road car that followed retained the racing version’s, strong tubular frame with high sills—necessitating the gull wing doors—and featured fully-independent suspension and a fuel-injected version of Mercedes-Benz’s 2,995cc single-overhead camshaft engine. The straight-six was rated at 215 bhp and would propel the car to speeds upwards of 160mph, making it one of the fastest production car in the world upon introduction. The only transmission available was a four-speed manual and powerful drum brakes were fitted at each corner. Significant options included a more highly-tuned engine, Rudge knock-off wheels and fitted luggage. The most coveted of all the production 300SLs are the 29 aluminum coupes.”
The 1955 Chevy is a classic and marked a turning point for Chevrolet as they introduced the first successful small-block V-8 engine. With a displacement of only 265 cubic inches it still was one of the most powerful engines ever produced making up to 180 HP. Future variations of this engine with displacements of 283, 302, 350 and even 400 cubic inches have become legendary.
“During the 1950s, the Chrysler Corporation had manufactured many great looking vehicles for the consumer market. The late Virgil Exner Jr., was the corporate director of styling in 1957, and he had designed many great looking cars and trucks for that model year.
For 1957, the Chrysler line of newly designed cars offered a forward-thinking design with a light, clean design that many consumers really had enjoyed. More importantly, the new Chrysler models gave the company a competitive edge over other popular-selling vehicles at the time. The model years 1955-57 brought impressive sales gains to Chrysler which was attributed to the great, new styling features.”
“By 1957, the Ford Thunderbird was still well out-pacing the Chevrolet Corvette in sales, and Ford Executives including Robert McNamara wanted to push it even further. This was accomplished by leaning into the T-Bird’s true nature as a luxurious cruiser rather than the purer European-style sports car the Corvette was initially trying to emulate.
One of the mandates for the new 1958 Ford T-Bird was to make it a four-seater. The new “Square Bird” was built using unibody construction, making it the first Ford to employ this method (along with Lincolns of that year). It also brought full-size luxury features to a mid-size layout. This new design was almost a foot longer, and 1,000 pounds heavier than its predecessor.
The ’58 T-Bird had a longer, more dramatic design. It now featured quad headlights, a low-slung grille, and a rocket-like character line running from the rear bumper, across the doors. Out back, the T-Bird continued to feature pronounced fins, and quad taillights were housed in their own “pods” with mesh bezels. The license plate was recessed between these pods, and the exhaust outlets were moved out of the rear bumper. The tailpipes were now hidden below the rear bumper.
Engine options were updated as well, featuring a new 325 cid FE-Block V-8 as the base engine. It made 300 horsepower, sent through either a 3-speed manual or a Cruise-O-Matic automatic transmission.”
“Alec Issigonis’s tiny Mini sedan can lay claim to being one of the most significant automobile design of the 20th Century. The simple design broke all the rules, what with its transverse-mounted, four-cylinder engine, front-wheel drive, transmission in the sump, a wheel at each corner, and suspension by simple rubber cones.
Costing only $1,340, the 1959 Mini also offered surprising interior space at only 10 feet long, and its 33-hp, 848-cc engine could manage 40 mpg when driven carefully. In one step, Issigonis had replaced every three-wheeled microcar, as well as every motorcycle and sidecar, with a real family sedan. It was a stroke of genius and led to his knighthood.”
When Lotus unveiled the Type 14 Elite at Earl’s Court in 1957, it signaled a change. No longer would Lotus be seen as just a race and kit car manufacturer, but now also one that produced cutting edge road cars. Lotus founder Colin Chapman felt that for this production car, traditional aluminum or steel construction would be too costly so he designed an ingenious fiberglass monococque body structure that comprised three fiberglass pieces with steel frame members and suspension pick-up points actually embedded in the fiberglass itself. This is the car that many consider to be the most elegant, attractive, and important Lotus in the marque’s history.
“In 1959, Ferrari debuted the shorter California Spyder on their stiffer short wheel base (SWB) chassis. These cars were superior as they had disc brakes, a more powerful engine, and a less bulk. Like the LWB model that preceded it, the SWB benefited from a competition-bred chassis and engine.
The California Spyder was motivated by U.S. distributors Jon von Neumann and Luigi Chinetti who convinced Ferrari to create a performance convertible named after their best market. The California Spyder emerged with supercar performance and became highly desirable due to its limited availability. Each car was special too, and some examples came with competition-spec engines or the very rare factory hard top.”
“Legend has it that when it went on display for the first time at the Geneva Motor Show in 1961, none other than Enzo Ferrari remarked that the E-type (known as the “XKE” in the U.S.) was the most beautiful car he’d ever seen. Mr. Ferrari knew a pretty car when he saw one and he might have been one of the first to express the sentiment, but an incalculable number of others have said virtually the same thing and they’re still saying it fifty years later. Designed by a noted aerodynamicist Malcolm Sayer, the E-type was meant to cheat the wind, but its glass covered headlights, long hood, short rear deck and compound curves also coincidentally looked great.
With a 0-60 time of around seven seconds and a 150-mph top speed, the Series I E-type was near the top of the early 1960s food chain and was indeed quicker than numerous sports cars with a much higher price tag.”
The 1961 Lincoln Continental was based on a stretched version of a proposed 1961 Thunderbird two-door hardtop that had been rejected as too classy and not sporty enough for the typical Thunderbird buyer. The 1958 recession and Edsel debacle, meanwhile, had injured the Ford Motor Company overall. But while the four-seat Thunderbird was a relatively huge success, the Lincoln division was in danger of being culled. Designers and engineers worked hard at making a new, distinctive and profitable Lincoln. They succeeded admirably with the 1961-69 Continental.
“Carroll Shelby’s 1962 Cobra represents the pinnacle of the Anglo-American sports car, which combined a classic aluminum roadster body (in this case cribbed from a 1950s Ferrari Barchetta) with a tube space frame and lightweight American V-8 engine.
Shelby Cobra’s donor chassis came from AC. The AC Ace heretofore had utilized the pre-war BMW 2-liter, 6-cylinder engine, which was going out of production. Understanding that AC needed a replacement motor, Shelby tapped into his Ford connections to user their lightweight 260ci V-8. In the process, Shelby managed to get both sides to agree that the resultant sports car would be manufactured under the Shelby name.
The overall package was dynamite, weighing only 2,100 lbs, with a 260-hp engine mated to a four-speed transmission. Top speed was about 140 mph and 75 were built in 1962 and 1963 before the engine was replaced by Ford’s 271-hp, 289-cid V-8. In race-prepped guise, the engine generated up to 370 hp, and the cars were quite successful on the track. Between 1963 and 1965, 580 Shelby 289 Cobras were sold in the CSX 2000 series.”
“While the Aston Martin DB5 will forever be linked to James Bond movies, true enthusiasts understand the more lasting and inspiring impression of the DB5 comes upon examining the car itself. This beautiful successor to the DB4 entered production in 1963 and is widely regarded as the pinnacle of Aston Martin’s efforts during this era.
Aston Martin is one of the premier British brands, and the DB5 is the brand’s premier model. Few other cars are able to convey the sense of class, performance, and sophistication that a DB5 can, which solidifies the car’s global appeal.”
“The 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray took the sports car world by storm. Derived from Bill Mitchell’s 1957 SS racer and XP-720 prototype, it had hidden headlights, a knife-edge front and horizontal rib round the car. New fastback coupe bodywork featured a split back window and doors that cut into the roof. The frame was four inches shorter than the 1962 model as well as lighter and stiffer. There would be no opening trunk lid until 1968.
The 327 cid Chevy small-block OHV V-8 carried over from 1962, with 250 bhp up to 360 bhp with Rochester fuel-injection. Top speed ranged from 118-150 mph and 0-60 mph from 9.1 to 5.8 seconds.”
Willys always had some type of truck based wagon in the postwar years, and because they sold reasonably well, a wagon was sure to be in the mix when Willys was rebranded as Jeep and introduced an all-new truck for 1963. In fact, wagon made up part of its name. The Jeep Wagoneer shared all the styling cues of its new stablemate Gladiator pickups, and Wagoneers featured either a traditional two-door or a new-for-Jeep four-door body style. All of a sudden, the Chevrolet/GMC Suburban and International Travelall had a new rival.
Under the internal type number 901, Porsche developed a completely new GT car that was evolutionary of the 356 but with better visibility, more shoulder room and an overhead cam 2.0 liter flat six-cylinder motor with about 40 more horsepower than a 356 Super. Early 911s had much of the vintage charm of a 356, including chrome trim inside and out. They also rusted with the same alacrity as the 356 and were more tail-happy because of the increased power and skinny 165-15 tires. This tendency reached its apex with the 911S introduced in 1966. With 160hp and a tiny tire contact patch, the early S could be a handful. It went away in the US for the 1968 model year only to return in 1969 with mechanical fuel injection.
“The Ford GT40 stands near, if not at, the pinnacle of collectible postwar American cars. The colorful stories and characters surrounding the model’s development, the GT40’s on-track excellence and execution of mission, and the car’s purity all contribute to its larger-than-life persona.
Motivated by Henry Ford II’s unrelenting desire to beat Ferrari on the track, reportedly due to Enzo Ferrari jilting a Ford buy-out offer, led to a partnership with Lola in 1963. The British race car manufacturer had already used a Ford V-8 with some success in their GT, and prototyping resulted in a 4.2-liter, mid-engine, alloy V-8 race coupe sheathed in a fiberglass body, debuting in April of 1964. The sophisticated car could exceed 200 mph and was a sleek 40 inches tall (thus the “40” in the car’s name). The GT40 showed promise on the track, but was ultimately too fragile to reliably compete. Enter Carroll Shelby.
Based on the success of the Cobra, Ford handed the reins of the program over to Shelby in 1965. Due to engine shortages, the Cobra’s 4.7-liter V-8 was installed instead of the 4.2-liter unit (signaling the start of the Mk I cars), and the Shelby team won their first race but couldn’t duplicate the success elsewhere. The 1966 campaign, however, was a different story. In 7.0-liter Mk II form, the cars swept the podium (in dramatic and controversial fashion) at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.”
Just as Ford was developing its Mustang for the famous “64½” April launch, the folks at GM were already delivering the car often credited with starting the muscle car craze. Launched in October 1963, the GTO would evolve into one of the definitive American performance cars of the decade. The 1964 Pontiac GTO was based on the Tempest Le Mans, and featured a 326 cid V-8. GM had pulled out of racing in 1963 and Pontiac was stuck with an institutional limit of 330 cid on mid-sized cars, but an option package for the Le Mans would change all that.
“If the Volkswagen Beetle was the most significant car of the twentieth century with 21.5 million sold, and the Ford Model T was second with 14.7 million produced, the Ford Mustang must occupy third place. For one thing, it’s still in production in the 21st century, with nine million built to date, but it’s also right up there with the other two in terms of cultural significance.
Lee Iacocca’s brainchild was a brilliant combination of humble Ford Falcon underpinnings with a long-hood, short deck coupe that still looks just right. Introduced in April of 1964 as an “early” 1965 model, its European flair could be traced to designer Roy Lunn, who had worked for Aston Martin, ex-Packard engineer Roy Misch and Ford stylist Eugene Bordinat. The first prototype was built in 100 days in the summer of 1962.
Iacocca’s aim was a car that cost $2,500, weighed 2,500lbs and could carry four people. He got pretty close, as a base 6-cylinder hardtop coupe, with a 3-speed manual gearbox cost $2,320 and weighed 2,449 lbs. It was based around a strong, lightweight unibody, with multiple bracing, minimal brightwork and a European-style recessed sporty grille.”
Few cars achieve legendary status, while even fewer continue to live up to it by every accepted measure more than four decades after their introduction, but the Lamborghini Miura is just such a car. This mid-engined coupe took Lamborghini from being an upstart company that challenged Ferrari with very competent GTs to a world-class supercar manufacturer that forced Ferrari and everyone else to rethink how they built road cars. Lamborghini gave a hint of what was to come at Turin in 1965 when it showed a rolling chassis that everyone was sure was going to be a race car (including its designer), and the following year a finished car appeared at Geneva with coachwork that to this day is seen by many as Bertone’s crowning achievement.
The 2002 is perhaps the most famous of BMW’s “New Class” line, and it revitalized the Bavarian automaker’s historically underwhelming international reputation. The world was captivated by the 2002’s attractive blend of power, agility and style in addition to its reasonable price tag. 2002’s were offered in two varieties in the U.S.: the single carb’ed, 100hp base 2002, and the über-sporty 2002tii. Both were powered by a 2.0 liter SOHC I4, but the tii added mechanical fuel injection to wring out 130hp. Other variations included the cabriolet, targa, a three-door touring model, a twin-carbureted ti and a rare turbo, all intended for European consumption only.
“Dodge’s big news for 1968 was the new Charger Hardtop, a crisp redesign mostly remembered for the classic chase scene in “Bullitt” and the orange #01 General Lee from the popular television comedy “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
The ’68 Dodge Charger’s shape was one of the most elegant renditions of the popular “coke bottle” wasp-waisted design, and featured a slim full-width grille with hidden headlights, flying buttresses at the rear and a “tunnel” back window reminiscent of GM designs.”
Ferrari once again used the Paris show in 1968 to unveil its latest front-engined road car, the 365 GTB/4, or “Daytona,” as it came to be later known. The Ferrari 365 GTB/4 had a 4.4-liter, 4-cam V-12 producing 352 hp initially, and like its 275 GTB predecessor, it had Pininfarina-styled coachwork mounted on a steel tube frame as well as a rear-mounted 5-speed transaxle and independent suspension all-round.
“Plymouth’s boxy Belvedere GTX may have been late to the mid-size muscle car market in 1967, but the division stole a march on everybody else in 1968 with the Road Runner.
This time Plymouth got it right; putting a 335 bhp 383 cid V-8 engine with 440 Super Commando heads and camshaft in a bare bones 3,000-lb, two-door hardtop with a 4-speed floor-shift synchro transmission. Base price was $2,870, skinned down to a rubber floor mat and non-pleat taxicab interior. A total of 29,240 buyers bought the coupe and a further 15,359 stepped up for the two-door hardtop – which was added mid-year – for the 44,559 total.”
“Upon its introduction in 1968, the new Jaguar XJ-6 replaced all the sedans which preceded it. The signature 4.2-liter DOHC six-cylinder engine delivered 180 hp and was matched with anti-dive suspension, power rack-and-pinion steering, power disc brakes, and either an automatic or manual 4-speed transmission with overdrive. Inside there were leather seats, walnut fascias, and enough gauges for a small plane. An up-market sibling, the six-cylinder Daimler Sovereign, was introduced in 1969.
The XJ-6 was the last Jaguar designed by company founder William Lyons, and it was a fine balance of refinement, luxury, and performance. Handling was superb for a four-door sedan.”