It’s hard to imagine these days, but at the beginning of 1942, the United States ended all consumer automobile production. The factories that had, just weeks earlier, been cranking out sedans and convertibles were quickly converted to wartime makers of bombs and guns. Once the Allies won World War II, car companies immediately retooled again, reinventing their vehicles to satisfy Americans’ new tastes and booming wealth. This quiz is where the rubber meets the road — how much do you really know about the cars of the 1950s?
It’s been the better part of a century since the '50s and, back then, cars were very different creatures. They were mostly big, heavy, gas-guzzling contraptions loaded with chrome and wild fixtures like broad tails, big lights and aggressive lines that still seem futuristic in many ways. Do you remember the flashiest and most expensive cars of this decade?
Hot rodders modified many ‘50s cars to make them faster and louder than anything Detroit ever mass produced. Do you recall some of the era’s most powerful beasts?
Ford and Chevy competed to become America’s top manufacturer. Cadillac fussed over high-end details. The Chrysler New Yorker and Buick Super were fantastic cars. And forgotten companies like Edsel and Studebaker were still on the road, their fates uncertain.
Try not to crash and burn as you veer towards the on-ramp of this ‘50s car quiz now!
In 1957, Chevy unleashed what became its most iconic model — the '57 Chevy. It is easily one of the most recognizable cars of the 20th century, featured in movies, commercials and a whole lot more.
From 1940 to 1958, the Buick Super was popular on America's highways. Unlike the angular designs that many cars of the day had, the Super was curvier, sometimes with a slanted backside that made it look faster.
1959 was the first year of Cadillac's famed DeVille. These big luxury cars were made until 2005.
The first generation of the Buick LeSabre was introduced in 1959 and lasted for just a year. The second-gen version of this full-size car was rolled out in 1961 and lasted until its eighth generation in 2005.
In 1957, Chrysler began equipping some of its cars — like the big New Yorker — with the TorqueFlite three-speed automatic transmission. The car also boasted a massive 325 hp engine.
It's still one of the mid-20th century's best-known cars — the Oldsmobile 98. It was one of the brand's most important models, a top-of-the-line car with all the trimmings.
In 1950, GM began equipping many of its cars with the Powerglide, a two-speed automatic transmission. The Powerglide was the industry's first affordable automatic transmission for consumer cars.
From 1929 to 1961, Chrysler made its popular DeSoto cars, including the Firedome, Fireflite and Firesweep models. DeSoto cars were eventually discontinued when Chrysler faced financial troubles in the '60s.
The Mustang sparked the muscle car revolution of the 1960s. The first generation didn't roll off production lines until 1964.
Ford scored a hit with its big Thunderbird, marketing it as a "personal car," rather than a "sports car."
Introduced in 1955, the Chevrolet Nomad was a station wagon produced intermittently from '55 to '72. The best-known version of the big car, the Tri-Five, had just two doors.
In 1955, Chevy began offering its now-legendary small-block V8 engine. The high-performance version of this V8 was the 283, aka the "Super Turbo Fire V8," a favorite of hot rodders.
Cadillac made its luxurious Series 62 from 1940 until 1964. Late '50s versions got noticeably sleeker and lower, and they had prominent window reveal molding that made the cars look like they had protruding foreheads.
Named for Henry Ford's son, Ford began making Edsel-branded cars in 1958. The cars' strange styling immediately turned off reviewers and wound up costing the company heaps of money.
In the 1950s, the Hudson Hornet was known for its low center of gravity, which made it very good for racing.
Made from '50 to '81, the premium Bel Air models were equipped with all the extras, loaded to meet the demands of people who wanted a fancy Chevy.
When it debuted in '59, the Buick Electra had funky tail wings at a 45-degree angle. When paired with its recessed tail lights, it looked a lot like a very angry metal giant from the rear.
In the mid-'50s, the Chevrolet 150 was an economy variant meant for fleets. As such, GM didn't spend much time advertising it to the mass market.
The 1959 Cadillac Coupe de Ville had crazy-huge tail wings. The wings had big, protruding tail lights for a racy effect.
In the 1950s, Chevy was tops in sales with more than 13 million cars sold. Ford was nearly neck-and-neck with Chevy, with nearly 12.3 million sold and Plymouth came in third with 5.6 million.
Chevy's Blue Flame Six was essentially an interim engine, one meant to hold the line while Chevy made a new small-block masterpiece. The Blue Flames wound up in many Corvettes, and the very first ones topped out at 150 hp.
At a time when cars seemed to get bigger and bigger each year, the Nash Metropolitan was a contrarian. Designed as "the family's second vehicle," the compact car was made from '53 to '61.
Edsel sold its Pacer in 1958 … and only 1958. All of the Edsels were total flops, and the Pacer was no exception, even when equipped with a big V8 engine that generated more than 300 hp.
The Chrysler Saratoga got its start in 1939, and it was made intermittently until 1960. Late in its run, it was positioned between the company's Windsor and the top-end New Yorker.
Based in Ohio, Crosley started making subcompact cars in the late 1930s, and maintained production until the early '50s. Some of the cars were so small they could be mistaken for golf carts.
In '52, GM equipped many of its cars with the Autronic Eye. It had a light-sensing phototube that automatically dimmed the vehicle's high beams in response to oncoming traffic.
The Series III featured an elegant chrome woman as its hood ornament. It was easily one of the flashiest hood ornaments of the decade.
The Buick Roadmaster Skylark was no ordinary Buick — it was a decked-out convertible. It had a Nailhead V8 engine and came fully loaded … a fact reflected by its very high price.
The BMW 507, made from '56 to '59, was a snappy roadster. Originally intended for mass production in the U.S., it became an exorbitantly expensive project — one that BMW ended after making fewer than 300 cars.
In 1958, Chrysler began cranking out its B and RB big-block engines. These big engines range from 5.7 L versions to 7.2 L monsters.