Top 15 Rare Vintage Cars of the 1950s

In the 1950s, car manufacturers were pushing the boundaries of design and technology. This decade saw the birth of some truly unique and rare vintage cars that are still sought after by collectors today.

From sleek sports cars to luxurious sedans, these vehicles are a testament to the ingenuity and creativity of their time.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the top 15 rare vintage cars of the 1950s, highlighting their distinctive features and the reasons why they remain so special.

1. Mercedes-Benz 300SL

The 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL stands as a rare beauty, quite possibly ranking as one of Mercedes’ most exquisite creations to date.

Mercedes-Benz 300SL

Its exterior design nears perfection, complemented by the iconic gullwing doors that unveil a luxurious interior, marking this car as a true masterpiece.

Derived from the W194 Mercedes, which famously dominated the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1952, the 300SL boasted a robust 215hp 3.0-liter straight-six engine.

Notably, it held the title of the fastest production car of its era, achieving a remarkable top speed of 155mph.

Overview:
FeatureSpecification
EngineInline 6, SOHC (Single Overhead Camshaft)
Displacement2,996 cc (182.8 cu in)
Horsepower215 hp (212 bhp) @ 5,800 rpm
Torque202 lb-ft (274 Nm) @ 4,600 rpm
Transmission4-speed manual
DrivetrainRear-wheel drive (RWD)
Top Speed135 mph (217 km/h)
0-60 mph (0-100 km/h)8.8 seconds
Fuel EconomyCity: 15 mpg, Highway: 18 mpg (estimated)
Curb Weight3,131 lbs (1,420 kg)
Wheelbase94.5 inches (2,400 mm)
Length180 inches (4,570 mm) (Roadster), 178 inches (4,520 mm) (Coupe)
Width70.5 inches (1,790 mm)
Height51.2 inches (1,300 mm)

2. Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa

The 1958 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa is one of the most beautiful cars ever made. Its style was so unique that anyone who saw it immediately knew it was a Ferrari.

1958 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa

Not only did it look good with its smooth, rounded body, but it also had a powerful engine. The car ran on a 3.5-liter 12-cylinder engine that could produce an impressive 300 horsepower. That’s a lot of power for a car of its time!

The Testa Rossa didn’t just look good, it performed well too. It set records on the race track, showing off Ferrari’s talent for making amazing cars that people still love today.

Overview:
FeatureSpecification
Production Years1957 – 1962
PurposeSports car, racing
Body StyleTwo-seater spider (open-top)
Engine TypeFront, longitudinal 60° V12
Displacement2,953.21 cc (183.0 cu in)
Horsepower300 hp (221 kW) @ 7,200 rpm
TorqueNot officially specified
Transmission4-speed manual (1957-1958), 5-speed manual (1959-1962)
DrivetrainRear-wheel drive (RWD)
Top SpeedOver 270 km/h (168 mph) (estimated)
0-100 km/h (0-62 mph)Approximately 5.5 seconds (estimated)
ChassisTubular steel spaceframe
SuspensionFront: Independent, unequal-length wishbones, coil springs, hydraulic shock absorbers. Rear: Live axle (customer cars), de Dion or independent (factory team cars)
BrakesDrum brakes
Dry Weight800 kg (1,764 lbs)
Length2,350 mm (92.5 in)
Width1,740 mm (68.5 in)
Height1,110 mm (43.7 in)
Wheelbase2,350 mm (92.5 in)

3. Porsche 550 RS Spyder

In the 1950s, Porsche introduced its first race car, the 1956 Porsche 550 RS Spyder, another classic beauty. This car was super light, had a low body, and was painted in that iconic gray color.

Porsche 550 RS Spyder

Each 550 Spyder was hand-built, which made every single one of them unique. While it might not have had the same stunning effect as the Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa that came a couple of years later, its elegant design made it quite a sight on the racetrack.

With only 90 of them ever made, the Spyder is one of the rarest Porsches around, adding to its allure and making it a true gem for collectors and enthusiasts alike.

Overview:
FeatureSpecification
Production Years1953 – 1956
PurposeSports car, racing
Body StyleTwo-seater convertible (open-top)
Engine TypeMid-mounted, flat-four (boxer)
Displacement1,488 cc (91.4 cu in)
Horsepower110 hp (82 kW) @ 6100 rpm
Torque73 lb-ft (99 Nm) @ 4400 rpm
Transmission4-speed manual
DrivetrainRear-wheel drive (RWD)
Top SpeedOver 200 km/h (124 mph)
0-100 km/h (0-62 mph)Approximately 8 seconds
ChassisSteel tube frame with aluminum body panels
SuspensionIndependent suspension with wishbones and coil springs on all four wheels
BrakesDrum brakes
Dry Weight530 kg (1,168 lbs)
Length3,860 mm (152.0 in)
Width1,575 mm (62.0 in)
Height1,300 mm (51.2 in)
Wheelbase2,210 mm (87.0 in)

4. Ford Thunderbird

The 1955 Ford Thunderbird was a classic American car loved by many. It offered great performance, looked fantastic, and was affordable for most people.

Ford Thunderbird

People called it the “T-bird.” It was Ford’s response to Chevrolet’s Corvette. Even though it was fancy, it didn’t cost too much. Its 5.1-liter V8 engine was powerful, giving it 245 horsepower. This made it go up to 150mph, which was super fast at that time.

The Thunderbird had a sleek design with only two seats and a cool removable roof. It sold more than the Corvette in its first year, with over 16,155 units sold. People loved it right away, and it became an icon of that time.

Overview:
FeatureSpecification
Production Years1955 – 2005 (11 generations)
PurposePersonal luxury car, grand tourer (later generations)
Body StylesVaried across generations, including two-seat roadster, four-seat coupe and convertible, and four-door sedan
Engine TypesVaried across generations, V8 being the most common
Horsepower210 hp (1st generation) – 320 hp (final generation)
TransmissionVaried across generations, including manual and automatic
DrivetrainRear-wheel drive (RWD)
Top SpeedVaried across generations, exceeding 130 mph in most
0-60 mph (0-100 km/h)Varied across generations, ranging from 8.8 seconds (later models) to over 12 seconds (early models)
ChassisBody-on-frame (early generations) to unibody construction (later generations)
SuspensionVaried across generations, evolving with technology
BrakesVaried across generations, drum brakes to disc brakes (standard in later models)

5. Aston Martin DB4

The Aston Martin DB4, made in 1958, was one of the fastest cars of its time. People couldn’t take their eyes off it wherever it went.

Aston Martin DB4

It had a really strong engine, a 240hp 3.7-liter inline six, which could make the car go faster than 140mph. It was the first car to have disc brakes on all four wheels and could go from 0 to 100mph in less than 30 seconds.

Rich people loved the DB4 as a fancy sports car. It was so popular that it paved the way for the famous James Bond car, the DB5, which many people around the world know about.

Overview:
FeatureSpecification
Production Year1958
PurposeGrand tourer
Body StyleTwo-door coupé
Engine TypeFront-mounted, inline-6 (straight-6)
Displacement3,670 cc (224 cu in)
Horsepower240 hp (177 kW) @ 5,500 rpm
Torque230 lb-ft (312 Nm) @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission4-speed manual
DrivetrainRear-wheel drive (RWD)
Top SpeedOver 140 mph (225 km/h)
0-60 mph (0-100 km/h)Approximately 6.5 seconds
ChassisTubular steel frame with aluminum body panels
SuspensionIndependent suspension with wishbones and coil springs on all four wheels
BrakesDisc brakes on all four wheels
Dry Weight1,560 kg (3,439 lbs)
Length4,572 mm (180.0 in)
Width1,699 mm (67.1 in)
Height1,302 mm (51.3 in)
Wheelbase2,670 mm (105.1 in)

6. Chevrolet Corvette

The 1953 Chevrolet Corvette is a car known worldwide for its iconic status. Even though the first generation, called the C1, might not be as recognizable to everyone, true car lovers hold it dear.

1953 Chevrolet Corvette

Many assume all Corvettes had a V8 engine, but the C1 actually ran on a straight six until 1957 when it got the V8 upgrade.

This version came with a two-speed automatic transmission, the only one Chevy had that could handle the big engine. Its lightweight fiberglass body and sleek two-seater convertible design made it quite charming.

Initially, the Corvette didn’t sell too quickly, but it started something big. Its later versions became legends, paving the way for the Corvette to become the iconic line of cars we know today.

Overview:
FeatureSpecification
Model Year1953 (Only year for the first generation)
PurposeSports car
Body StyleTwo-door convertible
Engine TypeFront-mounted, inline-6 (straight-6)
Displacement235.5 cu in (3,898 cc)
Horsepower150 hp (112 kW) @ 4,200 rpm
Torque220 lb-ft (298 Nm) @ 2,800 rpm
Transmission2-speed Powerglide automatic
DrivetrainRear-wheel drive (RWD)
Top SpeedOver 100 mph (161 km/h)
0-60 mph (0-100 km/h)Approximately 15 seconds
ChassisPerimeter frame with fiberglass body panels
SuspensionIndependent front suspension with coil springs, solid rear axle with leaf springs
BrakesDrum brakes on all four wheels
Curb Weight3,070 lbs (1,392 kg)
Length177.3 in (4,499 mm)
Width64.4 in (1,636 mm)
Height53.4 in (1,356 mm)
Wheelbase102.0 in (2,591 mm)

7. Ford F100

The Ford F100 gained legendary status for its nearly indestructible build. It holds the title of the best-selling and longest-running line of Ford trucks ever.

1952 Ford F100

Introduced in 1952, the F100 paved the way for the iconic F150, the most famous of the bunch, with over 40 million F-series trucks sold in total.

The F100 boasted power brakes, an adjustable bench seat for up to 3 people, an optional automatic transmission, and seatbelts in later models.

Under the hood, it packed either a 100hp flathead V8 or a 101hp straight-six engine, offering plenty of power for heavy-duty work.

Overview:
FeatureSpecification
Model Year1952
PurposePickup truck
Body StyleTwo-door regular cab
Engine TypeInline-6 (straight-6)
Displacement239 cu in (3.9 L)
Horsepower101 hp (75 kW) at 3,600 rpm
Torque190 lb-ft (258 Nm) at 1,800 rpm
Transmission3-speed manual
DrivetrainRear-wheel drive (RWD)
Top SpeedApproximately 65 mph (105 km/h)
0-60 mph (0-100 km/h)Approximately 20 seconds
ChassisBody-on-frame construction
SuspensionLeaf springs on both front and rear axles
BrakesDrum brakes on all four wheels
Curb WeightApproximately 3,500 lbs (1,588 kg)
Length189.5 in (4,813 mm)
Width76.5 in (1,943 mm)
Height73.5 in (1,867 mm)
Wheelbase116 in (2,946 mm)

8. BMC Mini

The iconic BMC Mini made its debut in 1959, changing the game for everyday cars. Many consider it the most revolutionary car ever, and it’s easy to see why.

1959 BMC Mini

The Mini wasn’t just about being small—it also offered a surprising amount of space for the driver, along with incredible handling and racing abilities. It excelled in both circuit racing and rallies worldwide.

With over 5 million units rolling off the production line over the years, its success truly speaks for itself.

Overview:
FeatureSpecification
Model Year1959
ManufacturerBritish Motor Corporation (BMC)
PurposeSmall, economical car
Body StyleTwo-door saloon (sedan)
Engine TypeTransversely mounted, inline-4 (four-cylinder)
Displacement848 cc (51.8 cu in)
Horsepower34 hp (25 kW)
Transmission4-speed manual
DrivetrainFront-wheel drive (FWD)
Top SpeedApproximately 75 mph (121 km/h)
0-60 mph (0-100 km/h)Approximately 30 seconds
Fuel EconomyOver 40 mpg (UK gallons)
ChassisMonocoque construction
SuspensionIndependent suspension on all four wheels
BrakesDrum brakes on all four wheels
Curb WeightApproximately 8 cwt (840 lbs, 381 kg)
Length9 ft 9.8 in (2,991 mm)
Width4 ft 6.6 in (1,387 mm)
Height4 ft 7.8 in (1,417 mm)
Wheelbase6 ft 8 in (2,032 mm)

9. Cadillac Eldorado

In 1957, Cadillac introduced the Eldorado, one of its most costly cars at the time. With its long body, pointed Dagmar bumpers, shiny chrome details, tailfins, and white wall tires, the Eldorado was a stunning sight.

Cadillac Eldorado

Complementing its luxurious exterior and interior was a robust 300hp engine. This combination made it an instant favorite among buyers, giving Cadillac the success it was looking for in the market.

Overview:
FeatureSpecification
Model Year1957
PurposeLuxury car
Body StyleTwo-door hardtop coupe
Engine TypeV8
Displacement365 cu in (5,997 cc)
Horsepower325 hp (242 kW)
Transmission2-speed Hydra-Matic automatic
DrivetrainRear-wheel drive (RWD)
Top SpeedOver 130 mph (209 km/h)
0-60 mph (0-60 km/h)Approximately 10 seconds
Fuel EconomyApproximately 10-12 mpg (city/highway)
ChassisPerimeter frame with steel body panels
SuspensionCoil spring suspension on all four wheels
BrakesDrum brakes on all four wheels
Length223.7 in (5,682 mm)
Width79.8 in (2,027 mm)
Height63.5 in (1,613 mm)
Wheelbase130 in (3,302 mm)

10. Jaguar XK140 

The 1955 Jaguar XK140 improved upon the already successful XK120, becoming one of the best sports cars of its time. It excelled in every aspect, serving as the foundation and inspiration for the future E-Type.

Jaguar XK140 

Designed as a GT model, the XK140 was perfect for long-distance cruising, a feature that perfectly suited the era of the 1950s.

Overview:
FeatureSpecification
Production Years1955 – 1957
PurposeGrand tourer
Body StylesTwo-door coupe and two-door roadster (convertible)
Engine TypeInline-6 (straight-6)
Displacement3,442 cc (210 cu in)
Horsepower190 hp (142 kW) @ 5,500 rpm
Torque220 lb-ft (298 Nm) @ 3,500 rpm
Transmission4-speed manual
DrivetrainRear-wheel drive (RWD)
Top SpeedOver 120 mph (193 km/h)
0-60 mph (0-100 km/h)Approximately 8 seconds
ChassisSteel platform with aluminum body panels
SuspensionIndependent front suspension with wishbones and coil springs, live axle rear suspension with leaf springs
BrakesDisc brakes on the front wheels, drum brakes on the rear wheels
Curb WeightApproximately 3,300 lbs (1,500 kg)
Length167.5 in (4,254 mm)
Width65.0 in (1,651 mm)
Height57.0 in (1,448 mm)
Wheelbase98 in (2,489 mm)

11. Cadillac Coupe de Ville

The 1959 Cadillac Coupe de Ville is a real gem in the world of cars, boasting one of the most stunning designs ever created. Its striking features included oversized tailfins and sharp stoplights, sleek curves, a large steering wheel, shiny chrome bumpers, and stylish white wall tires.

1959 Cadillac Coupe de Ville

This car became the favorite of music legends like John Lennon and Elvis Presley, adding to its popularity.

Underneath its stylish exterior, it packed a powerful punch with a 325hp 6.4-liter V8 engine, giving drivers plenty of power to enjoy.

Overview:
FeatureSpecification
Model Year1959
PurposeLuxury car
Body StyleTwo-door hardtop coupe
Engine TypeV8
Displacement365 cu in (5,997 cc) or 390 cu in (6,393 cc)
Horsepower325 hp (242 kW) or 340 hp (254 kW)
Transmission2-speed Hydra-Matic automatic
DrivetrainRear-wheel drive (RWD)
Top SpeedOver 130 mph (209 km/h)
0-60 mph (0-60 km/h)Approximately 10 seconds
Fuel EconomyApproximately 10-12 mpg (city/highway)
ChassisPerimeter frame with steel body panels
SuspensionCoil spring suspension on all four wheels
BrakesDrum brakes on all four wheels
Length223.7 in (5,682 mm)
Width79.8 in (2,027 mm)
Height63.5 in (1,613 mm)
Wheelbase130 in (3,302 mm)

12. Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud

The 1955 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud was one of the top cars of its time, with its unique look and better performance. It had that classic British style, big and luxurious, but updated for the modern era.

1955 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud

Inside, it had air conditioning and comfy leather seats. For power, you could choose between a 4.9-liter straight-six or a strong 6.2-liter V8 that could go over 100mph.

Overall, the Silver Cloud was Rolls-Royce’s first big design after the war, making it a very important model for them.

Overview:
FeatureSpecification
Model Year1955
PurposeLuxury car
Body Styles
* Standard steel body by Rolls-Royce (most common)
* Custom coachwork by various coachbuilders (rare)
Engine TypeInline-6 (straight-6)
Displacement4,887 cc (298 cu in)
HorsepowerNot officially stated by Rolls-Royce, estimated to be around 155 hp (116 kW)
TorqueNot officially stated
Transmission4-speed GM Hydramatic automatic
DrivetrainRear-wheel drive (RWD)
Top SpeedApproximately 100 mph (161 km/h)
0-60 mph (0-100 km/h)Approximately 13.5 seconds
Fuel EconomyApproximately 14.5 mpg (UK gallons)
ChassisBox-steel chassis
SuspensionIndependent front suspension, live rear axle with leaf springs
BrakesDrum brakes on all four wheels
Length19 ft 3.5 in (5,880 mm)
Width6 ft 6.5 in (1,994 mm)
Height5 ft 6.5 in (1,692 mm)
Wheelbase9 ft 10 in (2,997 mm) or 10 ft 4 in (3,150 mm)

13. Aston Martin DBR1

The Aston Martin DBR1, driven by legends like Stirling Moss, Jim Clark, or Carroll Shelby, completely changed the game for racing cars in both looks and performance.

1956 Aston Martin DBR1

This beauty hit the tracks in 1956, and it was a showstopper. It raced at the 24 Hours of Le Mans four times and triumphed at the Nürburgring 1,000km race in 1958.

At its core was a groundbreaking inline-six engine that propelled the DBR1 to a top speed of 155mph, delivering an impressive 254hp. It was truly a marvel of the automotive world.

The specific DBR1 mentioned was sold at an auction by RM Sotheby’s during the 2017 Monterey Car Week for an incredible $22.5 million.

Overview:
FeatureSpecification
Model Year1956
PurposeSports racing car
Body StyleTwo-door open-cockpit sports car
Engine TypeInline-6 (straight-6)
Displacement2,493 cc (2.5 L)
Horsepower180 hp (134 kW) @ 5,500 rpm
Torque160 lb-ft (217 Nm) @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission5-speed manual
DrivetrainRear-wheel drive (RWD)
Top SpeedOver 150 mph (241 km/h)
0-60 mph (0-100 km/h)Approximately 7 seconds
ChassisTubular steel frame with aluminum body panels
SuspensionIndependent front suspension with double wishbones and coil springs, live rear axle with leaf springs
BrakesDisc brakes on all four wheels
Curb WeightApproximately 1,764 lbs (800 kg)
Length15 ft 7 in (4,747 mm)
Width6 ft 0 in (1,829 mm)
Height3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)
Wheelbase8 ft 7 in (2,616 mm)

14. Buick Skylark

The 1950 Buick Skylark played a crucial role in shaping the American automotive landscape, setting a high standard for all carmakers to follow.

1950 Buick Skylark

It became a symbol of American excellence, reflecting the aspirations of the upper class and the widespread optimism of the post-World War II era.

This exceptional Skylark was among the most influential cars of the 1950s, a pinnacle of car design, elegance, and luxurious interiors.

It boasted a powerful 5.3-liter V8 engine, sumptuous leather upholstery, and even an electric roof. The Buick Skylark truly embodied the American dream of that time.

Overview:
FeatureSpecification
Model Year1956
PurposeSports racing car
Body StyleTwo-door open-cockpit sports car
Engine TypeInline-6 (straight-6)
Displacement2,493 cc (2.5 L)
Horsepower180 hp (134 kW) @ 5,500 rpm
Torque160 lb-ft (217 Nm) @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission5-speed manual
DrivetrainRear-wheel drive (RWD)
Top SpeedOver 150 mph (241 km/h)
0-60 mph (0-100 km/h)Approximately 7 seconds
ChassisTubular steel frame with aluminum body panels
SuspensionIndependent front suspension with double wishbones and coil springs, live rear axle with leaf springs
BrakesDisc brakes on all four wheels
Curb WeightApproximately 1,764 lbs (800 kg)
Length15 ft 7 in (4,747 mm)
Width6 ft 0 in (1,829 mm)
Height3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)
Wheelbase8 ft 7 in (2,616 mm)

15. Chrysler Plymouth Fury

The 1956 Chrysler Plymouth Fury was a car that put more emphasis on style than practicality, which made it stand out as something truly unique. Despite this, people fell in love with it, and Chrysler made sure to deliver.

1956 Chrysler Plymouth Fury

The Fury was all about style and flashiness, with its stunning tailfins and elegant lines. It emerged as one of the most distinct and memorable cars of the 1950s.

Overview:
FeatureSpecification
Model Year1956
BrandPlymouth
PurposeUpscale car
Body StyleTwo-door hardtop coupe
Engine TypeV8
Displacement303 cu in (5.0 L)
Horsepower240 hp (177 kW)
TorqueNot officially stated
Transmission2-speed PowerFlite automatic
DrivetrainRear-wheel drive (RWD)
Top SpeedOver 100 mph (161 km/h)
0-60 mph (0-100 km/h)Approximately 10 seconds
Fuel EconomyApproximately 15 mpg (city/highway)
ChassisUnit-body construction
SuspensionCoil spring suspension on all four wheels
BrakesDrum brakes on all four wheels
Length208.3 in (5,303 mm)
Width76.3 in (1,940 mm)
Height63.4 in (1,610 mm)
Wheelbase120.0 in (3,048 mm)

In summary, the top 15 rare vintage cars of the 1950s represent a unique blend of style, innovation, and craftsmanship. These iconic vehicles from a bygone era continue to fascinate car enthusiasts with their timeless beauty and historical significance.

Each car tells a story of automotive excellence and design ingenuity, capturing the essence of a remarkable period in motoring history. Whether it’s the classic elegance of the Cadillac Eldorado or the sporty sophistication of the Porsche 356, these rare gems from the 1950s stand as enduring symbols of automotive artistry and cultural heritage.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments