1950s Classic Cars
The automobile business often is called the yardstick of American prosperity. This is because the manufacturers of automobiles, trucks,and motor-vehicle accessories (tires, seat covers, light, and other equipment) use more than half the nation’s rubber production,more than 20 per cent of its steel and brass, and great quantities of glass, aluminum, and plastic.
“When automobile production declines, workers in hundreds of other plants that supply materials become idle. The year 1953 was a good test of what the automobile industry can do. It was the first time since the outbreak of the Korean War that there were no government restrictions on the use of steel and other materials. The industry produced about 7,370,000 cars and trucks to make 1953 the second biggest production year on record. The biggest year had been 1951. Heavier competition for sales was the result of the big production. There was increased price cutting by dealers late in 1953.
Style Changes. In the bid for sales, some manufactures made dramatic style changes,such as in the low-nosed Studebaker. One model of the 1954 Mercury had a transparent, plexiglass top. Other automobiles offered greater horsepower. The top horsepower in 1953 models was 210. However, late in the year, Chrysler introduced a 1954 engine with 230 horsepower.
Plastic bodies became an important factor for the first time in 1953. Made by hand, molded plastic bodies are cheaper to produce in small quantities than are metal bodies, which require expensive tools and dies for shaping. However, in mass quantities, after the dies have paid for themselves, metal bodies become cheaper. Chevrolet became the fist automaker to mass-produce a sports car with a plastic body.The public demand for new styles caused a boom during the year in custom-made automobile bodies of aluminum and steel.
Hydra-Matic Plant Fire. A $60,000,000 fire destroyed the General Motors Hydra-Matic automatic-transmission plant at Livonia, Mich. The fire, which started from a spark from a workman’s torch, killed four people. The plant which it destroyed supplied transmissions for Cadillac, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Lincoln,and Hudson automobiles. This made expensive cars equipped with automatic transmissions scarce in the latter part of the year. As a result,General Motors bought the huge plant at Willow Run from the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation, to make Hydra-Matics. Willow Run was built by the late Henry Ford to make bombers in World War I.
Kaiser-Willys Merger. In April, Kaiser-Frazer Corporation bought the stock of Willys-Overland Motors and formed a new subsidiary, Willys Motors, Inc. The company planned to continue the production of Willys passenger cars and military vehicles.”
“Automobile (1953).” Online Table. World Book Advanced. World Book, 2015. Web. 9 June 2015..