Golden years: Great cars of the '50s and '60s
The 1950s and 1960s can be described as a golden era for the motor car. It was a time when automobiles were cool and everyone wanted to own one.
After the war, austere Britain needed cheering up - and four wheels were the solution. Trips to the seaside and picnics in the forest were all made more enjoyable thanks to some internal combustion. To celebrate the glory years, Autoblog has drawn up a list of our favourite '50s and '60s cars.
You're probably thinking how could a Moggie Minor be desirable in '50s Britain? Well, you need to remember not everyone had a car, so a basic form of transport was desirable. The Minor was the motor of choice for families, students, and the old blue-rinsed brigade for almost a quarter of a century. It debuted in 1948, was available in two-door, four-door, traveler, pick-up, van and convertible variants, and production topped 1.6m before it finally bowed out to the Marina in 1971.
Ford Cortina Mk1
The Cortina arrived in 1962 and while it had a touch of '50s American styling to it, it really had 1960s European tastes in mind. It was named after the location for the 1956 Olympics (although in Italian, Cortina means curtain), and was Ford at its best: traditional underpinnings in a modern body. From Standard trim through De Luxe, Super, GT and up to the mighty Lotus Cortina, the little car was desirable no matter what your budget was.
It's hard to express just how revolutionary this car was for Rover. In one swoop the P6 made all previous Rovers seem upright and musty, bought only by bank managers and MPs. The P6 arrived in 1963 as the 2000 and tempted new customers with its torpedo lines and luxurious interior. It got even better in '68 as Rover slotted in the Buick 3.5-litre V8 and created a car that was beloved by gangsters and the police alike.
You can't talk about this era without mentioning the MGB. It's one of the best-selling sports cars in the world with 512,000 finding homes with many owners seduced by those simple good looks. The 'poor man's Aston', the MGB GT, arrived in '65 – three years after the roadster – and made the MGB the perfect sports car everyone wanted with brisk pace, reliability, and easy to fix mechanicals. Production ended in 1980.
Roadster or fixed-head coupe, the E-Type is probably the best-looking car in the world. It was also one of the most aspirational cars of the 60s, no doubt thanks to its 150mph performance. It cost £2,197 in '61 – it's nearest competition was five times that – and it lasted until 1974 before it was killed off by the not-so-graceful XJS. It was cool because it defined exactly what Jaguar stands for now: heart-wrenching good looks, stonking performance, and a price that undercuts the competition.
Drawing up a list of this type without including the Mini would be just plain wrong.
After its debut in 1959, it soon became the car most families could afford to own. It's revolutionary design, by Sir Alec Issigonis, allowed more than 80 per cent of the floorpan to be used by passengers and, such was its success, it remained unchanged for 40 years. The Cooper debuted in '61 and was quickly followed by the Cooper S in '63 – both cars all dads wanted to own. And most still do now!
Well, those are our picks but what about you? What car did you aspire to own back then? We'd love to hear your choices – post them below so we can take a look.