loading Loading please wait....

Best 1950s classic cars: Top 10

Best 1950s classic cars: Top 10 Classic and Performance Car

Looking for an iconic classic car from the 1950s? Here are ten of the most interesting you can buy today

During the 1950s, the automotive landscape was a very different, and some would say more interesting place. The world was moving quickly after a few tough post-war recovery years, and the rapidly increasing need for personal transportation encouraged the innovation and ground-breaking design – making for some very interesting cars.   
While everyone has their own opinion on which is the best, there’s no denying that some of the cars on this list defined their segment and changed the course of motoring history, while others may have represented the pinnacle of technological progress at the time and have remained popular thanks to their rarity or purity of design. One thing is for certain; the ‘50s was a golden age for aspirational car designs and there were no shortage of candidates, so here is our top 10 list.

Aston Martin DB4 GT
The DB4 marked the start of a new range of fast GT cars for Aston Martin, which led the way for stylish continent crossers for years to come. The DB4 is great to drive, and its timeless looks have made it an extremely desirable classic. Values have rocketed over the years, pushing these great cars out of the reach for most enthusiasts, meaning even restoration projects start from £200,000 today. Good standard DB4s are about double that figure, but the rarer Vantage and convertibles are considerably more. Zagatos can command up to £7,000,000 and beyond.

Read the Aston Martin DB4 buying guide and browse the classifieds here

BMW Isetta
BMW's luxury car range in the 1950s was technically advanced but a slow seller in post war Europe. The company needed to boost profits, and to do that an affordable fuel sipper was required to increase sales volumes. Enter the BMW Isetta, built under licence this little car was manufactured in a number of body styles, in both four and three wheel versions. Cute looks and affordable pricing made them an instant sales success, and they are still an excellent, if slightly quirky weekend town runabout. Right-hand drive models are trickier around corners, as both driver and engine are on the same side!
Prices range from £6000 for a decent runner to over £16,000 for a mint one. As always, go for the best you can afford as poor Isettas can be costly to rectify. 

Read the BMW Isetta buying guide and browse the classifieds here

1959 Austin Mini Mk1
The original Mark I Mini revolutionised the motor industry with its transverse engine and transverse front-wheel drive layout. This space efficient design allowed its diminutive dimensions to offer seating for four, with space for luggage. Great handling saw it succeed on the racetrack and rally stages too. 
Many body styles and engine variants were introduced over the years but for the original and pure Mini experience look for any early car in a basic spec that has been well cared for. Prices can range from the affordable to the faintly ludicrous, and cars with interesting histories and original parts are highly valued.

Read the Austin and Morris Mini buying guide and browse the classifieds here

One of the UK's most enduring and endearing post-war sports cars, the MGA, offered sporty motoring with looks to match – all at an affordable price. Despite the current popularity in the UK, the majority of the 101,000 cars were actually sold in the US. While right hand drive conversions migh command a little less today, the steering wheel swap is relatively straight forward so don't shy away from these cars. 
Twin-cam convertibles command the highest prices at around £25,000, while the standard 1.5s and 1.6s come in at around £15,000. The less desirable coupes can be had from £10,000 and up, but watch out for badly restored examples.

Read the MGA buying guide and browse the cars for sale here

Released in 1955, the Citroen DS offered advanced hydraulic suspension, steering and brakes, while the space-age styling was a hit from the start. This was a car that was so far ahead of the competition that it could have come from another planet, packed with technological firsts such as all-round disc brakes and semi-automatic gearbox. 
The DS was a strong seller for almost 20 years, and prices for useable cars start at around £15,000 today. A well maintained DS still turns heads today and its many innovations have changed the course of motoring forever. 

Find your dream Citroen DS for sale in the classifieds

Jaguar XK140
Strictly speaking, the original XK120 was introduced in 1948, however the XK range really came into its own in the 50's with the introduction of the XK140 and 150 so it makes it onto our list. Constantly updated mechanicals give the later cars more performance capabilities and the convertibles are perhaps the more aesthetically pleasing, but any XK is a fantastic car to own as long as it has been well cared for.
Values can fluctuate greatly based on originality and model desirability so expect to pay anything from £30,000 for a tatty XK150 to well over £250,000 for the rare alloy bodied early XK120s. 

Read the Jaguar XK140 buying guide and browse the classifieds here

In the case of the Ford Thunderbird, most auto enthusiasts agree that the original is best. Introduced in 1955, the first Thunderbirds were two-seater convertibles, with massive V8s and unashamedly ostentatious styling. Offering customisation hitherto available to the select few, the Thunderbird could be specified with a dazzling variety of options. Imortalised in popular culture, these cars are more grand tourer than sports car, however their relaxed demeanour makes for an excellent long distance companion.
While mint condition garage queens and the especially rare supercharged cars can command up to £150,000, there are a large number of very useable examples starting at £15,000. 

Read the buying guide and take a look at Ford Thunderbirds for sale here

A direct competitor to the larger and more luxurious Thunderbird, the Chevrolet Corvette is another ‘50s American motoring icon that redefined its segment. Despite starting production earlier than the Thunderbird in 1953, a number of production issues and initially a lack of V8 power means that the ones you should be looking at were built from 1957-on. A sleek body style that received design tweaks throughout production and more powerful V8 engines culminated in the final models having 360bhp, fuel injection and an optional manual gearbox. The low-revving burbling V8 and soft suspension are happiest when cruising down a sunny boulevard. Few cars do it better. 

Take a look through the classifieds for a Corvette for sale here

With the budget Isetta attempting to keep BMW in the green, the sporty 507 convertible did its level best to put the company out of business with dismal sales and high production costs. So why does it make our top ten list? Despite it being a sales flop, its beautiful lines and advanced engineering laid the groundwork for a range of successful BMW roadsters. 
Not quite able to tackle the all-conquering 300SL head on in acceleration, the 507 relied on its looks and well balanced handling characteristics to lure away customers. It has now become a valuable classic and thanks to their rarity, immaculate 507s are trading at up to £2,000,000 in today's market.

Mercedes-Benz 300SL

Derived from Mercedes' racing cars, the 1954 300SL’s 3.0-litre engine sported fuel injection, a first in a production car. With a claimed top speed in excess of 160mph and futuristic gull wing doors, it was destined to become a classic.
A convertible version replaced the gullwing cars in 1957, and their more forgiving rear suspension setup makes them easier to handle at the limit. Current values reflect their lofty position in the motoring world, with the rare alloy bodied versions costing up to £1,000,000.

Read the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing buying guide and browse the classifieds here
Words: John Tallodi

Aston Martin DB4 Classifieds

Octane, the essential read for every classic car enthusiast.
Try 5 issues of octane today for just £5 and receive a free welcome gift!
Evo, the world’s premier performance car magazine. Try 5 issues of evo today for just £5 and receive a free welcome gift!