In Europe 1950s imported cars were undergoing a less radical change, the Jet age did not manage to whip the European public into quite such a frenzy.
The Volkswagen Microbus, which debuted in 1950, became a favorite of hippies for its unique styling and plenty of space for travelers.
Well known 1950s cars such as the Aston Martin DB4, above and Jaguar XK120, below, were produced in England.
1954 Jaguar XK120
In 1949 the first customer car, chassis number 670003,
was delivered to Clark Gable. The "120" in its name referred to its 120
mph top speed, which made the XK120 the world's fastest standard
production car at the time of its launch, and one of the best 1950s imported cars.
The Aston Martin DB4's unique design and performance would later form the basis for future Aston Martin classics, such as the DB4 GT Zagato, the Lagonda Rapide 4-door saloon, and its ultimate replacement the Aston Martin DB5, James Bond's favorite car.
Italy was responsible for bringing the Ferrari 250 GT SWB on the scene, and Germany built the Mercedes-Benz 300 Gullwing, Porsche 356 A and BMW 507.
This is just a small selection of 1950s foreign autos in Europe at the time, however they show this decades contribution to car design aptly, all the 1950s imported cars mentioned have things in common, they are all grandfathers of well known cars today, they all show gorgeous rounded, clean lines popular throughout vehicles of this era, and this trend was to continue and become more refined into the next decade. They were excellent manufacturers of 1950s imported cars.
Mercedes-Benz 300 Gullwing More than 1100 of the vehicle's total production of approximately 1400 units were sold in the US, making the Gull wing the first Mercedes-Benz which sold in bulk outside its home market and credited for changing the company's image in America from a manufacturer of solid, but staid, cars to that of a producer of sporty automobiles.
Porsche 356 A
This is all due to Jaguar car's popularity in the US. Road & Track and Popular Mechanics magazines in which readers selected Jaguar as the world's most popular sports car, with Porsche
a distant second in both polls had made the Jaguar marquee a household word in
the automotive industry and one of the most popular makers of fifties car imports.
The 300SL was best known for both its distinctive gullwing or butterfly wing doors and for being the first-ever gasoline-powered car equipped with fuel injection directly into the combustion chamber. The gullwing version was available from March 1955 to 1957. American well-heeled buyers couldn't get enough of these 1950s imported cars.
More widely produced (25,881 units) and starting a year later was the similar looking 190SL with a 110hp 4cyl engine, available only as roadster (or with an additional hardtop, as Coupe Roadster). Production for both the 190SL and 300SL ended in 1963 when the 230SL was introduced.
A street version of the 300SL would be a commercial success, especially in the US hungry for sporty 1950s foreign automobiles. Built completely with steel except for the aluminum bonnet (hood), doors and boot (trunk), the 300SL could have been ordered with an all-aluminum outer skin, saving 80 kg (176 lb), but at tremendous added cost.
First with fuel injection was the 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster.
1956 Mercedes 300SL Coup
In Mercedes-Benz fashion, the "300" referred to the engine's cylinder displacement, in this case, three liters. The "SL", as applied to a roadster, stood for "Sport Leicht" or "Sport Light."
But low weight and low aerodynamic drag made the 300SL fast enough to be a challenger. Superior reliability made it a winner among 1950s imported cars.
Today, the 300SL with its unique doors and technological firsts is considered one of the most collectible Mercedes-Benz models of all time, with prices reaching well past the US$400,000 mark. In addition, Sports Car International magazine ranked the 300SL as the number 5 sports car of all time. Great 1950s imported cars.
The Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren is inspired by these 1950s automobiles.
More makers of 1950s imported cars
The Ferrari 375 MM racer of the 1950s wasn't a world apart from Ferrari road cars. After that, the all-out performance demanded by competition and the veneer of civility required by Ferrari’s wealthy non-racing customers sent his road cars along their own route.
Ferrari 340 MM
A 50s Toyota Land Cruiser which was based on the US Jeep.
From the beginning, the idea was that this car would only be exported. A convertible was not regarded as wholly suitable for the Swedish climate. However, in spite of this, most of the 1950s cars were sold on the Swedish domestic market.
The car was based on standard components, mainly from the Volvo PV444, but it was built on a separate tubular frame. The engine was a developed version of the 4-cylinder, 1.4-litre engine from the PV444. Using twin carburetors, a different camshaft, larger intake valves and higher compression, this engine developed 70 bhp.
Volvo P1900 Demand was low, and the build quality was not up to Volvo standards for these 1950s imported cars.
The 1955 BMW Isetta 300 was the world's first mass-production 3-Litres/100km car. It was the top-selling single-cylinder car in the world, with 161,728 units sold. It was a small car that used the scooter and named it Isetta—an Italian diminutive meaning little. Renzo Rivolta who built the small car, licensed Isetta to BMW and to companies in France and Brazil.
1950s BMW 700
The BMW 700 completely shed the bubble car look, was reasonably priced with distinctive styling, not weird unlike the Isetta.
1956-1959 BMW 507
BMW 507 is a roadster that was produced by BMW from 1956 to 1959. It ended up being too expensive, resulting in a total production figure of 252 cars and heavy losses for BMW.
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