History of Classic Cars and Trucks

(Post World-War-Two)

classic cars through history

There was an enormous amount of design talent during the 1950s. Raymond Loewy, Harley Earl, Elwood Engel - just a few who gave us styles and innovations that last to this day. The Chrysler 300 and Corvette, both introduced in the fifties, are still with us, and the retractable hardtop has made a comeback.

classic cars through history

The Independents

By the early 1950's, the "Big Three" (General Motors, Ford Motor Company and Chrysler Corporation) dominated new car sales, leaving the smaller companies such as Crosley, Hudson, Kaiser-Frazer, Nash, Packard, Studebaker and Willys to fight for their share of the market.

Studebaker car history

These smaller, independent car companies introduced many innovative features that the Big Three would go on to incorporate into their own models.

Corvette vs Thunderbird

Classic Car History

Development of the Ford Thunderbird began in February of 1953, just one month after GM debuted their Corvette Dream Car at the Motorama in New York.

early Corvette history

Ford would use parts off existing models for their new car, as did Chevy. Ford would also copy the long-nose/short-tail and 102-inch wheelbase of the Jaguar XK120 as did Chevy. But similarities ended there - Ford's answer to the Corvette was not a bare-bones sports car, but rather a stylish and practical personal luxury car.

Muscle Car Early Years

In the early 1960's, few people were concerned with gas prices when premium fuel was 35 cents-a-gallon. Cheap gas and cheap horsepower was the order of the day.

muscle car history

Designed for straight-line speed, muscle cars lacked sophisticated chassis, brakes, and suspension, but they were durable, affordable, and fast. Starting in the early sixties, both Ford and Dodge were building cars specifically to compete at the drag strip. Chrysler's 426 Hemi motor was first seen in 1964 and offered in street trim in 1966, including the original Dodge Charger.

The Import Market

In 1960, the total import car share of the U.S. market was just 7.58 percent. The air-cooled, rear-engine VW Beetle was most popular, with 159,995 sold. Slowly, consumer interest in smaller, more economical cars began to grow.

Volkswagen Beetle history

During the original Beetle's 65-year production run, more than 21 million were sold world-wide, becoming the fourth highest selling automobile of all time.

Starting in 1973 and continuing into 1974, the booming foreign car market, the OPEC oil embargo, and skyrocketing fuel prices brought about a big change in the way American cars were designed and produced. Consumer demands shifted from powerful and luxurious cars to smaller models with better fuel economy.

Unique Classic Cars

Styled after the 1927-1928 Mercedes Benz SSK, the Excalibur was America's first repli-car. In it's first and most successful carnation, a hand-laid fiberglass body was fitted over a Studebaker chassis and drivetrain. After the original company failed in 1986, the Excalibur was revived several times.

Excaliber Series 111

Further Reading:

Classic Cars - Feature Articles

Muscle Car History

muscle car history

Pony Car History

Micro Car History

microcar history

Electric Car History (Early Years)

Electric Car History (1990-1999)