Livestream: 13 of our favorite ‘50s cars
The fabulous ’50s have an enduring appeal, which made it a perfect topic for our latest livestream chat. Hagerty’s Brad Phillips got the conversation going with Wade Kawasaki, President and CEO of Legendary Companies which includes Coker Tire, Wheel Vintiques, and The Great Race. Those companies are all about keeping classic cars on the road and looking good, and Wade has lots of experience with ‘50s machines. Brad and Wade each picked a selection of their favorite cars from the 1950s to highlight, and the list is as diverse as it is desirable.
If you missed the live stream you can watch it here:
This beautiful roadster came from a small company in Colorado that built just a few dozen cars. The XP4 rode on short wheelbases and were usually powered by Chevrolet V-8s, although some were built with Pontiac V-8 power. The small, lightweight car (less than 2000 pounds) had around 300 horsepower for plenty of punch to go with its racy looks.
Brad has owned a couple of TR3As, and even though they are low on power—and his weren’t the best examples—they’re always fun. The stylish British roadsters have a lot of personality and put their 100 horsepower to good use. They’re a prime example of British open-air motoring and pretty affordable, too, with #3 (Good) examples valued at $17,600 on average.
Ford countered Chevrolet’s Corvette with the more luxurious Thunderbird and still brought plenty of performance to the table. Wade specifically noted the F-code Thunderbird and it’s 300-horsepower supercharged Y-block V-8 powerplant that made the personal luxury convertible a serious contender at Daytona.
Brad admits that the Nash Metropolitan isn’t a performance powerhouse and it isn’t particularly sleek, yet it has a unique appeal. The aptly named Metropolitan was marketed as a small runabout and was a collaboration between Nash and Austin. Austin supplied the powertrain, Fisher-Ludlow stamped the body, and it was all assembled by Austin in England before being shipped stateside.
1959 Ford Skyliner
At first glance, there’s no way you’d even think it would be possible that this big four-seater offers a retractable hardtop. The complex top mechanism executes a symphony of movements to stow the top under the reverse-hinging trunk. Sure, the luggage capacity takes a hit, but that’s a small price to pay for that style.
This big four-door has one of Brad’s favorite car names of all times. The long-stretching roof created a cove around the back window. You could even roll the back window down for highway airflow, permitting none of that buffeting that we’re so used to in modern cars.
You knew these cars had to be here. The 1955 Chevy had an all-new design that also debuted the legendary small-block Chevy V-8. These cars were stylish, powerful, and the coupe, convertible, and Nomad wagon are among the most iconic cars of the 1950s, especially the 1957 Bel Air and its immediately recognizable fins.
Brad chose this Hemi-powered beauty because he has a personal connection to these cars, but you don’t need to drive one to appreciate its finned loveliness. Under the hood is just as impressive, as a pair of huge air cleaners feed air to twin four-barrel carbs on top of Chrysler’s 392 Hemi V-8. That’s the same engine that was the basis of Top Fuel dragsters until the 426 Hemi took over. Even in street trim, the Chrysler’s 392 Hemi produced 375 horsepower, making it one of the fastest cars of its day.
E-Types get all the love thanks to their timeless design, but the smaller, racier D-Types have a charm all their own. They’re all curves, and the street-going version, the XKSS, is just as beautiful. Any car with a stabilizing fin gets bonus points in our book. So does any car that wins LeMans.
Brad’s Jaguar pick actually debuted in the 40s, but we’ll let it slide. The inline six-cylinder engine that debuted in the XK 120 powered Jaguar models for decades. The low, sleek lines are elegant in their simplicity and the drop-top, in particular, offers gorgeous British style with the proper purr of an inline-six.
Sporting a high-performance, fuel-injected engine and a rigid chassis with high sills that required an interesting solution to ingress and egress, the 300SL is a head-turner of the highest order. The signature gullwing doors are a styling masterpiece, although the roadsters are striking in their own right. These cars were a technological tour de force—the fastest production vehicle in the world when new—and proved Mercedes-Benz was committed to putting racing technology on the street.
With a short wheelbase and rugged four-wheel-drive, the CJ-5 continued to be a true workhorse in the same vein as the CJ-3 models that evolved from military Jeeps. The basic style set by the CJ-5, including the sculpted fenders and signature grille shape, would continue in the CJ-7, CJ-8, and even into the YJ Wrangler, making the CJ-5 a pioneer for Jeep.
Of course, Wade and Brad were pressed for time, and there are plenty of memorable ’50s cars that are worth mentioning. Let us know your favorite ’50s car from your past, present, or dream collection.