The 21st century has seen the emergence of many modern-day iconic road cars, but this has been the case too over decades past, so let’s start by travelling back in time to the 1950s, when rationing ended, a new Queen was crowned and Everest was conquered, and take a closer look at a selection of truly memorable cars.
Many will have their own recollections of the wonderful Morris Minor, which was actually first launched in 1948 as Europe escaped the ravages and legacy of World War 2, but which proceeded to become very popular and instantly recognisable during the 1950s. Compared to its rivals it was spacious and handled well, whilst priced at an affordable level for the mass working class market.
In 1948 France also introduced its own Moggie, known as the Citroën 2CV after the French ‘deux chevaux-vapeur’ (two steam horses). Its basic appearance belied the quality of its design and its soft suspension was designed to help French farmers cross their fields. It too sold well, with 3.8m built until production ceased in 1990.
Although the Volkswagen Beetle, the ‘people’s car’, was first introduced in 1938, it too became an increasingly popular sight in the 1950s. By 1954 the one millionth Beetle had been manufactured and a total of 21.5 million were assembled in 14 countries before production ceased in 2003. A new Beetle was introduced in 1998 with similar styling but with the engine upfront driving the forward wheels, before a further version arrived in 2012 with sleeker styling.
Italian manufacturer Fiat joined the party in 1957 with its cheap and practical city car the Cinquecento, the 500. Just 3 metres long and originally powered by a 479cc two cylinder engine, almost 4 million were built upto 1975. Fiat subsequently launched an equally successful new 500 in 2007 on the 50th anniversary of the original car’s debut.
Porsche’s first production car, the 356, became very popular during the 1950s and was available in coupé and soft top versions. It started the ongoing Porsche reputation for excellent design, aerodynamics, build quality and performance.
By Graham Read