The 1950s saw European car manufacturers turn out some of their most celebrated and memorable models, particularly from those car builders located in Germany, France and Italy.
The cars built in Germany of this period were a sign of the economic miracle the country was enjoying as it built itself up following the end of the Second World War.
Two companies which built classic European cars of the 1950s in Germany were Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen. Having launched the W186 and W189 at the beginning of the decade, Mercedes Benz went onto produce what has been described as the greatest car they ever built – the 300S.
Launched in 1952 this wonderful car was followed up by the limited edition 300SC, complete with fuel injection and also featured independent rear suspension. By the end of the 1950s Mercedes produced the ultimate in luxury models with the Fintail, which incorporated a crumple zone, disc brakes and air suspension.
Another German car manufacturer to survive the ravages of war and become part of the countries economic miracle was Volkswagen. The Volkswagen Type 1 or “Beetle” was destined to become hugely popular during the 1950s and well beyond. Production of the VW Beetle reached one million in 1955 and it was to be a top seller in the United States.
In France a classic European car of the 1950s was the Citroen 2CV. Sold mainly in France and within Europe the 2CV was by no means the most majestic of cars, but it was to become one of the most loved and iconic cars ever built by a French manufacturer.
High import taxes and the fact the 2CV, to some, looked ugly, meant the model never enjoyed big sales in the UK or United States. It took a futuristic style of Citroen – the DS designed by Flaminio Bertoni – for the French company to makes its name on the American market.
In Italy Lancia is a famous name for the production of classic cars during the 1950s. In 1950 Lancia launched the Aurelia, famed for its success in motor sport, at the Turin motor show. By 1953 Lancia had added the Appia to its range.
Lancia’s great Italian rivals were Alfa Romeo. Alfa Romeo were to start the 50s with the production of such classics as its 1900 Saloon, the company’s first assembly line model. Later models which were to become Alfa Romeo classics were the Giulietta, rolled out in 1954, and a year later the Berlina – four door saloon- and the Spider Cabriolet.