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What were the "most classic" (if you will pardon the expression) post-war American cars?

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Your opinions please: If you were making a list of 10 or 12 American post-war (1945 to 1970) classic cars, what would they be? I could come up with a list of British ones easily enough (though it would probably be a slightly different list this time next week) but I don't know my U.S. cars so well, although the classic car shows on TV have helped a lot.


I'm thinking of 1970 as a cut-off date for a number of reasons: firstly because it's 25 years, but also because including the 70s wouldn't make much difference anyway. Plus, it saves having to consider the AMC Pacer. I'm thinking of road cars that were built in their thousands rather than race cars or special models. I can start the list with four cars that I would expect to be on most people's lists, but what of the others? 


1. 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray hardtop (i.e. the split rear window version)

2. 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air (probably the 2-door hardtop, but I'm open to suggestions for the convertible)

3. One of the first generation Ford Mustangs (probably the fastback, but what about the convertible or the other one - saloon? coupe? notchback?)

4. 1959 Cadillac Eldorado of some sort. I don't know which of the various models is which. I think it's 1959 and not 1961 that I'm thinking of. The one with the most ridiculous fins, anyway. 


So what should the other six or eight be? GTO? Charger? Impala? Corvair? Nash Metropolitan? What do you think?



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I think it depends on which side of the pond you are from!  From a UK perspective, my thoughts are that these would be the most thought of, mostly due to their association with pop culture and TV shows:

  • '49 Mercury
  • Tri-Chevies
  • '55 to '57 Thunderbird
  • '59 Cadillac
  • 1961 Lincoln
  • Buick Riviera (either '63 to 65, or '71 to '73)
  • '64 to '66 (but also the '67 fastback) Ford Mustang
  • Dodge Charger ('68 to '69)
  • Chevy Camaro (1st gen)
  • A C1 or C2 Corvette would be in there too!


However, from my own preference, I'd add also in these:

  • Tucker Torpedo
  • '49 Ford
  • '50 Studebaker Commander
  • Hudson Hornet
  • '53 Studebaker Starliner
  • '53 to '55 Kaiser Manhattan / Dragon
  • '55 to '56 Packard
  • 55 to '57 Chrysler 300
  • '58 Plymouth
  • '63 Ford Galaxie 500 (esp hardtop & wagon)
  • Studebaker Avanti
  • Oldsmobile Toronado
  • '64 Pontiac GTO


Edited by Paul H
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Okay my list here , if that have any value.

  • Pontiac GTO Judge -69
  • Chevrolet Camaro 1st gen
  • Oldsmobile 442 -70
  • Mercury -49
  • DeSoto Firedome -56
  • Ford Galaxie 500 -53
  • Ford Pick-Up -56
  • Plymouth Duster -70
  • Studebaker Avanti
  • Ford Ranchero -70 429 Super Cobra Jet


And of course one that don't fit timeline.

  • Plymouth Roadrunner -71 (maybe I buy one again)
Edited by Vesa Jussila
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Just a suggestion, but it may make sense to extend to 1973 as that is when everything shrunk due to the oil shock - there's still quite a few from the early '70s which most would consider classics.


Can't really argue with your four choices ('59 Cadillac is the one with the huge fins), but other than the 68/69 Charger I suspect you'll struggle to see much agreement on what else is in there. I'd also think the '57 T-Bird and '64 Pontiac GTO (for starting the muscle car trend) should be in there.


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1949 Ford - wasn't this the first car to have a unified (not separate fenders) body? that seems to me substantiation for "classic" status.

Edited by s.e.charles
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7 hours ago, s.e.charles said:

1949 Ford - wasn't this the first car to have a unified (not separate fenders) body? that seems to me substantiation for "classic" status.

I thnk so - it's nick-named the shoebox Ford.  Definatly a trendsetting design.


Oh, and with more time to think about it, a couple more that should be on the list - the 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T and also that pinnacle of subtle and restrained design, the Plymouth Roadrunner Superbird...


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In no particular order:


1955 Chevrolet saloons (but also the '56 and '57) - first appearance of the Chevrolet "Small Block" V8, plus the lower wider styling.

1953 Chevrolet Corvette - "America's first sports car" although you could argue that point until the cows come home.  But also I think the first relatively large volume glassfibre-bodied car.

1948 Tucker - incorporating lots of novel features decades before anyone else.

1951-1954 Hudson Hornet - it's Doc Hudson from Disney Pixar's Cars, something of a tour-de-force in NASCAR, final flowering of the Hudson brand.

1955-65 Chrysler 300 "letter series" - the original C300 was the first American car to come with 300hp from the factory, the 1957 had fantastic styling by Virgil Exner, plus Chrysler's "Torsion-Aire" torsion-bar independent front suspension and the long-lived Torqflite automatic gearbox.

1964 Ford Falcon Sprint - good enough to finish second in the Monte Carlo rally that year.

1963 Ford Galaxie - Proved that American cars could race on European-style circuits as well as banked ovals have a read of this article from Motor Sport.

1964 Pontiac Tempest Le Mans GTO - John DeLorian subverting General Motors' in-house rules about fitting large engines to mid-size cars and kick-starting the muscle car phenomenon.  There were high-performance option packs in earlier years (see the Pontiac Catalina 421 Super Duty as an example) but these were intended for drag racing with temperamental, highly tuned engines, lightweight bodywork and minimal comforts.

1966 Oldsmobile Toronado - America's first front-wheel drive car since the Cord of the 1930s.

1954-62 Nash Metropolitan - British-built (by BMC) attempt to sell compact cars, came in fabulous two-tone colour schemes.

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59 Impala/Bel Air Ragtop

59 El Camino

59 Chevy El Dorado

63 Thunderbird Ragtop

63 Lincoln Continental Ragtop

65 Mustang ragtop

67 Mustang fastback

68 Dodge Charger

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I’m not sure what constitutes a “classic” but from the standpoint of styling advancement/ milestones my list of 10 would include the following:

’48 Cadillac Series 62 sedanette - first tail fins

’51 Kaisers

’53 Studebakers

‘55 Chevy

’58 Caddie Eldorado

’61 GM “bubble tops”

’62 Studebaker Avanti

’62 Cobra (New to USA at least)

’63 Buick Riviera

’63 Corvette Coupe

’65 Mustang coupe and 2+2



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