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The 1950s was an exciting time for car manufacturing. Britain was just getting over World War II, the first motorway had been introduced and petrol had become readily available again for leisure use.
Throughout the 1950s, reflecting the current improvements in the country’s economy, cars took on a bolder and classier look. The boxier designs from the 1940s were left behind in favour of curvier bodywork – a hint at the sense of speed.
British car manufacturers took inspiration from the US, and cars sported chrome, tailfins and plush leather interiors. Cars became very cool, and everyone wanted one.
Take a look at Trusted Dealers’ iconic cars from the 1950s below.
The Morris Minor was designed in secret during World War 2 by Sir Alec Issigonis, but the car really came of age in the 1950s. The car was full of character and handled brilliantly. Furthermore, it was spacious enough for a family and was well-built. One of the decade’s most-loved cars, it became the first British car to sell a million in 1959. That same year, Sir Alec Issigonis went on to design the iconic Mini – a small economy car. Its space-saving transverse engine and front wheel layout allowed 80% of the car’s floor plan to be used for passengers and luggage, thus influencing a generation of car makers.
One of the most memorable cars from the 1950s and 60s was the Alfa Romeo, part of a long line of renowned small sports cars which went on to win various races around the world. The Giulietta was built as a family car by Italian manufacturer Alfa Romeo and was in production from 1954 to 1965. It was the company’s first attempt at a 1.3-litre engined car, and they got it right. From 1954 to 1965 a total of 177,690 Giuliettas were made, mainly as a saloon but there was also a coupe and roadster version.
The boxy, modern style of Ford cars in the 1950s were a revelation. Both the Popular and the Anglia were simply engineered robust cars which sold in huge quantities thanks to advanced features such as hydraulic brakes and independent front suspensions. In the 50s, Fords were very sparse inside and customers had to pay extra if they wanted to benefit from a large selection of added luxuries such as heaters and sun visors. This meant that a basic model became affordable for the average family and so the popularity grew. Couple this with the array of bright colours available and it’s not difficult to see why Brits fell in love with these cars.
There are very few cars that feel as British as the Rover P4, which became the model of choice for the well-to-do Brits in the 1950s. Solicitors and Bank Managers couldn’t get their hands on the P4 quick enough and it became as much an icon of status than anything else. To look at, the Rover P4 doesn’t blow you away – despite manufacturers intending it to take on a striking American style look and feel. However, the cabin made up for its distinct lack of good looks, sporting an upmarket wood and leather interior. The P4 will be remembered by many for being well made, discreet and tasteful, and continues to be much-loved to this day.
Jaguar’s first sports car in nearly a decade, and one of the most memorable cars of the 1950s was the Jaguar XK120 – the first true ‘supercar’ of the masses, which made its debut at the London Motor Show in 1948. With a top speed of 120mph, a twin-cam engine and an unmistakably British design, the Jaguar XK120 immediately captured the hearts of a nation. In fact, the Jaguar became so popular, the company struggled to meet demand.