1950 saw the automotive world emerging from post-war gloom with more adventurous design and plenty of sports cars.
It was also a period of rapid technical development in every sector. Here, we’ve listed the most important new cars launched in 1950, listed in alphabetical order.
Alfa Romeo 1900
Alfa Romeo shrugged off post-war gloom with the 1900 that came in two- and four-door bodies. With modern styling for the time, it was Alfa’s first car built completely on a production line and also the first car it offered in left-hand drive as standard.
The 1900 was a landmark model for Alfa in other ways as it moved away from using a separate chassis to unitary construction, again showing how advanced this car was for the period. The 1884cc engine that gave the 1900 its name made the basic saloon good for 100mph, while Super versions gained a 2.0-litre motor with up to 115bhp and 112mph top speed.
The looks might have been conservatively traditional, but the Alvis TA21 was a much more modern machine than the TA14 it replaced in 1950. Independent coil-sprung front suspension gave the TA21 excellent handling and ride traits, while the seven bearing 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine was a big step forward in refinement and performance.
The engine was initially a little underpowered, but twin carburettors from 1952 pepped up the pace, while the TC/21 Grey Lady of 1953 boosted power to 100bhp. This model was easily spotted by its twin bonnet-top air intakes and could whisk its occupants to 100mph in comfort.
Aston Martin DB2
This was the first car to wear the now famous ‘DB’ appellation. Its predecessor, the 2-Litre has only been retrospectively named the DB1 after industrialist David Brown bought Aston Martin and saved it from going under. The DB2 played a key role in that salvation with its sleek looks and punchy performance.
The engine for the DB2 was a 2.6-litre unit originally designed by WO Bentley for Lagonda. This twin cam motor started with 105bhp and could take the DB up to 121mph when ordered in 125bhp Vantage form.
The first car DKW produced after the Second World War was the F89, but it was short-lived and the Meisterklasse of 1950 was a much superior machine. However, it was still saddled with a pre-war 684cc two-stroke engine as DKW had lost the drawings to its excellent new three-cylinder engine to the Russians when the war ended.
Undeterred, DKW gave the Meisterklasse a very streamlined body that gave 60mph from a meagre 23bhp. A wooden-framed estate model was a rare version, while the saloon made a more spacious alternative to the Volkswagen Beetle. The Sonderklasse model that replaced the Meisterklasse gained a three-cylinder motor and sold four times as many units to record 213,000 sales. DKW was bought by Volkswagen in 1964, and the brand died in 1966 in favour of Audi.
The 195 earned its name from the bore capacity of its V12 engine. Each cylinder was 195cc and this unit was an enlarged version of the 166’s. Ferrari offered various states of tune to customers depending on the intended use, so you could have 130-, 160- and 180bhp versions. The latter was for the Sport model meant for competition and it used triple carburettors.
Every 195 model was supplied as a chassis by Ferrari for coachbuilt bodywork to be fitted. Most were clothed by Ghia and Vignale as Ferrari had yet to cement its relationship with Pininfarina, though this firm also bodied some 195s.
Not widely regarded at the time as a great beauty, the Fiat 1400 made up for its dumpy looks with a large cabin that could seat six. If the looks were disappointing, it was the performance that really held back this basic saloon model. Its 1395cc engine was sluggish at best and not even the better-looking Cabriolet model could address this fundamental issue.
As if the pace of the petrol-powered model was not slow enough, Fiat added a 1.9-litre diesel version with only 43bhp that could barely scrape its way to 60mph. However, help was on hand in 1954 when the 1400A arrived with a 58bhp engine to replace the original and slovenly 44bhp motor.
Perhaps more than any other post-war Jaguar saloon, the MkVII set the template for four-door Jags. Using the same 3.4-litre straight six as the voluptuous XK120 sports model, the MkVII had a distinctly sporting edge that made it very popular with racing drivers, celebrities and more than a few villains. It was good for 100mph straight from the factory and the later Mmodels could hit 112mph.
This sort of speed made the Jaguar a serious rival for Bentley and other luxury brands such as Alvis and Armstrong Siddely. Where the MkVII scored was its price of £1276 (£44,000 in 2020) at launch was less than half that of a Bentley Mk6 that was slower and no more luxurious.
Think Interceptor and most minds conjure up that grandest of tourers from the 1960s, but the name dates back to 1950 and this two-door saloon or convertible model. Not the prettiest car built by Jensen, it's perhaps no surprise it looked like this as Jensen was building the Austin A40Sports at the same time.
The Interceptor redeemed itself with a 130bhp 4.0-litre six-cylinder engine that made it a genuine 100mph car when this was considered quite a feat. More of a worry with that sort of performance were the hydraulic-mechanical brakes used on early versions, though thankfully this was soon upgraded to full hydraulic brakes.
Based on the remarkably forward-thinking Javelin, the Jowett Jupiter was a sporty two-seat model. It used a 60bhp derivative of the Javelin’s 1486cc flat-four boxer motor that made it good for near 90mph performance.
The neat two-seat open bodywork was handsome and well finished, and it featured a one-piece front section that hinged forwards to give better access to the engine than its saloon counterpart. Class victories at Le Mans proved the Javelin’s worth, but sales were slow and only 899 of this engaging roadster were made.
Kaiser-Frazer Henry J
The brainchild of Henry J. Kaiser, his eponymous car had an unusual birth as it was largely funded by the US government with a federal loan. This brought with it specific demands, such as the car had to sell for no more than $1300, could seat at least five adults and have a top speed of at least 50mph. And it had to be on sale no later than the end of September 1950.
Amazingly, Kaiser-Frazer hit all of these marks and the Henry J started with a 2.2-litre four-cylinder engine, though later models used a 2.6-litre straight-six. However, to make its deadline and keep costs down, the Henry J was built without a boot lid, so owners had to access the trunk through the passenger compartment.
The Lloyd 300 was a very clever solution to the problem of limited materials in the post-Second World War era. While steel was in short supply, Lloyd came up with the ingenious method of covering a wooden frame with fabric to create its bodies.
This method might sound crude, but it had been used during the war years for aircraft construction, so there was a lot of expertise available. It also kept prices down, so the 300 cost about two-thirds of the price of a Volkswagen Beetle. Plus, the Lloyd could seat four, looked modern and its 293cc two-stoke two-cylinder engine gave good economy and decent pace.
The three brains behind the Marauder – Peter Wilks, Spencer King and George Mackie – all worked for Rover when they dreamt up this sporting two-seater. No surprise that it used a shortened version of the recently launched Rover P4 chassis. This had the 75bhp2.1-litre engine mounted further back for better balance and a floor-mounted gear lever in place of the Rover’s column change.
A very professional finish resulted from the creators’ knowledge and skill, but it came at too high a price for the Marauder. It cost a hefty £1236 (£42,500 in 2020) at launch and rocketed to more than £2000 (£67,000 in 2020) by 1952, which was more than a Jaguar MkVII saloon. As a result, only 15 Marauders were built, though most survive to this day.
Morgan Plus 4
In its usual evolutionary style, Morgan replaced the 4/4 with the Plus 4 as its most sporty model. The 1950 Plus 4 gained a 2.1-litre Standard Vanguard engine with 68bhp, which was a big step up from the 40bhp of its predecessor. There were also Triumph-engined versions with up to 106bhp to make this Morgan a very quick machine and effective racer.
At launch, the Plus 4 had the ‘flat rad’ styling of earlier Morgan cars, but by 1953, it had the curvy cowled front end we now associate with Morgans. Over time, the Plus 4 also enjoyed a wider body and a four-seat option until it was usurped in the range with the launch of the Plus 8 in 1968.
An early attempt at downsizing for the US market, the Nash Rambler was more compact than most mainstream family cars in 1950 America. However, it could still seat five comfortably and, by European standards, was generous in its proportions. With a 2.8-litre six-cylinder engine, it gave decent performance thanks to 82bhp.
Nash broadened the appeal of the Rambler with several body styles, which included the basic saloon, station wagon estate, convertible and coupé. Despite good fuel economy and advertising campaign that included sponsoring the Disneyland television show, the Rambler was a slow seller in a country that was busy embracing the excesses of 1950s US automotive design. But it started a trend, and its successor model launched in 1956, now marketed under the Rambler badge, did much better as America developed a taste for smaller cars in a cooler economy.
Almost cartoonish in its appearance, the Colorale was Renault’s post-war push upmarket from the very successful 4CV. The name came from splicing ‘coloniale’ and ‘rurale’ together, while the body was quick and cheap to produce in saloon and estate forms.
A rugged2.4-litre engine offered lots of reliability but little in the way of performance or refinement and a new 2.0-litre unit in 1953 did little to resolve the situation. Even worse for Renault, the French public rightly decided the Peugeot 203 was a much more handsome and able machine, so only 43,000 Colorales were sold during its seven-year lifespan.
The Siata Daina could easily have been one of the most desirable Italian cars of its period. After all, it looked sensational thanks to rakish full bodywork and low-slung coupé or open two-seat shapes. There was also independent front suspension and even a five-speed gearbox option.
Where the problem lay was under the bonnet and Siata’s choice of the Fiat 1400 engine. This plodding device limited performance, even when tuned with a new cylinder head, manifold and carburettors. Tuning firm Abarth provided a 1500c version that gave the Daina the speed to match its looks and it enjoyed some success racing in the USA. Today, the Daina is highly prized for its looks and rarity.
Volkswagen Type 2
As the name tells us, this was Volkswagen’s second model following the launch of the Beetle. Using the smaller car’s engine and chassis but with a forward control steering set-up using a cam and lever system. Lower gearing also helped the original 1131cc engine cope with the demands of delivery work.
The Type 2, or Kombi as it was widely known, quickly became a common sight on roads around the world thanks to its spacious load bay and easy to work on mechanics. It also spawned a whole sub-sect of campervan models from VW and aftermarket convertors. Production lasted until 2002 in Brazil.
Alongside its usual production, Volvo offered the PV831 as a purpose-built taxi for the domestic Swedish market. This followed a line of earlier cars for this market and the PV831 came with a development of the 3.6-litre 90bhp ED engine used in previous models. Designed for unerring reliability, this engine could trace its roots back to 1929.
The PV831 had sleeker styling than earlier PV800 models and had a grille, bonnet and wings similar to the PV444. In 1953, independent front suspension was added as an option to improve comfort and handling. Even so, the PV831 couldn’t shake off its Swedish nickname of ‘Sugga’, which meant Sow.
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