Luxury, sport and consumer cars. We present the most famous products of German automotive engineering of the 1950s, many of them sought-after classics that fetch dizzying prices at collector’s auctions.
The difficult post-war reality did not prevent German engineers from creating modern and unique cars. Automotive giants such as Daimler-Benz, BMW and Porsche presented a number of sophisticated models for discerning customers in the 1950s. One of the most popular cars for the masses, the legendary Trabant, also made its debut at this time.
Mercedes-Benz 300 Adenauer W186
Elegant, luxurious and superbly refined, the Mercedes-Benz 300 Adenauer was created for discerning customers. It takes its nickname from German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, who used as many as six cars of this model. The car was produced between 1951 and 1958 in four different variants that differed in dimensions and design solutions. It could be purchased in a two-door and convertible version. The car was equipped with a three-liter, six-cylinder engine with power (initially) of 115 hp. It reached a maximum speed of 160 km/h. The car used the most modern – for those times – technological solutions: advanced cooling system, fully synchronized gearbox and an innovative heating system. Adenauer was driven among others by the Shah of Iran Reza Pahlavi, the last emperor of Ethiopia Haile Syllasje I and King Paul I of Greece. In total, more than 12,000 copies of this model were built.
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing
The year 1954 marked the birth of the legendary Mercedes SL, which has already seen six generations. The first version of this sports car was produced between 1954 and 1963 in two versions: coupe and roadster. The nickname Gullwing (seagull wing) came from the unusual design of the doors, which lifted upwards. Another interesting solution is the “broken” (tilting upwards) steering wheel, which was to facilitate getting into the car. Under the hood of the Mercedes SL was a 3-liter engine with a maximum power of 220 hp, which could accelerate the car to 250 km/h. Due to the high price, only few could afford to buy this car. In total 3258 copies of this model were produced. On the collector market for well-preserved copies of the Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing you often have to pay over a million dollars.
Another luxury limousine on our list is the BMW 501/502 produced between 1952 and 1958, the first car developed by the Munich-based brand after World War II. Its extravagant silhouette earned it the nickname Barockengel (baroque angel). Initially, the design was equipped with a six-cylinder engine with a capacity of 2 liters and 65 horsepower, which accelerated the car to a maximum speed of 135 km/h. Since 1954, the car was powered by an 8-cylinder unit in a fork system with an output of 100 hp, which allowed the car to accelerate to 160 km/h. The designers of the car took care of the safety of the passengers; the design was equipped with side reinforcements and a shortened steering column. In total, several thousand copies of this model were produced.
It was created especially with racing in mind. It debuted in 1953 and was produced for four years. The car had a small, because 1.5-liter engine, which, however, generated a powerful 110 hp, which in combination with the lightweight and streamlined design gave excellent performance. The car coped very well during the most prestigious car races in the world. After the success in the famous Carrera Panamericana Rally in Mexico, in which two small Porsche 550s took 3rd and 4th place in the general classification, the nickname “Carrera” permanently stuck to the Porsche road cars. The 550 also gained fame for events unrelated to sports. This car was driven by Hollywood movie star James Dean, who died in a car accident.
A true design icon of the 1950s, this ultra-stylish open-top roadster still impresses today with its style and elegance. Produced between 1955 and 1959, the car was equipped with a 3.2-litre V8 engine producing 150 hp and a top speed of 215 km/h. It was also distinguished by its aluminum body. Due to its high price, only 252 units of this model were produced. It was driven by celebrities such as Elvis Presley, John Surtees, Ursula Anders and Alain Delon. Today, prices of this model often exceed 1 million dollars.
This car could not be missing from the list of the most interesting productions of the German automotive industry of the 1950s. The car was produced in the German Democratic Republic between 1957 and 1991. This model made the GDR the most motorized country of the Eastern Bloc – during several decades of production a total of over 3 million units were built. It was distinguished by a body made of plastic (duroplast), and a two-stroke engine with a capacity of 0.6 liters and 18 horsepower.