American Car Spotters Guide - 1951

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In spite of government restrictions, the US automotive industry in 1951 sold 5,338,435 new cars, including the 1000 millionth. Most models were 'carry-overs' from 1950 with the customary annual facelifts. Only Kaiser-Frazer's and Packard's 1951 models were entirely new. Ford and Plymouth introduced their first hardtops, the Victoria and Belvedere respectively. Hardtops, which became very fashionable, resembled convertible coupes except that the tops were made of metal and could not be folded down.

Cadillac began producing Walker Bulldog tanks in their Cleveland, Ohio, Ordnance plant and Ford started design work on a new field car, the ¼ Ton 4 x 4 military Utility Truck, XM151. At the other extreme, a new 'dream car' campaign, which was to continue throughout the 1950s, commenced with Chrysler displaying their K370 experimental car and General Motors their LeSabre and Buick XP300. The latter had a super-charged 300-bhp V8 power plant. Although most of these dream cars were genuine test beds for new ideas and developments and were exhibited to gauge the public's reaction to advanced styling concepts, others were probably made chiefly to impress and 'get in on the act'.

Success of the Rambler prompted Kaiser's small-car introduction, the 'Henry J' in 1951 and Hudson's Jet early during 1953. Clearly, Americans - at least some - began to think small. However, despite the ever increasing boom in even smaller-sized imports the 'Fifties' trend to lower, wider, longer cars couldn't be stopped. It was this decade which gave birth to the so-called 'full-sized car'. Previously, lower-priced marques had produced smaller-sized cars, while the higher a marque's price and the greater its prestige, the longer its wheelbase had been. It had all been logical. Not so anymore, for even the low-priced makes such as Chevrolet, Ford and Plymouth offered grown-up models with long wheelbases at the tops of their lines: 'full-sized cars'.
The "Full Size Cars" were too large and heavy to be comfortably parked without the benefits of power-steering, or to be stopped easily without the use of servo-assisted brakes. Large expanses of sheet steel stretched before the driver's eyes, covering the engine compartment, and even greater was the rear overhang, providing huge luggage compartments, which invariably failed to keep their suggested promise of cavernous stowage space. Low build, badly conceived location of the spare wheel and intrusion of the fuel tank all combined to keep luggage space much more limited than optically implied.

Yes, the American car had grown up during the Nineteen Fifties - for better or for worse. Life was easy, money plentiful, jobs provided security for all and the thought of fuel shortages was just a wild figment of a science-fiction writer's imagination. It was all mirrored in the coachwork of the 'Fifties cars. Three-colour paint combinations in black, cream and raspberry red; wrap-around windshields which bumped knees and distorted vision; tail fins which grew to gigantic dimensions; lashings of chrome-plated trim at the sides and on toothy grilles and outrageously long tail ends; fake air scoops; fake louvers; fake spare wheel covers; fake wire-spoke hub caps.

Some thought that cars didn't really look like cars any more in the America of the 'Fifties. They were big, broad, multi-hued barges which attempted more to look like rockets and jet planes than mundane automobiles. America, growing ever closer to the ideal of personal transportation the automobile embodied, drifted ever farther away from the ideals of good automotive design.
1951 Buick Series 40 Special Convertible


  Also see: Buick Car Reviews | The History of Buick
The Buick model range comprised six Series 40 Special models, eight Series 50 Supers and six Series 70 Roadmasters.
1951 Buick Super Model 56R Riviera Hardtop


  Also see: Buick Car Reviews | The History of Buick
Buick Special and Super models now had the same 263 CID engine, while the Roadmasters had the larger 320 CID power unit as before. All were in-line OHV eights.
1951 Cadillac Series 62 Model 6219


  Also see: Cadillac Car Reviews | The History of Cadillac
1951 Cadillac models were not much different from 1950, however the lowest priced Series 61 was dropped.
1951 Cadillac 86 Superior


  Also see: Cadillac Car Reviews | The History of Cadillac
Pictured left is a Cadillac Series 86 long-wheelbase (163 inches) commercial chassis with ambulance bodywork by Superior, as manufactured for the US Army.
Checker Taxicab


  Also see: Checker Car Reviews
Checker manufactured large numbers of purpose built taxicabs. Shown left is a typical standard model of the early 1950's. Note the sturdy bumpers and overriders and the location of the rear axle, set well back for easy entrance and maximum interior space.
Chevrolet Styleline DeLuxe


  Also see: Chevrolet Car Reviews | The History of Chevrolet
Pictured left is the Chevrolet Series 2100JK Styleline DeLuxe four-door sedan Model 2103. Other models in this series included a two door Sedan, Station Wagon, Sport Coupe, Convertible Coupe and Bel Air Coupe. Both sedans were available with fastback also.
1951 Chrysler New Yorker


  Also see: Chrysler Car Reviews | The History of Chrysler
Chrysler offered two Sixes, the Windsor C-51-1 and Windsor DeLuxe C-51-2, as well as two V8's, the New Yorker C-52 and Saratoga C-55. The wheelbase was 125½ inches for the C-51 and C-55, and 131½ for the C-52. The V8 was Chryslers first. It was a 331.1 CID OHV unit with hemispherical combustion chambers. Named "Firepower", it became known popularly as the Chrysler "Hemi". Its original output was 180 bhp. The 116 bhp 250.5 CID Six was ater superseded by a longer stroke 264.5 CID engine with 119 bhp rating. In addition to the above there were 131½ and 145½ inch wheelbase Imperial V8's.
1951 DeSoto Custom Sedan


  Also see: The History of DeSoto
The 1951 DeSoto Custom Sedan featured revised front end styling. Engine piston stroke was increased, resulting in greater piston displacement (250.6 vs. 236.7 cu. in). Power output was up from 112 to 116 bhp. Again there were DeLuxe (S-15-1) and Custom (S-15-2) series, both with 125½ inch wheelbase as well as some special 139½ inch wheelbase models and the 118½ inch wheelbase Diplomat SP-23 for export markets. Tip-toe hydraulic shift with Gyrol Fluid Drive was standard in the Custom, and optional on DeLuxe models.
1951 Dodge Coronet


  Also see: Dodge Car Reviews | The History of Dodge
Dodge offered three L-head Six ranges for 1951. There was the D-40 Kingsway manufactured for export markets only, the D-41 Wayfarer with 115 inch wheelbase and the D-42 Meadowbrook and Coronet with a 123½ inch wheelbase. An exception in the latter series was an 8-seat sedan which had a 137½ inch wheelbase. The bodywork was similar to 1950 except for a re-styled front end. Pictured left is the 1951 Dodge Coronet Sedan.
Ford V8 Custom


  Also see: Ford Car Reviews | The History of Ford
The 1951 Ford range consisted of the 1HA Six and 1BA V8 models with DeLuxe and Custom versions for Coupes, Tudors and Fordors. Station Wagons were offered only in the Custom lines. convertibles and Victoria Hardtops were only available as a Custom V8. All had a 114 inch wheelbase. Pictured left is a Series 1BA V8 Custom Fordor Model 73B, available with conventional Fordomatic transmission.
1951 Ford V8 Country Squire

Ford Country Squire

  Also see: Ford Car Reviews | The History of Ford
The 1951 Ford V8 Custom Country Squire Station Wagon (Model 79) was the most expensive in the companies line-up, with a sticker price of US$2022. It was also available with the 95bhp flat-head Six engine at US$1945.
1951 Frazer


The 1951 Frazer models were introduced as early as March 31st, 1950. The bodywork was completely re-styled by Howard A Darrin. Five models were available, the Series F515 four-door Sedan and Vagabond Utility, and Series F516 Manhattan four-door steel-top and nylon-covered steel-top Sedans and Convertible. These cars had a wheelbase of 123½ inches. Unfortunately this was the last year for Frazer.
Hudson Hornet


  Also see: The History of Hudson
The 1951 Hudson range consisted of a Pacemaker Custom 4A, Super Six Custom 5A, Commodore Custom 6A, Hornet 7A and Commodore Eight Custom 8A models. The Hornet (pictured left) had a 308 CID Six engine and 124 inch wheelbase. The other models had engines and wheelbases as per the 1950 models. A new hardtop model, the Hollywood, was available from September 1951 in all series except the Pacemaker. Hydra-Matic automatic transmission was optional.
1951 Kaiser DeLuxe


  Also see: Kaiser Car Reviews | The History of Kaiser
Kaiser announced completely new 1951 models in May 1950. Like the preceding design they were styled by Howard A. Darrin and were very good looking. There were two ranges, the Special K511 and DeLuxe K512, each with two and four-door Sedans and Travelers and Coupes. All had a 118-inch wheelbase and Continental 226·2 CID 115-bhp flat-head Sixes. Conventional, overdrive and automatic (GM Hydra-Matic) transmission were available. Pictured left is the DeLuxe four-door Sedan.
1951 Kaiser Henry J

Kaiser Henry J

  Also see: Kaiser Car Reviews | The History of Kaiser
Kaiser introduced a small 100-inch wheelbase two-door sedan in September, 1950. Announced as the all-new "Low Priced Car" it was soon given a marque name: Henry J, after Kaiser-Frazer's president Henry J Kaiser. There were two versions: Standard K513 with 134·2 CID Four and DeLuxe K514 with 161 CID Six. Engines were supplied by Willys.
1951 Lincoln


  Also see: Lincoln Car Reviews | The History of Lincoln
Lincoln produced two lines: the Model #1 EL Coupe, Lido Coupe and Sport Sedan and the Model #2 EH Cosmopolitan Coupe, Capri Coupe, Convertible and Sport Sedan lne. Pictured left is the Model #1 EL-74 Sport Sedan.
1951 Mercury Coupe


  Also see: Mercury Car Reviews | The History of Mercury
Mercury featured various minor styling changes and a larger rear window for 1951. The new "Merc-O-Matic" automatic transmission was optional. Output of the 225.4 CID V8 was increased to 112 bhp. Pictured left is the Model 1 M-72 Coupe.
1951 Mercury Convertible

Mercury Convertible

  Also see: Mercury Car Reviews | The History of Mercury
Pictured left is the 1951 Mercury Convertible, Model 1 M -76, with rear wheel shields.
1951 Meteor


The 1951 Meteor, produced by Ford of Canada, resembled US Ford in most respects.
1951 Nash Ambassador


  Also see: Nash Car Reviews | The History of Nash
Nash model availability for 1951 was extended with a third and a fourth Rambler, namely a Super Suburban and a Custom Hardtop (from June). Statesman and Ambassador models had new grilles and restyled wings, as exemplified by the Ambassador Custom two-door Sedan pictured left.
1951 Oldsmobile Super 88


  Also see: Oldsmobile Car Reviews | The History of Oldsmobile
Oldsmobile dropped the Six and for 1951 offered only V8 engines. Known as Rocket these OHV high-compression power units had first been introduced in 1948. The former 6-cylinder engine plant was converted for production of bazooka rockets. The Super 88 (shown) was new for 1951 and had leaf springs at the rear instead of coil springs as on 88. 88 and Super 88 models had a 119½ and 120 inch wheelbase respectively.
1951 Oldsmobile Series 98

Oldsmobile Series 98

  Also see: Oldsmobile Car Reviews | The History of Oldsmobile
The Oldsmobile Series 98 Holiday Sedan was one of four models in Olds' top-line. The engine was a 303·7 CID Rocket V8, wheelbase 122 inches. Hydra-Matic drive was optional on all Oldsmobiles.
1951 Packard 300


  Also see: Packard Car Reviews | The History of Packard
Packard had new bodywork for the 24th Series, which went into production on the 21st August 1950. There were four series, all with eight-in-line L-head engines, the 200 with 122-inch wheelbase and 288 CID engine, a 250 with the same wheelbase but 327 CID engine, the 300 (pictured left) with the same engine as the 250 but with a 127-inch wheelbase, and Patrician 400 with engine and wheelbase as the 300 but with Ultramatic transmission as standard (optional on others). Station wagons were discontinued.
1951 Plymouth Cranbrook


  Also see: Plymouth Car Reviews | The History of Plymouth
The 1951 Plymouth P-23 Cranbrook Sedan (pictuued left) and Cambridge had 118-in wheelbase. The third model range was the P-22 Concord with 111-inch wheelbase. All had a 217·8 ClD side-valve Six and were in production until September 1952.
1951 Pontiac Silver Streak Chieftain Six DeLuxe Convertible Coupe


  Also see: Pontiac Car Reviews | The History of Pontiac
Pontiac's 1951 Silver Anniversary models were much the same as the 1950 range. Body style availability was also the same except that the Streamliner four-door fastback Sedans were dropped. The L-head Six and Eight power units developed 96 and 116 bhp respectively. Wheellbase was 120 inches. Pictured left is the Silver Streak Chieftain Six DeLuxe Convertible Coupe.
1951 Studebaker Commander


  Also see: Studebaker Car Reviews | The History of Studebaker
Studebakers 1951 models had a revised grille but otherwise were much like the 1947-50 models. Wheelbase of the Commanders was 115 inches, except for the Land Cruiser, which had a 119 inch wheelbase. The 1951 Studebakers were powered by a new OHV V8 engine of 232·6 CID; Champion models (now with 115-in wb) retained the 169·6 CID flat-head Six. Overdrive and automatic transmission were optional. Pictured left is the Studebaker Commander Regal 5-passenger Coupe, Model H-C3.
1951 Willys 473 Station Wagon


  Also see: Willys Car Reviews | The History of Willys
For 1951 Willys continued the 80-inch wheelbase Universal Jeep, CJ3A which retained the war-proven 134 CID L-head Four engine, and its range of 104-inch wheelbase Jeepsters, Station Wagons and light trucks. A 161 CID L-head Six engine was optionally available in Jeepsters and Station Wagons.
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