Name These Classic Cars of the '50s

Bambi Turner

Image: Wiki Commons by Greg Gjerdingen

About This Quiz

Think you can tell the difference between a 1950s Cadillac Eldorado and a Continental Mk. II? How about a DeSoto Firedome from a Ford Galaxie? Can you tell the Aston Martin and Austin-Healey sports cars apart?

The 1950s offered one of the widest array of car choices the world had ever seen. It was a time of new prosperity in the U.S., although a late-decade recession did put a damper on things and helped end some brands, like Chrysler’s DeSoto Division and Ford’s ill-fated Edsel.

As suburbs grew, families moved away from crowded cities and added “second cars” to serve their needs. Economy models became popular for this role.

The introduction of the Interstate Highway System in the '50s helped fuel a love affair with the open road that continues to this day. Cars of the decade got larger and larger, and flashy chrome trim and tailfins sprouted to create an iconic though short-lived style trend.
In the ’50s, powerful V8 engines, automatic transmissions, power windows and air conditioning became sought-after features, but safety lagged well behind modern standards.

There were so many different kinds of cars in the ‘50s. If you think you could name some of the most memorable – and not so memorable – cars of the decade from their photos, then this is the quiz for you. Good luck!

Who doesn't know this iconic small car?

The Volkswagen Type 1, better known as the Beetle, was designed before WWII, but real production did not begin in earnest until the late 1940s. The 1952 model phased out the split rear window in favor of a single piece of glass, offering better visibility. Many more changes would follow, although the basic body shell remained the same.

Can you name this '50s icon?

We started this quiz with a 1959 Cadillac convertible, the Series 62. The Eldorado Biarritz model was the same basic car, but with more ornate trim, a more luxurious interior, and 20 more horsepower from the 390 cubic-inch V8 engine. The Series 62 cost $5,400, and the Eldorado version was $7,400.

Can you name this classic '50s two-seater?

Ford introduced the two-seat Thunderbird in 1955, two years after Chevrolet had debuted its Corvette. The two-seat “T-Bird” lasted until 1957, which many consider its best year for design and performance. Development of a larger four-seat Thunderbird had already begun by the time the first ’55 rolled off the assembly line, and it proved to be a much better seller.

Can you name this '50s sports model?

Of course you know this car! It’s the ’57 Chevy Corvette, just in a different paint scheme than the one in question #16. Chevy built 6,339 Corvettes for the year, a 3,000-unit increase over 1956.

Can you name this '50s classic?

Studebaker used the Commander name on models produced from the 1920s through the '60s. The 1951 model was nicknamed the “bullet nose” thanks to its airplane-like frontal styling. In 1950, the ring around the “bullet” projection was flashy chrome, while it was toned down and painted for '51 models.

Recognize this '50s sedan?

Ford produced the Edsel from 1958 to 1960, releasing the vehicle in many different versions to appeal to car buyers. The '58 models featured an oversized vertical grille that tended to turn off potential buyers. The Edsel turned out to be one of the biggest failures in auto history, costing Ford Motor Company about $250 million.

Can you name this '50s wagon?

Those who prefer their classic station wagons with genuine wood trim, as opposed to the vinyl imitation stuff that came later, can appreciate the '52 Buick Roadmaster wagon. You can immediately identify it as a top-of-line Roadmaster model by the four “portholes” in the hood. Just 359 of these beauties were made in 1952.

Its design became iconic. Can you name this '50s two-door model?

Here's another look at a '55 Chevy. This one is the mid-line 210 model, offered from 1953 to 1957. But it was the '55-'57 version, built on a new chassis and offering Chevy''s new V8 engine, that became iconic for the period.

Can you name this iconic '50s sports car?

Chevrolet debuted the Corvette in 1953, but it was the 1956-57 models that brought out a much sportier look and more powerful V8 engines. The ’57 introduced optional fuel injection, which the model in the image has.

Can you name this '50s sports car?

The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL coupe, introduced in 1954, was called the “Gullwing” for its doors that opened into the roof, a necessity due to the construction of its racecar-derived chassis. About 1,400 were made before the design was replaced by a roadster for 1957.

Can you name this sleek '50s classic?

If you saw the Pixar animated movie “Cars,” you might know that the “Doc Hudson” character, voiced by Paul Newman, was based on the Hudson Hornet. The Hornet’s “step-down” chassis gave it a low center of gravity for good handling, which helped it win nearly 70 NASCAR stock car races from 1951 through 1954.

Can you name this '50s minicar?

Introduced in 1957, the Fiat “Nuova” 500 (new 500) was powered by a two-cylinder 479-cc air-cooled engine that produced just 13 horsepower. (A VW Beetle had 34 horsepower at the time!) Popular in Italy and some other European countries, the tiny 500 was a rare sight in America. The current retro-styled Fiat 500 adapts the old car’s style to a fully modern chassis and powertrain.

Can you name this '50s icon?

The 1959 Cadillac is best known for its towering tailfins, dual bullet lights and jewel-like front grille. The Series 62 model (shown) was somewhat toned down compared to the top-of-line Eldorado, which looked flashier with additional stainless steel side trim.

Can you name this dreamy '50s cruiser?

Oldsmobile produced the 98 Fiesta for only a single model year, making fewer than 500. It was designed as a high-end dream car and featured leather seats, power steering and a panoramic wraparound windshield. The price was $5,717 -- a big sum for the day.

This '50s sedan is packs a surprise. Can you name it?

You might not know it to look at it, but AMC’s Rambler Rebel introduced for 1957 was a real muscle car. It’s dowdy lines concealed a 255-horsepower, 327 cubic-inch V8. The Rebel was 300 pounds lighter than AMC’s larger models and could zip from 0-60 mph in 7.5 seconds. That made it quicker than any car Motor Trend tested in 1957 except the fuel-injected Corvette. A planned fuel injection option for the Rebel was dropped before any were sold.

Can you name this big '50s coupe?

The Ford Galaxie was a full-sized car produced from 1959 to 1974. The '59 Club Victoria version can be recognized by its square-profile roofline, dual-round headlights and the full grille that extended along the entire front of the car.

Can you name this '50s grand touring coupe?

The confusingly named Aston Martin DB2/4 Mk. III was the last of its line in 1959, even as the company had already introduced a successor, the DB4, the year before. (There was no DB3.) When Ian Fleming wrote his James Bond novel “Goldfinger” in the late 1950s, he had the British superspy driving a DB3/4 Mk. III, but in the 1964 movie, Bond drove the then-new DB5.

Do you recognize this cute little 1950s economy car?

Sold from 1953 to 1961, Nash’s Metropolitan was a subcompact designed as an inexpensive economy model and marketed as a “second car” for suburban families. The tiny car was built for Nash in England by Austin, an early example of what the auto industry calls a “captive import.”

Can you name this '50s coupe with the big tailfins?

Chrysler’s DeSoto division had been popular until the late 1950s and was really down by the time the '59 models came out. The '59 Firedome Sportsman was a hardtop sedan with lots of color options, including a stylish two-tone design.

Can you name this '50s luxury model?

Lincoln’s Continental Mk. II was the most expensive American car on the market when it came out in 1956, priced at $10,000. (By comparison, a ’56 Ford Fairlane V8 sedan started at $2,200.) This special Continental was hand-built in limited numbers: 2,550 in 1956 and just 446 the following year.

Can you name this '50s classic?

You might recognize the 1958 Plymouth Fury from its role in Stephen King's "Christine." The Fury was introduced in 1955 as a sporty, performance-oriented subseries of the Belvedere, and became an independent model in 1958.

This '50s model is considered iconic for the era. Can you name it?

It’s the '55 Chevrolet Bel Air. This was an all-new design for Chevy in ’55, which made it a classic. This was the year Chevy introduced its new V8 engine that would go on to be known as the legendary “small block” and also powered the Corvette. No wonder Chevy advertised it as “The Hot One.”

Do you know this tiny 1950s car?

The Austin Mini, introduced in England in 1959, was hugely influential with its small, transverse-mounted four-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive. It became a pop culture icon in the 1960s and was driven by many celebrities, including The Beatles. The early models, produced between 1959 and 1967, were known as the Mk. I versions. The Mini Cooper and Mini Cooper S were the performance versions.

Can you name this '50s sedan?

Chrysler’s DeSoto division produced the Firedome model from 1952 to 1959. The name came from the hemi-head V8, which was similar to that used in various Chrysler and Dodge models in the 1950s. In the ’52 Firedome, it produced 160 horsepower, which was outstanding for the time.

Can you name this '50s dreamboat?

Inspired by the establishment of Interstate Highway System in 1956, Mercury introduced its Turnpike Cruiser in 1957. The full-sized sedan came in two- and four-door options, and got a boost as the pace car for that year's Indy 500 race.

Can you name this '50s luxury model?

Packard called the 400 Patrician “the most luxurious motor car in the world” in 1952. This top-of-the-line four-door sedan featured high-end upholstery inside and plenty of chrome trim on the outside. The engine was a 327 cubic-inch “straight eight” making 155 horsepower. The price new was $3,797.

Do you know the name of this big '50s sedan?

The Chrysler New Yorker was a big, cushy model that for 1951 debuted the brand’s famous hemi-head V8 engine. That is, the engine's combustion chambers were hemispherical in shape, which boosted horsepower. The company did not use the "Hemi" name, which it trademarked, until the second-generation version of the engine in the early 1960s. Chrysler continued to use the New Yorker name into the 1990s.

Can you name this wildly customized '50s pickup?

Chevrolet introduced its “Task Force” pickups for 1955, giving them softer, more car-like cab styling. Today, the 1955-1959 Task Force trucks are popular with collectors and customizers, as shown in the photo.

Can you name this sleek '50s roadster?

British carmaker MG produced the MGA model from 1955 to 1962. In 1959, MG replaced its 1.5-liter inline four cylinder engine with a 1.6-liter unit making 80 horsepower. The roadster could scoot from to 60 mph in about 13 seconds and exceed 90 mph, which was quite snappy for the time.

Can you name this '50s sports car?

BMW had big plans for the 507 when it introduced the car in 1956. Unfortunately, buyers were discouraged by the car's $9,000 price tag (about $84,000 in 2019 dollars!), so only 252 units of the V8-powered roadster were ever made. One customer was Elvis Presley.

Can you name this sleek '50s coupe?

Bentley’s R-Type Continental was called the fastest four-seat production car on the market when it was introduced in 1952. Its 4.5-liter, 178-horsepower inline-six cylinder engine could whisk it to 120 mph. Just 208 were hand-built by what was then a division of Rolls-Royce.

Can you name this '50s wagon?

The 1940s Chrysler Town & Country models used real wood exterior trim, including the framing and inlays. On this 1950 wagon, only the trim was real ash wood. The inlays were Di-Noc decals, a harbinger of the faux-woody wagons to come in the 1950s through 1990s.

What is this tiny '50s roadster?

In 1939, American radio maker and broadcaster Crosley expanded into making cars with a line of tiny economy models. In 1949, Crosley introduced a lightweight sports car called the Hotshot. A deluxe version with doors was called Super Hotshot, renamed Super Sport for 1951-1952. The roadster was less than 12 feet long and its 724cc four-cylinder engine made 26.5 horsepower.

Can you name this '50s luxury model?

Chrysler used the Imperial name for its top model from the 1920s all the way through the 1990s. The 1953 Imperial was the first production car with a modern air conditioning system that also recirculated and dehumidified cabin air.

Can you name this '50s roadster?

The 1959 Austin-Healey 3000 replaced the 100-6 model. Although it used the same chassis and body, it had a 3-liter inline-six-cylinder engine in place of the previous car’s 2.6-liter six, and it also used front disc brakes instead of drum-type. It was quick for the time, able to go from 0 to 60 in 11 seconds. Updated versions of the 3000 model were made until 1967.

Can you name this '50s racer?

Also called the TR, the Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa was introduced in 1957 and became one of Ferrari’s most successful racecars. Among its many victories, it won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1958, 1960 and 1961. The “Testa Rossa” name translated to “red head,” for the red-painted camshaft covers on the 300-horsepower, 3-liter V12 engine.

Can you name this '50s racer?

The 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder was built low to the ground for success on the racetrack. Sadly, this iconic car is probably best remembered for being the vehicle James Dean was driving when he fatally crashed in 1955.

Can you name this super-rare '50s European sports car?

Chances are you’ve never even seen a Volvo P1900 Sport Cabriolet, because only 68 were made between 1956 and 1957! Its fiberglass body proved to be of very low quality, leading to cancellation of the model. Volvo returned with a proper production sports car in 1961, the P1800 coupe, which gained worldwide recognition as the car driven by Roger Moore as Simon Templar on the popular TV show, “The Saint.”

Can you name this rare '50s sports-luxury car?

The 1951 Muntz Jet was a convertible produced by Earl “Madman” Muntz, who not only built a used-car empire on the West Coast, but also invented and successfully marketed a low-cost television set. Muntz had also purchased the rights and tooling for a two-seater designed by racecar builder Kurtis Kraft. He enlarged the car to become a four seater and used Cadillac and Lincoln V8s to power it. Just 198 were made.

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