5 American Cars That Illustrated the Times

The styling and performance of American cars have always historically reflected the feelings of the times that they were designed and sold in. The art deco streamliners of the 1930s represented beacons of optimism during the Great Depression. The land yachts of the 1950s with their elevated tail fins were a symbol of post-WWII prosperity, and the powerful muscle cars of the 1960s illustrated the fascination America was developing with pure performance. Courtesy of Westbury Toyota, we survey some examples of perfectly represented the feeling of the times.

1948 Tucker

While most ’40s cars were warmed-over versions of pre-war models, the 1948 Tucker offered futuristic features like a padded dash, rear mounted engine and third headlight that turned with the wheels. The brainchild of automotive visionary Preston Tucker, the company earned national attention but only build 51 cars built before it ran out of money. In 1950, Tucker’s collapse became a national scandal and the federal government indicted the company’s executives for fraud. Because of their rarity, Tuckers have become one of the most valuable collector cars available.

Cadillac Eldorado

Launched in 1953, the Cadillac Eldorado was an ultra-exclusive flagship model that attracted well healed buyers worldwide. By the end of the 1950s, the redesigned four-door Eldorado cost more than a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud and was considered one of the most elegant cars in the world. In 1967, the Eldorado was became a two-door “personal luxury coupe,” and the second front-wheel drive car ever built by General Motors.

Chevrolet Corvette

By the late 1940s, America desired more than just basic transportation and in the a desire for sports cars began to emerge. The problem was that no American automaker was offering them. In 1953, Chevrolet jumped in the ring with Corvette, a 6 cylinder-powered roadster that was as slow but very pretty. By 1955, Chevy had perfected their new 235 CI V-8 engine and this made the Corvette a real sports machine.

Ford Mustang

Sporty 2-door cars came before Lee Iacocca’s Mustang but nothing has ever matched its level of Introduced at 1964 World’s Fair, the Ford Mustang perfectly tapped into the youth market and kicked off the great pony car battle of the 1960s. By 1967, the Mustang had been joined the Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac Firebird and the Plymouth Barracuda but it held its own. Ford sold 1.7 million Mustangs in its first 36 months.

Plymouth Superbird

The Roadrunner Superbird was built by Plymouth for one reason, to compete at the 1970 NASCAR series. While its pointed beak and large rear wing made a difference on the track, its looks were considered goofy by the average car buyer and it didn’t sell very well. However, driven by Richard Petty at the 1970 NASCAR series, the car won many races and firmly established Plymouth as a manufacturer of serious racecars.


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