We’re working hard here at Forgotten Fiberglass to compile and archive a copy of every postwar automotive magazine from 1947 to 1960. These are essential to documenting the era and the stories that abound on building your own sports car. But you can learn so much more than just what you’re looking for.
That is, by reviewing the magazines over the years “en masse” you get a feel for the culture of the times – the “je ne sais quoi” of the era. And in fact that’s what I found earlier this week when reviewing a recent purchase – a special edition published by Speed Age Magazine in 1953 called “Cars of Today” that included a special section on “America’s Production Sports Cars.” One that put in print what was available to purchase in American sports cars to the public at large. It included one you could built yourself too.
In this article by Speed Age Magazine, we get a ringside seat to the cars that top automotive editors identified having fit the “sports car” criteria in America in 1953. And it’s the very cars that they discuss that reveal themselves to be in stark contrast to the American sports cars that we know and love, which include sports cars such as the:
- Glasspar G2
- Victress S1A
- Woodill Wildfire
- and so on – sports cars you built yourself that were available in 1953
The American Sports Cars of 1953:
By 1953, there were more than 30 sports car manufacturers producing bodies, cars, and/or both across America. True….these were all small companies, but they were producing sports cars of original design that they would build or others could buy and build themselves.
All of these cars were designed with style, weight distribution, two-seat configuration, and terrific power to weight ratio in mind. Right on target for the definition of a sports cars at the time.
The article by Speed Age Magazine identifies the following list of production sports cars being produced in America in 1953:
- Buick Skylark – debuted in 1953; deliveries same year
- Cadillac Eldorado – debuted in 1953; deliveries same year
- Chevrolet Corvette – debuted in 1953, deliveries in late 1953
- Cunningham C3 – debuted in 1953; deliveries in 1953
- Kaiser Darrin – announced in 1952, prototype debuted in 1953, deliveries in early 1954
- Kurtis 500S – available in “kit” form too; debuted in 1953
- Nash Healey – debuted in 1951, new style in 1952
- Packard Caribbean – debuted in 1953; deliveries same year
Most would add the 1953 Oldsmobile Fiesta to the list – not sure why it didn’t appear. Rarity couldn’t have been the issue since there were about 450 copies of the Fiesta made and GM produced just over 500 El Dorados. So I’ll add this name here.
The editors of Speed Age did include some great choices here that would fit the sports car definition more closely – the Cunningham, Kaiser-Darrin, Kurtis, and Nash Healey. But the combined production of these cars in 1953 was considerably less than 1000 – not a lot of American sports cars out there across for Americans to buy.
Reviewing The Article:
Let’s have a look at the pages that show and describe each of these cars. And remember….you can click on any of the images below and the picture will get larger on your screen to make it easier to read.
So think back and put yourself in the shoes of someone looking for an American sports car in 1953. Would you buy a production sports car shown above? There are some great choices in the more “sporty” models when compared to the larger style boulevard cruisers (which, by the way are magnificent – just very very large for a sports car).
Or…would you take the less traveled route – an adventurous one – and build a sports car exactly to your specifications?
- What would you do gang?
- Which car would you choose from this list?
- Or….would you explore the other choices we know from “the path less traveled?”
Let us know your thoughts in the comment area below.
Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…
Glass on gang…
I think Detroit conned Speed Age to do this feature story…..Even back then , the Europeans cracked up laughing at this article, and a few other similar ones, as the Yanks tried to redefine the term ” sports car ” as any car that looked “racy” …
Packard Carribean, Cadillac Eldorado, as well as most of the rest of the list were convertible passenger car, and were definitely not suited for the “sport of motoring” ..even the lackluster Corvette could not compete in any performance category until Duntov began redesigning it in 1957.
Today, among those who were around sports cars and the SCCA during the 50’s and early 60s , just remembering Detroit’s embarrassing efforts for so many years, still brings chuckles. Detroit just didn’t want to acknowledge the Europeans had the answer…and so MULTITUDES of Bugeye Sprites, MGA’s, TR3’s and Jaguars filled the American highways…and sports car events. Actually, the Japs figured it out in the early-mid 60’s, long before Detroit, as well.
The cars in the article are great cars, and definitely Classics …. but except for the Cunninghams, Kurtis’ and maybe the Nash Healey, none of the other American ‘Production’ cars were actually Sports Cars,even tho’ Speed Age tried to re-define the term for Detroit’s benefit
I have posted this onto the 53 Eldo Forum. I hope you have no objections. Just spent the last few days assembing the front and rear bumpers for a 53 Eldo . I am 99% certain that the 53 Eldo bumpers weigh equivalent to the whole body of several of the other cars on this list. haha
A sports car in spirit no doubt. Kind regards .Quentin Hall. Australia.
@Quentin – Good to hear from you and a quick “hello” to all our friends from OZ and New Zealand. Hope all “down under” is going well. I welcome you – and everyone – to share anything we post here whenever you like – just make sure you show attribution if you download and re-purpose the material. I’m glad you like the article – I think it’s a great window into the mindset of these “American Sports Cars” in 1953 – and a comprehensive view at that. I’d be honored if you share the material. Keep in touch and talk soon. Geoff
I just noticed a few other odd things about the ’53 Corvette – it has front fender mounted intake scoops – different side fender emblem, etc. That makes this particular car the ’53 GM Motorama EX-122 Experimental Prototype. This car still exists in the hands of George Kerbeck at Kerbeck Chevrolet in Atlantic City, NJ. GM had re-painted the car red and installed a V8 in it at some point. Kerbeck has restored the car back to its original configuration.
Dear Geoff and other folks.
I find it amazing how many mails with interesting and useful information you manage to send out.
Makes me wonder how you find the time to work on your cars.
Whatever: thanks for introducing me to USA specialists cars.
MMH how much I liked the Kellison J4 on ebay. Pitty,my gagage is full.
Please continue and kind regards, Frans
I’m sure the Corvette picture was colored for the magazine cover and not the color of the car, great article , I never really think of those cars when I think of the 50’s it’s good to be reminded.
Nice story, but I find three things unusual – the yellow Corvette on the cover – I’m thinking that they were only available in Polo White in ’53. The picture of the Buick Skylark is actually a one-off ’52 version and not the ’53 production version. Also, I wonder why they didn’t include the Muntz Jet?