The 1950s were a big deal for multiple reasons. The early 50s was when NASCAR started coming into its own, dirt track racing was becoming an international sensation, and the first peanuts comic strip came out. But apart from all of these significant changes, the 1950s were also huge for all cars. So let’s take a trip back to the 50s, and see how that time directly influenced the automobile industry today.
Post - World War 2 (the Late 1940s)
The Second World War was the longest war ever, having lasted nearly seven years. With the allies winning the war, things eventually went back to normal in the United States. Races for cars, bikes, and even horses carried on. Competitions and other competitive sports like boxing and wrestling also resumed. But the most important thing after the war was the new focus on consumer goods.
A lot of technological change came throughout the war, especially in the case of vehicles. So with the war over, the American manufacturing economy moved from producing war-related items to more consumer goods. Automobile manufacturers were taking advantage of mass production and the benefits of economies of scale led to manufacturers competing not in volume, but rather in style.
But this mass production of cars was quite heavy on independent on individual car manufacturers, as they slowly started closing down or merging with other companies. While the end of the Second World War set the way for manufacturers to focus on consumers, the real race against them began in the 1950s.
Automobile Industry Changes (the early 1950s)
A number of key innovations came during the 1950s. Things like air conditioning, power steering, power brakes, and the overhead V8 engine were all new additions to cars. Manufacturers also made improvements to existing parts like the transmission, making it automatic, as well as the addition of seat belts.
These cars were a lot faster, and a lot sleeker in design. If the 1930s and 40s saw compact boxed shaped cars, the 50s reveled in its low profile rectangular shapes. Dubbed low riders, these were the pinnacle of style during the 50s. The low riders’ sleek design managed to make its way into pop culture through the means of music and movies.
The growth of the automotive industry was one of the major factors that were able to fuel the United States’ rise to becoming an international superpower. In fact, the automotive industry was so lucrative that it became the largest industry segment in the US and was multiple times bigger than the automotive industry in other countries combined. Another statistic at the time showed that one out of six Americans were working for the automobile industry, whether directly or indirectly.
Cars in the 1950s reflected a very different time; the atomic age, if you will. Also dubbed the jet age or the space age, these cars all looked like they were something ripped directly from a science fiction movie. Their designs bathed in impracticality and were very bold with defining features as well as low profiles.