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5 of the Best Sports Cars that Came Out of the 1950s

The 1950s was a decade marked by significant advancements in the car industry. Numerous 1950s vehicles featured innovative designs and powerful performance, and many manufacturers released stylish sports cars that are still highly sought after today. 

Here at Classic Auto, we’re more than just a classic car insurance company — we’re also car lovers. We appreciate the joys of driving classic sports cars that offer both power and sophistication. Today we’re counting down five of our favorite iconic and robust sports cars from the 1950s. 

#5. 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing

Car importer Max Hoffman is partially credited for the development of this breathtaking vehicle. He was involved in developing other stunning cars, such as the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider and Porsche 356 Speedster. 

Hoffman gave Mercedes-Benz the idea to develop a road version of the company’s W194 racer vehicle. Mercedes-Benz saw significant success with its W194 in Le Mans and Carrera Panamericana. The luxury car manufacturer aimed to create a powerful car that would be a hot seller for wealthy Americans. The result was the 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing. 

The “SL” in the car’s name meant “Super Light.” Mercedes-Benz constructed it similarly to their W194, but they used lightweight aluminum rather than steel. They equipped the car with the same engine as the W194: a 3.0-liter overhead cam straight-six engine. The car manufacturer also provided the vehicle with a four-speed manual transmission and rear-wheel drive. 

The car had 240 brake horsepower and 217 foot-pounds of torque, and it reached a maximum speed of 144 miles per hour. 

#4. 1953 Porsche 550

Porsche developed its signature engine layout through the creation of the Porsche 356 in the late 1940s. The company used the mid-engine layout on its 1953 Porsche 550. This layout positioned the car’s engine ahead of the rear axle. 

The Porsche 550 sported an alloy, air-cooled, four-cylinder boxer engine featuring double overhead camshafts, twin carbs, and dual ignition. It had 108 horsepower and could reach a top speed of 135 miles per hour. In 1953, the car won its classes in the Le Mans and Carrera Panamericana races.

Unfortunately, this vehicle is known for its involvement in a tragic car accident. In 1955, actor James Dean was driving his custom Porsche 550 to the Salinas Road Race. George Barris had customized Dean’s Porsche and painted the iconic “Little Bastard” nickname on the car’s back. While on his way to race, Dean collided with a Ford Tudor, the results of which were fatal.

#3. 1951 Lancia Aurelia GT

The Italian automaker Lancia named this breathtaking sports car after a road in Rome, and the company equipped it with the world’s first V6 engine. The engine sported an alloy jewel along with a transaxle combining its clutch, gearbox, and drum brakes in a single unit. It also had a four-speed manual transmission and rear-wheel drive. It featured 74 brake horsepower, 101 foot-pounds of torque, and it could reach a max speed of 100 miles per hour. 

This vehicle made a name for itself through its many successes on the racetrack. It won its class at the 1951 Le Mans, and three Lancia Aurelia GTs took the top spots at the 1952 Targa Florio. Finally, it won the 1953 Road Marathon in Europe.

Many iconic racers used this powerhouse sports car, including Mike Hawthorn, Jean Behra, and Juan Manual Fangio.  

#2. 1958 Lotus Elite

The 1958 Lotus Elite boasted a light weight of around 1,102 pounds. It was the first car to sport a fiberglass monocoque body, and it also featured a steel windscreen subframe. Lotus Cars equipped the stunning sports car with a 1.2-liter inline-four Coventry Climax Engine, which was originally used as a fire engine water pump. It also sported a four-speed manual transmission and rear-wheel drive. It had 75 brake horsepower and could reach a speed of up to 101 miles per hour. 

With its lightweight and powerful performance, the vehicle was a major racing contender. It won its class at Le Mans six times. 

#1. 1950 Ferrari 275 S

Carrozzeria Touring designer Federico Formenti crafted this stunning powerhouse of a sports car, and Ferrari only produced two models. The 1950 Ferrari 275 S was the first car to feature an Aurelio Lampredi V12 engine. The long-block engine had a displacement of 3.3 liters and featured a SOHC configuration along with two valves and one spark plug for each cylinder. It had a 5-speed manual transmission and power output of 270 PS. 

This Barchetta-bodied sports car didn’t do well in the racing circuit due to transmission issues, but the engine was later used on the Ferrari 375 F1.

Protect Your Classic Sports Car

Regardless of whether you’re driving a breathtaking 1950s sports car or another classic car, you need the best insurance available to protect your one-of-a-kind beauty. Here at Classic Auto Insurance, we offer premium classic, luxury, and muscle car insurance. Our policies also include excellent benefits like inflation guard, nationwide flatbed towing, agreed-upon value, and more. Call us today at 888-901-1338 or get an instant quote here

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