Put The Top Down: 1950s

My ultimate dream car is a 1955 Chevy convertible in two-tone, preferably green and white (but who am I kidding, any color would do) with white wall tires. The big, yet skinny steering wheel, the push button radio, the hood ornament, the headlights, the tail fins, the cavernous front seat. . . I’m getting misty-eyed just thinking about it. Yes, I know, they’re not exactly “road friendly” but I suppose some updates to it would do the trick, because I would drive this – everywhere. I would eagerly take this car over any other car that could be offered to me. Of course, I just have to dream about, and drool at seeing, classic cars when I get the chance, because I think the chance of me ever having one is slight to non-existent.

1953 Woody at California Cruisin’ at San Diego County Fair 2011

In general, though, I love classic cars. They are nostalgic and just, look cool. Modern cars have nothing on the cars of the past (in my opinion). I understand the design of most new cars, they’re aerodynamic, they’re about fuel efficiency (some anyway), and try and embody “future aesthetics.” While automakers are trying to make the cars sleek and new and more futuristic, they just end up seeming dull. There seems to be very little personality in cars today (I think this trend seems to have started in the 1980s).

A gem that sits on the street my friend lives on.

The 1950s were a decade for cars to be extravagant and fun. It was a time for indulgence after the rationed 1940s (though their cars were divine too) and after coming out of World War II. It’s no wonder they seemed to go all out and enjoy the designing of cars.

1951 Chevy Fleetline at California Cruisin’ at San Diego County Fair 2011

The 50s were prosperous and therefore quite decadent. Air travel was a blossoming commercial business and started to fascinate the population. Cars began to take on this fascination. The tail fins and side chrome are reflections of an airplane. These cars were the promise that every day while driving, you too, could have some of the excitement and speed of streaking across the sky in a jet, only in your very own car.

1959 Impala at California Cruisin’ at San Diego County Fair 2011

These cars definitely have personality. Some may also call them “boats,” but that’s part of why I love them. They are big, they are ornate, and they saunter through the streets saying, “Here I come, please step aside.” They have an air of cool about them. Though they are very noticeable they don’t seem to come across as too flashy or desperate, but confident and fun.

A 1957 Chevy that was parked next to my car one night coming out of a restaurant.

1957 Chevy at California Cruisin’ at San Diego County Fair 2011

And while they may not smoothly glide down the road like a new car, nor are they probably the safest vehicles, I can’t imagine how much fun they must be to drive. I see many classic cars cruising down the 101 where I live, and have a hard time not swerving into other cars because I’m mesmerized by these beauties. I don’t even try to hide my wide-eyed envy, but fully take in every curve, glimmer, and angle of the cars. I’ve never had the chance to ride in a classic car, but wonder if the owners I see in my area would think I was weird if I asked for a ride. They probably get asked that a lot, right?

1957 Ford T-bird at California Cruisin at San Diego County Fair 2011

I can picture myself, with the top down, a scarf over my hair, sunglasses on, wearing a full skirt dress, and driving gloves leisurely gripped on the enormous steering wheel while lazily making my way down the coast with the pelicans making pace in the air above the car. “Rockin’ Robin” would drift out from the car while the ocean breeze caressed my face and the interior of the car and while the sun warmed the seat and reflected off of the chrome. . .


Anyone else have a classic dream car? Own a classic car? Or just have an interesting story about one?

8 thoughts on “Put The Top Down: 1950s

  1. The 50’s were special, when it came to cars. You could tell what year most of the cars were back then, since each car had its own distinct look. Most of the cars today, basically look the same, with the box car look.

    The 1957 Thunderbird shown in your article was always my dream car. I will never forget the Edsel, although it was only manufactured for three years, The distinctive middle of the grill was what set it apart for me.

    Thank you for bringing back some great memories of car in the 50’s.


    • You’re absolutely right, cars today pretty much look the same. Models stay the same for several years in a row, and when they do change them up, they are usually slight tweaks. And if you took the emblem off cars, most would be hard to differentiate between. The Edsel had a very cool grill!


  2. I LOVE classic cars. They are made to withstand life which is how I want to be as a person! LOL My first love was when I was a kid in the ’80s and saw my first 1967 SS Camaro in the movie Better Off Dead with John Cusack. When they fix it up and roll that thing out of the garage my heart swoons! That is my official dream car. I’m a sucker for muscle cars.


  3. Oh yeah!!! Cars used to be about people. We had love affairs with cars. We used to lean over the fence and take time to talk. And if I can be so bold, we used to “know” out neighbors. Life was people oriented. Now-a-days it’s about things. My dad once took a Speedball writing course. He wanted to improve his writing. Where did this get her done attitude come from? How many fish have you heard of that spend their lives trying to get to the shore. They swim in their environment. We need to do the same. We need to enjoy every facet of the life God had given us. We need to be as individual as the cars we once drove. We need to celebrate our differences. Remember the throb of a muscle car? Individuality trumps efficiency.


  4. I completely agree with the overall sentiments here. Not many cars over the last 30 years have had much in the way of character.

    But (unless I’m misunderstanding what you mean by efficiency) I disagree that efficiency requires conformity or that conformity results in efficiency. For example, take the SUV craze of the 90’s that resulted in the blandest, ugliest, most uninteresting, and most inefficient things ever. Then check out the Tesla Roadster.

    But the association lingers for several reasons, the first being the complete break efficiency was from how cars were made and sold. Cars weren’t sold as transportation. Cars were sold as macho symbols, extensions of the “male ego”. Vroom! Practicality was a foreign concept that Detroit still handles poorly. They just can’t do both at the same time and they got worse at it, not better. (See: minivans replacing station wagons)

    Timing is perhaps the biggest reason. Like Hollywood, Detroit got lazy and ran out of ideas somewhere in the 80’s, just when fuel efficiency finally hit the radar screen. Sequels, remakes, copycats and ripoffs became the norm. Most things coming out of both Detroit & Hollywood today reek of cynical and manipulative cash-grabs. “Crank out crap, and the suckers will line up as long as you sell it hard enough.”

    Just like with buildings, entertainment and everything else, the artistic side has been dispatched in favour of crass commerce and utilitarianism. Cars have been victims too. They’ve become all about the technology and neglected the design. They are as cold, unfriendly and as impersonal as everything else is these days.


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