The 1950s Car Knowledge Quiz: How Much Do You Know?


By: Bambi Turner

6 Min Quiz

Image: Nikada/E+/gettyimages

About This Quiz

Think you can tell the difference between a '57 Chevy and a Hudson Hornet? Know what made the Edsel such a flop, or what year the very first Ford Thunderbird hit the streets? Take our quiz to show off your knowledge of '50s cars! The 1950s was a time of major change in America, with a growing fight for civil rights, the rising popularity of television and a pair of swinging hips in the form of Elvis Presley, who would help to usher in a new era of music and pop culture. A post-war economic boom meant Americans were living large, with a staggering one in six employed in the automotive industry -- an industry that was becoming increasingly concentrated as the decade progressed. What was once made up of more than a hundred automakers had shrunk to just a handful by the end of the '50s, with car sales dominated by Detroit and the Big Three.

Yet the lack of competition did little to stifle innovation; cars in the '50s grew safer, more stylish and more fun to drive thanks to the development of seat belts, automatic transmissions, air conditioning and the overhead valve V8 engine. Car companies responded to consumer demand with ever larger cars, many of which came with designs inspired by the Space Race and the sporty styles of the auto racing world. Do you consider yourself an expert on the cars of the nifty fifties? Take our quiz and test your '50s car IQ!

Which company produced one of the greatest flops in automotive history with the introduction of the Edsel in 1958?

Ford touted the Edsel marque as "The car of the future" a year in advance of its 1958 release. Named for the son of Henry Ford, the over-hyped Edsel was dropped by 1960. The failure cost Ford hundreds of millions of dollars and made the name Edsel synonymous with business failure.


What design change to the Thunderbird caused a major controversy in 1958?

The iconic Ford Thunderbird was a sporty two-seater when it came out in 1955. Some people were critical when the company added a second row of seats to the vehicle in 1958, and the car only got bigger and bigger over the next few decades.


Which company's legendary '57 Bel Air was marketed as "The Hot One?"

The first generation of the Chevy Bel Air was a sporty bestseller when it came out in 1950, despite its solid, non-removable roof. The second generation of this classic car, produced between 1955 and 1957 and marketed as "The Hot One," is highly sought by car collectors to this day.


Which '50s car was immortalized as a character named Doc in the Pixar movie "Cars?"

The Hudson Hornet was a low-slung, full-size muscle car produced between 1951 and 1954. It was immortalized in the Pixar movie "Cars," with the character Doc Hudson, who was styled on the classic ride and voiced by none other than Paul Newman.


Which feature made the Studebaker Starlight coupe stand out?

Studebaker produced the Starlight coupe between 1947 and 1952. This car stood out from other '50s rides thanks to a very long trunk cover that looked more like a typical car hood -- as well as a very over-sized wraparound rear window.


Which company produced the Henry J, a car designed to be affordable to even lower-income households?

Built by Kaiser and named for chairman Henry J. Kaiser, the Henry J was designed to be the '50s version of the Model T. Turns out, it wasn't all that much cheaper than its competitors, and was shelved after only four years.


VW sold its first Type 2 buses in 1950. What features distinguishes these from second generation models?

First generation VW buses produced between 1950 and 1967 have a split front windshield, earning them the nickname Splitties. After 1967, the windshield on this classic ride was no longer divided in two.


Chevy only produced the 1953 Corvette in one paint color. Which hue did they choose?

The legendary Chevy Corvette came out in 1953. Around 300 units were made that first year, and all came with a white paint job. By 1955, buyers could choose from a wider range of colors -- and the car had been souped up thanks to a V8 engine.


Which headlight design did the Buick LeSabre feature when it came out in '59?

The headlights on the '59 LeSabre make this full-size Buick easy to recognize. Each side of the car features two circular headlights arranged at a diagonal, with either side of the front bumper area arranged at a slant. The car also came with round taillights and spectacular Delta wing fins.


Which company's compact Anglia model was one of the bestselling cars in the UK during the decade?

The Ford Anglia was a top seller in the UK in the '50s and beyond. You might recognize this car as the one that soared across the sky in "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets."


Which DeSoto model was the company's premier model when it came out in 1953, but relegated to the brand's cheapest ride within two years?

The full-size Firedome was DeSoto's top-of-the-line edition from 1953 to 1954, but became DeSoto's economy offering as new models were introduced between 1955 and 1956. New affordable DeSotos later in the decade pushed the Firedome to a mid-range offering.


What name, inspired by a fancy district in London, did Packard choose for its 1951 mid-level hardtop coupe?

Named for the high-end Mayfair area of London, the Packard Mayfair sold briskly between 1951 and 1953. The hardtop coupe was replaced with Packard's Pacific model in 1954.


Which company's compact Metropolitan model was known for its two-tone paint job?

Nash introduced the Metropolitan in 1953 to serve as the second car in a two-car family -- a rare occurrence at the time. This tiny ride, which had a smaller wheelbase than the VW Bug, got stainless steel trim and a two-tone paint job starting in 1955.


Where did Pontiac get the name for its full-size '50s Bonneville?

The Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah are a popular area for race car drivers. Pontiac borrowed the name for its full-size Bonneville, which endured from 1957 all the way through the early 21st century.


What year did Ford swap its classic F1 naming system for the now-familiar F-100 designation?

Ford introduced the second generation of its classic F-series in 1953. The trucks came with new names, with F-1 switched to F-100, F-2 and F-3 changed to F-250 and so on. The 1953 models also offered an automatic transmission option known as Ford-O-Matic.


Which nickname was given to the very earliest Ford Country Squire wagons?

Ford Country Squire wagons made in 1950 and 1951 had doors made of wood, earning them the nickname Woodie. While the model was continued throughout the '50s, later models were made entirely of steel, with the wood paneling added later, and aren't considered true Woodies.


Which company was forced to merge with Nash in the late '50s, forming AMC, after a very costly investment in a model known as the Jet?

Hudson made a major investment in its compact Jet model in 1953. While the car wasn't exactly a flop, its costly development left Hudson struggling, forcing a merger with Nash to form AMC.


Which 1952 Jaguar was the company's first model to offer automatic transmission?

Jaguar produced the Mark VII between 1950 and 1956. Recognizable for its two-piece windshield, this model was also the first Jaguar to come with optional automatic transmission starting in 1952.


Where could you go buy an Allstate car in the 1950s?

Allstate was a badged version of Kaiser's Henry J model, and was available exclusively at Sears stores. While most stores kept one sample on display, all 2,500 Allstate models sold in the '50s were built to order.


Which company's Caribbean model was produced between 1953 and 1956?

The Packard Caribbean was a personal luxury car produced between 1953 and 1956. The first year of production, the rear wheels were housed in cutouts, making them fully visible. Later models of this ride are easy to identify because the rear wheels are hidden by fender skirts.


What name did Dodge use to identify the hardtop versions of its full-sized car models in the '50s?

Hardtops were big business in the world of '50s cars. To make its full-size hardtops stand out, Dodge gave them the name Lancer. This moniker was used on Dodge Coronets, Regals and Custom Royals throughout the decade.


Which convertible did Buick introduce in 1953 for the company's 50th anniversary?

Despite a high price tag for the period, the Buick Skylark enjoyed brisk sales. The company introduced this convertible in 1953 to commemorate its golden anniversary, then used the Skylark name on later models from the '60s through the '90s.


Which Sunbeam model appeared in the 1955 flick "To Catch a Thief?"

Around 1,500 Sunbeam Alpine sport coupes were built by hand between 1953 and 1955. Roughly 1,000 of these two-seaters were imported to the U.S., and one was immortalized on film in the movie "To Catch a Thief" in 1955.


What long-running line of Japanese cars was sold in the U.S. as the Datsun 210?

Nissan's Bluebird line of cars was produced for decades. During the '50s, a rebadged version of the Bluebird was sold in the U.S. as the Datsun 210, while a truck version of this compact was sold under the name Datsun 220.


What type of vehicle did Chevy reserve its Townsman badge for in the '50s?

To make its wagon models stand out, Chevy gave them the Townsman moniker between 1953 and 1957. This badge was used on both the 210 series and the Bel Air wagon models throughout the decade.


Which company produced the Hawk line of cars in a partnership with Packard?

Studebaker marketed the Hawk line as family sports cars. With model names like Flight, Power or Sky, the line was sold from 1956 to 1964.


What did the C represent in Chevy's C/K line of pickup trucks, which came out in 1959?

Chevy produced the iconic C/K line of pickups in 1959, and produced these trucks all the way through 1999, when they were replaced by the Silverado. The C designation was used on two-wheel drive models, while the K stood for four-wheel drive.


What made the Mercury Monterey Sun Valley stand out from other '50s cars?

Mercury produced the full-size Monterey between 1952 and 1974. It came in many different variations, from sedans to wagons. One very unique '54 version, the Monterey Sun Valley, offered a see-through bubble top made up acrylic.


Which Chevy, named for an animal, came out in 1958 as part of the company's 50th anniversary celebration?

The 1958 Impala was released in celebration of GM's 50th anniversary, and had very distinctive dual headlights and triple taillights. Impala models that came out after '58 had more traditional teardrop-shaped taillights, as well as fins that stretched out toward the rear of the vehicle.


Which car company produced the Continental marque in the '50s?

Ford introduced the Continental line of personal luxury cars to succeed the Lincoln line in 1956. The Continental Mark II was the most expensive American production car when it came out in 1956.


What made the Nash Rambler unique when it was released in 1950?

Produced from 1950 to 1954, the Nash Rambler was one of the first compact cars to find success in the U.S. market. It featured seating for five, as well as a sporty style and distinctive fender skirts covering the front wheels.


What space age moniker did Ford use on its full-size line of cars in the '50s?

Ford used the Galaxie badge on full-size models starting in 1959. It helped to distinguish full-size versions of models like the Fairlane or Skyline from other brands, and was Ford's top-of-the-line trim from 1959 through 1961.


Which car model, whose name means "City of gold," did Cadillac release in 1952?

Cadillac produced the Eldorado personal luxury car between 1952 and 2002. The first models, which were all two-door convertibles, came out in 1952 in time for the company's 50th anniversary celebration. The name of the car comes from the Spanish and roughly means "City of gold."


Which popular Toyota model was introduced in 1951 in response to the outbreak of the Korean War?

Toyota first introduced its iconic Land Cruiser in 1951 to take on Jeep. The company was inspired to produce an off-road vehicle thanks to the outbreak of the Korean War. The vehicle didn't get the Land Cruiser moniker until 1954, the year before it was first modified to appeal to civilian buyers.


Today the Crown Victoria is one of Ford's most recognizable sedans, but that wasn't always the case. What model did Ford add the Crown Vic name to in the '50s?

Ford first used the Crown Victoria name in 1955 and 1956 on certain versions of the Ford Fairlane. The moniker was used to identify hardtop Fairlanes with B-pillar roofs. A stainless steel trim on these models formed a crown of sorts on the roof, which included a fixed acrylic panel built into the top.


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