Test Your Knowledge of ’50s Cars!



By: Robin Tyler

6 Min Quiz

Image: Jsheets19 / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

The '50s were a decade of change in the world of motoring. At the start of the decade, most servicemen who served in World War II were now settling down, marrying, buying a house and starting their families.

Cars, too, underwent radical changes. If you think of the 1950s, you probably think pointy tailfins and chrome, lots of chrome and yes, when it came to American cars, there was a lot of that. European cars, however, still kept their distinct style while remaining much smaller than their American counterparts.

Saleswise, the 1950s saw booming figures, until 1958 that is. And it was those old traditional rivals, Ford and Chevrolet, smashing it out for the honor of best brand of the decade. Smaller motoring companies, however, were not so lucky and many independent producers disappeared or were forced to merge. 

It was also a time of innovation. Cars now had extra options that could be installed, but sometimes only on luxury models. In some cases, although these had been devised in the 1940s, it was only the 1950s that they were implemented properly.

So, put on your coolest shades, slick your hair back and let's see just how much you know about this fascinating decade of motoring.

Good luck!

The Corvette was first introduced in the 1950s. Who manufactured it?

The Corvette name is loved around the world. From its inception in 1953, the Corvette brand has been the jewel in the Chevrolet crown. Of course, everyone has their favorite Corvette with many citing the C1 and the C2 Stingray as personal preferences.


Of these options, which would British royalty choose to drive in the 1950s?

The bulk of the Rolls-Royce models sold from the mid-'50s to mid-'60s were the Silver Cloud model - 7,322 in all. During those 11 years, three generations were produced all available as either a 4-door saloon, 2-door coupe or 2-door convertible.


The merger of Hudson with Nash-Kelvinator Corporation led to which auto manufacturer?

Amounting to $200 million, this was a big corporate merger for the time, yet the American Motor Corporation never threatened the stranglehold of Ford, Chevrolet or Chrysler and was eventually shut down in 1987.


Ford, Chevrolet and Chrysler dominated car sales in the 1950s. What percentage of automobile sales in 1955 was one of these models?

Incredibly, 94% of all vehicle sales in the United States in 1955 were either a Ford, Chevy or Chrysler. And to prove their dominance, they did exactly the same in 1956 and 1959.


Although the start of the decade was kind to this independent American car maker, things went downhill from there.

Studebaker was an independent car maker in the United States. In 1950, they sold over 300,000 vehicles but sadly, numbers dropped from then onward.


Which of these WAS an American car maker during the 1950s?

Willys is best known for contributing the Jeep to the world of motoring. It started out as a military vehicle, but such was its success that it quickly translated into a civilian model which became popular in the 1950s.


1957 saw the popularity of a certain body type increase. Of these below, which do you think it is?

Many new types of body types started appearing in the 1950s. In the beginning of the decade, cars with hardtops were popular, but in 1957 the station wagon started coming to the fore as families opted for this as their preferred mode of transportation.


Which car dominated the early years of NASCAR in the 1950s?

Early NASCAR racing saw drivers using stock vehicles, hence the term stock car. The Hudson Hornet was so dominant that if you were not driving one, you didn't stand a chance of a NASCAR win, no matter how talented a driver you were.


Of these vehicle models, which was made by Dodge?

Produced between 1948 and 1953, the B Series was a pickup truck available as either a 1/2 ton or 3/4 ton option.


Can you tell us who introduced the Impala to the world in the 1950s?

The Impala brand has been used by Chevrolet since the 1950s. The first generation, released in 1958, sports that classic '50s look. It was available as a 2-door hardtop or convertible.


A German manufacturer introduced gull-wing doors on one of its models in the 1950s. What was it?

A true classic from the '50s, the 300 SL started life as a racing car in 1952 but soon became a production car in 1954 as a two-door coupe. The 300 SL became instantly recognizable thanks to its gull-wing doors. Just over 3,200 of the coupe and roadster were built up until 1963.


From the options below, name a classic truck from the 1950s.

Along with the F-150, the Task Force was the quintessential pickup in the 1950s. With its incredible lines, this body shape is still in demand to this day. Power plant options including a 3.9-liter straight six as well as a 4.6-liter V8.


Due to a massive drop in sales, who did Studebaker merge with 1954?

Despite selling over 300,000 units in 1950, Studebaker was in financial trouble. A merger with Packard saw a new company the Studebaker-Packard Corporation with models still sold under the Studebaker name.


The decade of the '50s started with record vehicles sales for the first year. How many cars were sold?

It was five years after the World World II and vehicles sales were now booming as most servicemen returning from the war had settled back into society, had jobs and bought homes. In fact, 1950 saw a second consecutive sales record in a row.


True or false? In 1957, the United States imported more cars than it exported.

For first time in history, 1957 saw the United States importing more cars than it exported. This was an indicator of trends to come.


Recently, one of these sought-after Italian sports cars sold for $5 million at auction. Can you guess which of these vehicles it is?

This classic Ferrari from the 1950s is still in demand today. Powered by a 3.0-liter V12, a Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider sold for $5.74 million at auction in 2012.


In 1958, what percentage of cars were automatic transmission in the United States?

That's right, in 1958, 80% of all cars sold were with an automatic transmission. And to this day, not much has changed. Americans just prefer an automatic.


Do you know out of Ford, Chevy or Chrysler, which brand sold the most cars during the 1950s?

Over the decade, Chevrolet sold 13,419,048 cars! They were pushed all the way by their great rival, Ford, however, which managed to sell 12,282,492 vehicles.


Which of these innovations became popular in American cars in the 1950s?

Packard were the first manufacturer to devise the power window as far back as the 1940s. By the 1950s, however, these were becoming an option on many cars.


Of the list below, which was the first independent manufacturer to introduce V8 engine options on its vehicles?

Studebaker sold over 300,000 vehicles in 1950 alone, and in the decade of the 1950s, it sold 1.2 million units. Studebaker produces a low cost 232.6 cubic inch overhead valve V8 engine, making it the first independent manufacturer to do so.


After the success of a military vehicle during World War II, a civilian version appeared in the 1950s. Name it from the options below, please.

Willys was responsible for the original Jeep vehicles used by the U.S. military during World War II. The Overland Jeepster was the company's attempt to enter the commercial vehicle market after the war. It was produced from 1948 to 1950. Over 20,000 were built.


Which European car maker introduced the 3-point safety belt system as we know it today?

Although safety belts had been an option on some makes of cars before 1959, it was Volvo which introduced the three-point system as we know it today. And the carmaker never patented the idea, which allowed other manufacturers to use it as well.


Of the options below, which was a pickup truck that used parts from other cars made by the same manufacturer? It even had pointy tailfins!

Built in the late '50s, the Sweptside was marketed as the truck of the future. In reality, Dodge truck sales were insignificant and the Sweptside actually used car parts from other Dodge models. In fact, the Sweptside even featured pointed tailfins, so popular at the time. Although it was certainly different, the Sweptside never made a dent in the pickup market and was shelved in 1959.


Can you us which of these options would have been a vehicle that would have operated as a limo?

This four-door limousine was manufactured by Rolls-Royce from 1959 to 1968. In total, 516 were made, all powered by a 6.2-liter Rolls-Royce V8 engine.


In terms of vehicle sales, what was the third most popular brand in the United States in the 1950s?

Although its sales figures were never in the double digit millions like Chevrolet and Ford, Packard did manage to sell close to 6 million units in the 1950s.


Buick introduced which model in 1953?

The Buick Skylark was first introduced in 1953. From humble beginnings, it went on to become a sought-after muscle car of the 1970s. The 1953 was a beautiful 2-door convertible.


Elvis Presley owned two examples of this German convertible. Do you know what it is?

Only 252 units of the 507 convertible were built by BMW between 1956 and 1959. Elvis Presley owned two 507s, which he bought in Germany while stationed there with the U.S. Army.


From this list, identify the British sports car that proved popular, so much so that many were exported.

Available as a two-door roadster or coupe, the MGA was extremely popular outside Britain with over 95% of the over 100,000 built exported. Over its production that ran from 1955 to 1962, six distinct models were available including a Twin Cam version powered by a 1.6-liter engine.


Which vehicle manufacturer was responsible for the a car model simply called the 501?

The beautiful BMW 501, a mid-sized luxury car designed by Peter Schimanowski, was marketed by the Bavarian auto manufacturer from 1952 to 1962. It was available in three body styles - 4-door sedan, 2-door cabriolet and 2-door coupe. Top-of-the-range models were driving by a 2.5-liter V8 engine.


The Edsel was released in the late 1950s. It proved to be a massive flop, costing which company up to $2 million?

Named after Henry Ford's son, the Edsel was a massive flop and only sold between 1958 and 1960. It's not that the car was bad, it was just really overpriced. And that always turns people away!


Ford, Chevrolet and Chrysler were the biggest auto manufacturers in the United States in the 1950s. How much of the entire US workforce worked in that sector?

Ford, Chevy and Chrysler certainly dominated motoring in the 1950s. Not only did they rack up 94% of all vehicle sales in 1955, '56 and '59 but 1 in every 6 people working in the United States during the decade worked at one of these factories.


Lincoln was part of the Ford group. Its vehicles were aimed at who?

The Lincoln Motor Company was formed in 1917, eventually falling under the Ford banner. While Ford vehicles were aimed at the middle-class American, Lincoln were without a doubt a luxury brand.


First introduced in 1959, this car is a legend in British motoring. Cute, small and nippy, can you name it?

In 1959, the Mini Mk 1 was introduced to the world. And what a popular car it proved to be. Over the years, it underwent a number of upgrades, but that distinct Mini appeal never left. The last of these cars rolled off the production line in the late 1990s.


The 1950s saw some interesting vehicles, none more so than a design aimed exclusively at women. Can you name it?

Produced by Dodge between 1955 and 1956, this 2-door hardtop was specifically aimed at the fairer sex. Only 2,500 were sold in a two-year period, although little evidence suggests that it was well marketed.


One of the iconic names in motoring, the Thunderbird was introduced in 1955. Who manufactured it?

The Thunderbird was originally devised by Ford to compete with the first generation Corvette. Much debate rages over whether this vehicle could be considered as a muscle car, but early models certainly displayed many traits adopted by muscle cars in the 1960s.


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