June 25, 2024
Insurance

Transatlantic Twist: Five timeless British classics from the 50s and 60s

Most British-made cars from the 1950s and 60s had their own unique appeal – ranging from the adorable Morris Minor, Mini, and Austin A30 to the popular MG and Triumph sports cars loved on both sides of the Atlantic.

A handful of manufacturers drew inspiration from the more flamboyantly styled American cars during the post-war motoring boom in the US.

While many of these cars were from American-owned companies with British divisions, they were still considered distinctly British. One notable feature of these cars was the presence of front bench seats, allowing for comfortable transportation of up to five passengers.

In this article, specialist classic car insurance broker Adrian Flux explores British-made cars with an American influence, featuring front bench seats, abundant chrome, impressive fins, and more.

1. Vauxhall Velox and Cresta PA

In the 1950s, Vauxhall, under American ownership by General Motors, made a bold attempt to introduce British car enthusiasts to chrome, fins, and wraparound windshields reminiscent of the American automotive scene.

The Velox and Cresta PA models, introduced at the 1957 London Motor Show, embodied a sense of Americana with their heavy chrome bumpers, expansive curved glass panels, and Detroit-inspired fins.

Manufactured at the Luton plant, these cars featured front bench seats, a three-speed column gearshift, and a spacious cabin with excellent visibility. The Cresta, a more upscale version, offered optional two-tone paintwork, whitewall tires, and leather trim, making it a standout saloon car during that era.

With the Cresta’s engine upgrade in 1960, performance improved, and the car became a symbol of 50s luxury and style, favored by celebrities and even royalty.

While the design evolved with the PB model in 1962, the PA remains an iconic representation of British cars with American flair.

2. Nash / Austin Metropolitan

Austin Metropolitan '59

The Austin Metropolitan, although built in England by Austin, was a genuine American car originally marketed under the Nash marque in the US.

Developed as a compact, economical vehicle for urban commuting, the Metropolitan was a departure from the trend of larger American cars in the early 1950s.

In a unique collaboration, Austin manufactured the Metropolitan at Longbridge, marking the first instance of a car exclusively intended for the US market being built in Europe.

Featuring distinctive Nash design elements, the Metropolitan was praised for its fuel efficiency and became a favorite among female drivers in the US, with notable owners including Bridget Fonda, Paul Newman, and Elvis Presley.

While sales in the UK were modest, the Austin-badged Metropolitan left a lasting impact, with its name living on in the iconic Austin Metro launched in 1980.

3. Humber Super Snipe

Humber Super Snipe Series IV

The Humber Super Snipe, from its inception in 1938 to its discontinuation in 1967, showcased American styling cues, particularly noticeable in the mark 3 variant introduced in 1960.

Resembling the 1959 Plymouth Fury from the front, the Super Snipe featured twin headlamps and other American-inspired design elements, albeit with a more reserved overall aesthetic.

Unique for its time, the Super Snipe boasted twin-headlamps, wraparound windows, two-tone paintwork, and a prominent chrome grill and bumpers.

With a powerful three-liter engine and a focus on comfort for long-distance travel, the Super Snipe offered a blend of British design and American influence.

4. Ford Consul Capri

Ford Consul Capri

The Ford Consul Capri, derived from the Thunderbird and Galaxie Sunliner, was introduced in 1962 as a compact yet stylish addition to the Ford lineup.

Featuring design elements reminiscent of American cars, such as a Thunderbird-inspired front and angled fins at the rear, the Capri exuded a blend of British practicality and American flair.

Though visually appealing, the Capri faced production challenges and was eventually phased out after a limited sales run.

However, models like the Capri GT with enhanced performance features remain coveted for their unique blend of aesthetics and driving experience.

5. Ford Zephyr series

Ford Zephyr

Ford’s Zephyr and Zodiac models, part of the “three graces” alongside the Consul, showcased distinct American design influences in the 50s and 60s.

With features like chrome grills, bumpers, and angular fins, the Zephyr and Zodiac appealed to big-car enthusiasts looking for a touch of Americana.

The Zephyr and Zodiac, with their Detroit-inspired styling, became flagship models for Ford, offering a blend of British craftsmanship and American aesthetics.

While subsequent iterations saw the cars lose some of their American flair, the mark 3 Zephyr remains a standout example of the fusion between British and American automotive design.

Looking for Classic Car Insurance?

If you own a classic British car and need insurance, Adrian Flux offers competitive rates starting from just £56. Their classic car insurance includes features like agreed value, limited mileage discounts, and more.

For a hassle-free quote, call 0800 369 8590 or schedule a call-back at your convenience.

FAQs

  • What made British cars of the 1950s and 60s unique?
  • Why did some British cars incorporate American design elements?
  • Which British-made car had the most significant American influence?

Conclusion

British cars of the 1950s and 60s showcased a blend of distinctive British craftsmanship and American design influences, creating a unique aesthetic that resonated with car enthusiasts on both sides of the Atlantic. These cars, with their front bench seats, chrome accents, and fins, represented an era of automotive innovation and style that continues to captivate classic car enthusiasts today.

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