Fifties Classic Cars

Rolls Royce Silver Cloud

Rolls Royce Silver Cloud 1950s classic car

Usually, with one of those 'what's the of all time?'-type questions, the answer is debatable - that being the point of asking it in the first place. The exception to this rule is 'What's the most elegant car of all time?' Actually, there are several possible solutions - but they are all made by the same marque. The answer would be, of course, a Rolls-Royce!

No offence, but Crewe, England might not be considered a source of suave sophistication! Yet the cars which rolled out of one of its factory's gates were possessed of a pedigree without parallel. For is there a product known to man with quite the peerless cachet of a Rolls-Royce? So the question now becomes...'What's the most elegant Rolls-Royce of all time?' An obvious contender is 1955's Silver Cloud.

There are very few drawbacks commonly associated with ownership of a Rolls-Royce. For 'high rollers' of a nervous disposition, though, knowing whether the engine is running or not might potentially be a source of stress. Rolls-Royce engineers were meticulous to a degree. So silent were their charges by the time they reluctantly 'signed them off', that it could have been a problem for the hard of hearing! That small caveat aside, Rolls-Royce and Silver Cloud are by-words for automotive excellence. To say, 'They don't make 'em like that anymore', would be understatement of the most sinful sort.

Ford Thunderbird

Ford Thunderbird 1950s classic car

American cars? What's the coolest of the cool? So many contenders, so little time! The Ford Thunderbird has to be in with a shout. As unlikely as it sounds, there is more to the car than meets the eye! Like a sweetly capable V-eight, for example - good for 120mph in 5.1-litre format - which was going some in the 1950s. The block was 'borrowed' from the Ford Mercury.

For a car which would seem to epitomise an era of lavish styling, early 'Birds' were in fact relatively unadorned. There is not a hint of the gross or grotesque in the spare, precise lines of the first models. There was even a touch of the sports-car about them - so long as you were travelling in a straight line! 'Birds' waded through the bends on account of their classically soft suspension.

So the first fledgling Thunderbirds were 1950s to their core. Like Elvis 'The Pelvis', they began life lithe and agile, with an ebullience and grace all their own. But as time went by and the decades passed, the beauty faded and decay set in. Time, though, can never erase those formative years when Ford's Thunderbird - pristine and perfect - first flew the coop into a simpler, gentler world.

Mercedes-Benz 300SL

Mercedes-Benz 300SL 1950s classic sports-car

Whilst the doors on a car are undeniably useful, they are not normally the focal point of the design. In the case of the 300SL Gullwing, however, they most certainly are. Now, the seagull is not a bad-looking bird, but poised and elegant? Perhaps not! The Gullwing, though? Without a doubt. Not, it has to be said, whilst resting on its roof in the aftermath of an accident - at which point prising those doors open was potentially a matter of life and death!

Even when the car had the 'rubber side down', progress was not entirely glitch-free. On the technical front, the car did not provide quite the level of Teutonic tautness normally de rigeur from Mercedes. The rear suspension was decidedly dodgy and the bodywork was not as 'sealed' as it might have been. The tubular space frame of the SL (SuperLight) - though a feat of engineering - was a pain in the neck for mechanics to fix! Oddest of all - the engine is placed forty-five degrees 'out of true' to accomodate a lower bonnet line. Italian design teams must have been weeping into their red wine!

In fairness to the Gullwing, it spanned the gap between the Le Mans racing prototypes and superior updates yet to come. Superior technically, that is! For sheer, unadulterated style, the 300SL had few peers. Such refinement did not come cheap! But if you had the funds - plus a bit of patience - the 300SL Gullwing was actually glorious value for money.

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