Set of 12 automotive illustrations by the artist Robert M. Moyer
Special folio issue of the 12 prints that were also pictured in the Thompson Ramo Wooldridge, Inc. calendar for 1986. This year's calendar features 12 1950's autos which show the spirit and love affair between car and driver. Unique styling was center stage, in addition to innovative engineering designs:
1. 1959 Cadillac 62 Convertible
The 1950s was a time of memorable leaders whose styles influenced America's social and political structure. Automobile design developed a similar flair for the dramatic. The 1959 Cadillac represented the standard for performance, craftsmanship and styling, and satisfied America's hunger for extravagance with its dazzling new grille ensemble and sweeping rear fins.
The Cadillac 62 convertible's richly appointed interiors provided comfort on even the longest journey. The 1959 Cadillacs featured two new high-performance engines and four-barrel or dual-barrel carburetor designs that offered responsive, dependable, and economical motoring.
Accessories remained a major focus in Cadillac design with optional features for the 62 convertible that included cruise control, power windows and seats, electric door locks, air conditioning, and fog lamps. Cadillac's air suspension was promoted as the newest and most outstanding advancement in passenger car riding comfort. Autronic Eye headlight control, a unique Cadillac option, automatically dimmed headlights in brightly lighted areas and then other cars approached.
2. 1951 Chopped Mercury
Sock hops, drive-ins, and drag racing were among the favorite activities of young peaple in 1950s. The "happy days" decade was a time of few worries and an overwhelming desire to maintain the status quo. Similarly, automobile design changed only slightly from year to year.
The 1951 Mercury featured the same body for the third consecutive year, with only minor changes. These included the extension of the rear fenders to enhance the back end and a massive grille, which gave the car a "toothy" look.
To counteract the car's consistency, Mercury owners customized or "chopped" their cars by lowering the suspension to a couple of inches off the ground and by drastically decreasing the size of the windows. The result was a sleeker, sportier look, typical of customized cars in the mid 1950s.
Chopped or otherwise, the Mercury was a notable car in the 1950s.
3. 1959 Porsche 356B Coupe
The dawning of the space age brought startling advancements in aerospace technology. With Sputnik in the spotlight, followed a year later by the successful launch of America's Pioneer 1, built by TRW, the United States brought space research out of the laboratory and onto the launchpad in 1958.
Sophisticated technology was also apparent in cars such as the Porsche. The four-cam, 1,500-cubic-centimeter, 95-horsepower engine produced a maximum speed of 125 miles an hour. In 1957 Porsche standardized a 1,582-cubic-centimeter engine that developed 60 to 75 horsepower, and in 1960 the company added a 90-horsepower super version.
Chassis development included a revised 356A version in 1955 and a 356B model in 1959. Each revision made the cars more comfortable to drive. When the 356 model was discontinued in 1965, more than 76,000 cars had been manufactured, and Porsche ranked among the world's top sports car makers.
4. 1955 Packard Caribbean
Beautiful and extravagant musicals were the rage on Broadway in the 1950s. The American public in 1955 seemed bent on extravagance. In response, the automobile industry produced nearly eight million cars, almost three million more than the previous year.
For Packard, 1955 was the first year of operation after the Studebaker-Packard merger. That year the company produced the Caribbean, Packard's first V-8 and at 275 horsepower, the most powerful showroom car. It featured the first torsion bar suspension, a 352-cubic-inch engine, and a four-barrel carburetor. A newly refined automatic transmission called the Twin Ultramatic helped the engine glide effortlessly into gear. Hydraulic windows, power brakes and steering, and reversible seat cushions were designed to make the Caribbean owner feel like a millionaire. The Caribbean was a powerful road car which truly embodied the American dream.
5. 1954 Kurtis Racer
America's preoccupation with flashy styles and speed was apparent at home and at play in the 1950s. Spectator sports such as race car driving were becoming increasingly popular as a new breed of superstar emerged. The "Mad Russian," Bill Vukovich, pictured in a Kurtis racer, was one of the top drivers of the day. He won two years in a row at the Indianapolis 500 in the early 1950s and was leading the race for the third consecutive year when a fatal crash occurred.
From 1950 to 1964 every winner of the Indianapolis 500 was either influenced or built by Frank Kurtis. He changed the traditional design for dirt cars, moving the driver from sitting astride the drive shaft to sitting on the left side of shaft, thus creating a much lower center of gravity. These cars, recognized as the first roadsters, were designed exclusively for Indy's pavement.
Kurtis continued to develop his roadster design while building dirt cars and midgets. During World War II he had laid out a new midget with a tube frame inside the body instead of a body atop a pair of frame rails. When midget racing became popular in the '50s. Kurtis built and sold about 75 percent of all midgets raced in the United States.
6. 1958 Edsel
Fads of the 1950s included hula hoops, Davy Crockett, bubble gum contests and phone booth stuffing. This adventurous spirit affected automobile manufacturers, often with mixed results.
In 1958 the Ford Motor Co. introduced the Edsel, a car aimed at the low- and medium-priced market. The Edsel featured a fully equipped instrument panel and Teletouch buttons mounted on the steering wheel hub—Ford's answer to the problem of switching transmission control buttons while driving.
Unfortunately, the Edsel suffered some notable styling lapses. For example, the horsecollar grille added to the out-of-proportion look of the front end. The license plate mounted on the upper left bumper gave the car a lopsided look. And the taillights were placed across the trunk in a boomerang formation.
To compound the problem, the automobile market bottomed out in 1958 and new car sales fell 10 percent. A prominent automobile historian once said, "Edsel's aim was right, but the target moved." At the close of the 1950s Edsel sales dropped to their lowest level, and by the beginning of the 1960s the Edsel had disappeared, along with other fads of the 1950s.
7. 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air
Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry helped usher in rock 'n' roll during the 1950s. Their unique personalities and vocal styles left an indelible impression on the American public, as did the cars of that era.
Extreme styling elements, such as the extended fins that characterized the 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, were state-of-the-art designs drawn from jet fighter planes. However, engineering developments, such as fuel injection, remained the major focus. Chevrolet's fuel injection system combined direct port-time injection with nozzles for each cylinder to produce constant fuel flow.
Chevy buyers could choose from a variety of options, including wide- or close-ratio three-speed transmission, engine mounts, fan drives, heavy-duty rear axles, 10 optional gear sets, heavier wheels, and improved suspensions. With one horsepower per cubic inch, the 'heavy Chevy" was an impressive vehicle.
8. 1957 Dodge Royal Lancer
Movies in the 1950s featured a host of memorable characters portrayed by such stars as James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Marlon Brando. Automobile designs of that era were equally memorable.
The 1957 Dodge Royal Lancer, for example, was smoothly styled and featured a massive grille and bumper, a lot of glass, and more power than its predecessors. In addition, Dodge offered a variety of engine sizes ranging from the mild 325 that reached 245 horsepower to the powerful 354 that peaked at 340 horsepower.
Although other carmakers provided limited-edition supercars, Dodge offered the D-500 options on all models: stiff shock absorbers and springs and torsion bars for that Motor Trend
magazine called "a close liaison with the road."
The Dodge Royal Lancer, with 122-inch wheelbase and Torsionair suspension, produced a smooth, solid ride and to many consumers surpassed conventional Chrysler-built cars in terms of handling.
9. 1951 Henry J.
Baseball, the great American pastime, flourished in the 1950s. The New York Yankees built a dynasty with the help of Mickey Mantle, while Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson and Stan Musial electrified fans with their batting and fielding heroics.
The 1951 Henry J. was the car Henry J. Kaiser hoped would excite American car buyers. Although promoted as a car everyone could afford, the Henry J. lacked the flashy styling the public wanted. Priced at $1,299 for a stripped-down four-cylinder automobile, the J. was actually ahead of its time. The 1950s, however, was an era more concerned with power and styling than with fuel efficiency.
In early 1952 the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation collaborated with Sears, Roebuck and Company to test market the Allstate, a Henry J. with a reworked grille, different interior and Sears bolt-on parts. Four- and six-cylinder models were available through the Sears catalog. Despite Sears' money-back guarantee, sales lagged and were ultimately so poor that the J. was later said to have helped precipitate Kaiser-Frazer Corporation's decline.
10. 1957 Nash Ambassador
Professional football in the late 1950s saw such powerhouses as the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns dominate play. Legendary players such as Otto Graham, Jim Brown, Y.A. Tittle, and Sam Huff thrilled millions of fans and helped change the character of the game forever.
In 1957 American Motors was changing, too, beginning with the phasing out of the Nash name at the end of the model year. Only two models were offered by Nash in 1957, the Ambassador Custom (pictured here) and the Super.
The 1957 Nash Ambassador received a total facelift. By placing the headlights on the car's fenders in a vertical quad-light arrangements. Nash was one of the first cars to offer four headlights as standard equipment. The egg-crate grille remained, with the addition of a gold V and the Nash emblem mounted in the center.
The company referred to the car's profile as lightning-streak styling snd offered customers 32 color arrangements in single tone or two- and three-tone combinations. Despite these valiant efforts, Nash sold only 826 cars in 1957, its last season.
11. 1953 Buick Roadmaster Convertible
Television was in its infancy in 1953, but to many people the 1950s represented TV's Golden Age. "I Love Lucy," "Your Show of Shows," and "The Howdy Doody Show," represented the classic comedy and variety shows that captured audiences' imaginations.
The 1953 Buick Roadmaster convertible featured a major rearrangement of Buick styling. The car had six fewer grille bars, a redesigned sweepspear, and chrome fender fins. But the most noteworthy feature was the option of power steering—found on Buicks for the first time—and exclusive to the Roadmaster series.
The Roadmaster was powered by a 322-cubic-inch overhead V-8 engine that generated as much as 188 horsepower. It was also equipped with Dynaflow transmission, a four-barrel carburetor and an 8.5-to-1 compression ratio. V-8 power flowed through a newly developed twin turbine engine, which provided higher acceleration and lower gasoline consumption.
12. 1955 Ford Crown Victoria
Throughout the 1950s scientific experimentation led to some impressive achievements. Dr. Jonas Salk developed the polio vaccine, nuclear tests were conducted, and Dr. Benjamin Spock helped change ideas about child care. The automotive industry had its share of new ideas as well.
The 1955 Ford Crown Victoria, developed from the 1954 Ford Skyliner, represented a new and fresh styling approach. The car featured a transparent Plexiglas roof divided by a broad stainless steel band. The automobile and plastics industries believed that the bubble-top style would create a futuristic look. The Crown Victoria was the first automobile to experiment with this feature, which provided a feeling of spaciousness without the wind and noise of a convertible.
Ford sold about 16,000 Crown Victorias over a three-year period before dropping the model in 1957. Although attractive, the car was expensive —$2,507—and the plastic roof made passengers hot on a summer day.