Most of us weren’t around the time World War II had concluded, but the cars built preceding the woefully awful skirmish would leave such a lasting impression on the American car culture that it cannot be ignored.
Evidently some of these cars were so influential that the green party over at the Mother Nature Network (MNN) wrote an article discussing the top five trendsetting cars built after 1945. Usually MNN covers serious issues like shopping for organic groceries, how to drink water economically, and which house plant is dog-friendly.
So when we ran across an article written about cars that actually appeals to people like us, we couldn’t help but notice. Below is the short-list of cars handpicked by MNN contributor Jim Motavalli, and surprisingly, we actually agree with his suggestions.
When the auto manufactures ceased production in 1942 to aid with the war effort, the ongoing design procedures came to a crashing halt as designing new automobiles was no longer a priority.
Be that as it were, most of the cars that would resume production for the 1946 and 1947 model years looked much like they had five years earlier.
But that all changed when Ford released their ’49 model line. Eliminating the running boards and integrating the fenders into the body resulted in the “slab-sided” look that would change the look of the automobile forever.
It was stylish, affordable, and reliable. It was the perfect car for the family man wanting a modern car to park in the drive of his new suburban home. A total of 807,000 ’49 Fords would ultimately be built, a number that at the time, hadn’t been seen since the 1929 Model A.
1956 Lincoln Continental Mark II:
The original Continental spanned 10 model years (1939-1948) and was a beautiful piece of design. It packed a V-12 powerhouse and the styling was bold, brash, and elegant. However, by the end of the forties it was outdated and in need of a replacement. Unfortunately a replacement wasn’t in the pipeline so it wouldn’t be until 1956 when the Mark II went online.
Lincoln took a more subdued approach to personal luxury in the Mark II. It provided the perfect balance of style, class, and sophistication while offering the latest in technology and luxury with minimal amounts of chrome. It’s paint finish was hand sanded and buffed at the factory, and the trim is reported as “near aircraft quality.”
The result of all of this magnificence rang in at a total of $8,500, or about $72,000 in today’s money. Not really all that expensive considering that’s the price of the current CTS-V, but more than what most people were willing to pay in 1956. As a result, not many were sold and the people who did buy them had names like Frank Sinatra or were referred to as the Shah of Iran.
This one is a shoe-in. It looked nothing like the cars that came before it, including the ’54 Chevy, and offered a revolutionary new V8 that would later become known as the first small block Chevy. It was available in nine different body styles and three separate trim packages: the 150, 210, and Bel-Air.
Not only is it a hit with collectors and hot rodders today, but it was popular with the masses when it was new. A total of 1.7 million ’55 Chevy passenger cars were built, and when it was time for the 1956′s to go into production, much of the same styling carried over. While some could argue it borrowed the theme from the ’49 Ford, it’s in our opinion that Chevy pulled off the “slab-sided” look much better.
1960 Ford Falcon:
What initially started out in life as a very basic, and perhaps dorky “import fighter” family car has slowly evolved into a lovable classic. It was the basis for the original Mustang after all, and while it’s styling was a bit ordinary for the time it has certainly grown on the nostalgic ones looking for an affordable ’60s car.
In 1960 the Falcon didn’t offer much in the way of power either. You couldn’t even get a V8 until mid-year 1963. So the early examples were stuck with six-shooters whether the potential buyer liked it or not. On paper, this car doesn’t look to be much of a trendsetter.
But once you factor in the small, practical car with a small and practical price tag, then it starts to make sense why this cream puff is on the list. Chevy and Dodge would return fire in the form of the Chevy II/Nova and Dart, respectively.
1963 Buick Riviera:
Talk about a grand slam. We previously discussed this car in our recent Top 5 GM Designs story, and we were not surprised that it turned up in the MNN article. The brainchild of one Bill Mitchell, the Riviera was briefly thought up as a potential La Salle model intended to relaunch the brand but those plans fell though. Cadillac already had their own personal luxury coupe, the Eldorado, and didn’t want two cars competing against one another in their own line, so the design went to Buick.
Underneath that stylish long hood sat a 401ci. “Nailhead” V8 that provided plenty of power with smooth acceleration. It was quiet, beautiful, and went on to become a classic that any collector would be proud to own. Like the Mark II Lincoln Continental, it would pave the way for the personal luxury coupes of the 1970′s.
Looking through this list, some of you may disagree, citing other cars that could have helped shaped the industry over the course of time. This list is merely us sharing MNN’s opinion. If you can think up a better list of candidates, let us know!