Q: What was the best year for collector cars of the 1950s? If you had to choose one year from the decade of the 1950s as the best overall for cars, what year would it be? Gail M., email from Endicott, NY.
A: If we’re talking about overall design, I’d select 1957 as the very best year for collector cars, as all of the big three and the independents had some great looking cars.
Off the top of my head, the 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawks were gorgeous, although the design appeared in 1956. But in 1957, Studebaker made some impressive hood design changes to adapt to a new Supercharger version, which produced 275 horses from the powerful V8. Today, this car is still one of the very best from 1957, and was commemorated by the USPS with a special stamp in 2008.
Other independents that had great cars were Rambler, as its 1957 Rambler Rebel was the first “unofficial” muscle car sleeper thanks to a powerful 327 V8 under the hood. This engine motivated the car to unheard of performance for a “family sedan.”
GM had some great looking cars, especially the 1957 Chevy Bel Air, available with fuel injection, and the 1957 Pontiac Bonneville with a Tri-Power 347 inch V8 with 317 horses. Joining the GM group were the always good looking Buicks, Cadillacs, Corvettes and Oldsmobiles .
Over Chrysler way, the 1957 Chrysler 300 and Desoto Firedome with Hemi motivation are still highly regarded collector car favorites, as are the 1957 Imperial and the 1957 Dodge Royal Lancer. Plymouth also cashed in, especially with its beautiful 1957 Plymouth Fury, which was “christened” as “Christine” in the hit movie of the 1980s. The movie was directed by “Halloween” director and horror master John Carpenter and written by the highly accomplished horror/suspense author Steven King.
The 1957 Fords featured its last two-seater Thunderbird, and the powerful 1957 Ford Custom and T-Bird Supercharged versions for NASCAR. I always felt the 1957 Ford Fairlane was one of the best looking cars for ‘57, with smaller fins and well done front end treatment. The 1957 Mercurys, however, weren‘t as nice as the Fords, although the 1957 Lincoln Continental Mark II and the regular full-size Lincolns made up for Mercury’s “profoundly chromed” and heavy looking front end.
Thus, I’d have to go with 1957 as the year of the best designs of the decade. Also noteworthy were the 1957 station wagons, as they were also good looking and very popular with families.