Car Design Evolution from 50's to 60's

Topics: World War II, Ford Mustang, P-38 Lightning Pages: 8 (2565 words) Published: May 11, 2013
Why did the drastic change in American cars between the 50's and the 60's come about?

           Brit Spears offered the following reflection on the significance of the 1964 Ford Mustang in Wired magazine“The two Ford execs saw a vast market literally rolling before their eyes, and, according to legend, the notion of a sports car with a back seat was one of those ‘ah-hah’ moments.”[i]The 1964 Ford Mustang was a ground breaking design in automotive history. A simple idea was the inspiration this game-changing idea. It’s unique style was unlike any other car ever seen and inspired generation after generation of automobile after it. In fact, it even created a whole new category of car, because there was no car released that could compare to it. The 60’s were a time of great change in America, and the automotive industry is no exception to that great change.            America in the fifties was fundamentally different than America in the sixties. These differences in the societies of the fifties and the sixties undoubtedly influenced the great change in the design of the cars between the two decades. The 50’s cars were a product of the post-war optimism of the successes of the second world war, the fear of a nuclear bomb based war due to the Americans knowledge of other countries engineering the bombs, and the orthodoxy of the people in America. Cars in the 60’s were a product of the rising sense of individualism in the people, the anti-government attitude, and the effects of the 60’s being an age of protest for America.            Since the automobiles of the fifties were a product of the fifties, the general life and the pride accompanied by the fear of the people of the 50’s must be laid out first, and then its influence on the curvy, and swooping, large styling of the cars of that time, and then how that time influenced the automobile itself. Next, the same has to be done with the sixties, and how the individualism of the people inspired the sharper, smaller style. and finally a conclusion must be made on why the changes in the cars came about, and what they symbolize in American culture as far as change during that time. 


Life in the 50’s is complicated, and quite contradictory in beliefs. On one hand, the People during the 1950s were very happy. The Americans and the allied forces defeated Germany and the Axis Powers less than a decade prior, and the Americans were still riding the high of victory over their opposition. They felt that as a nation they had come together as a collective to aid in the defeat of the Axis Powers and win the war, and everyone American had the victory to be proud about. Winning the war also allowed America to become a world superpower. Many of the world’s most successful countries such as Germany were all economically devastated after the end of the war, which allowed America, who’s economy had grown over the war. To claim the top spot in global economics. The Americans reaped the benefits of the new found success America had achieved and the citizens started to make more money.[ii]   

CARS IN 50’s

Cars in the 50’s were beautiful. The were dramatic, shiny, big, and robust.  Much of the styling from the cars of this era was heavily influenced by fighter planes. Some of the styling is quite obvious, but other resemblances are more subtle. One of the most iconic design elements of the time was the tailfin. The tail fin occurs when the beltline of the car raises at the back end. It was created by Harley Earl, an automotive designer. “It was an airplane, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning. Earl had to stand thirty feet away because this twin engined fighter was still under security wraps. But this quick glimpse so excited earl that it spurred him to create something that would help shape American culture for much of the next two decades. Earl beheld the P-38 and conceived the tailfin.”[iii]

The Lockheed P-38 lightening a was an...
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