A Guide to 1951 Cars

With bright colors and shiny grillework, post war prosperity simply bursts from the best cars of 1951.
Written by Amber Reed
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
The iconic Studebaker Starlight Coupe was the best car of 1951, and set the standard for a body style that would rule the roadways for the next decade.  
It only takes a glance at the candy colored cars of 1951 to get a feel for the post war optimism of the age. Nothing says “everything’s great, kids!” like a palmetto-green Pontaic or the blindingly bright grille work on a classic Studebaker. 
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The best cars of 1951

1951 was the dawn of a bright new era, and these are a few of the shining automotive stars of the time. 

The best car of 1951: Studebaker Starlight Coupe

NADA retail range: $7,850 to $36,600
Powertrain: 6 cylinder V8 engine, manual transmission
What makes it special: 
The 50s just wouldn’t have been the same without Studebaker. With its forward leaning stance, fighter aircraft-inspired styling, and innovative wrap-around rear window, the Studebaker Starlight Coupe was a stylistic leap forward. An immense success and the best selling car of 1951, the Starlight Coupe’s unmistakable body shape was immediately mimicked by other automakers, and when you think about the look of a classic 50s car, you’re more than likely thinking of a Studebaker Starlight. 
With its long, flat hood and long, flat trunk, the two-door coupe was often the butt of “which way is it going?” jokes, but the Starlight knew which way it was headed. Straight ahead, and not looking back. 

The best luxury car of 1951: Mercedes-Benz W187

Average retail: $105,653
Powertrain: 2.2-liter inline six with four speed manual transmission
What makes it special: 
Although renowned for high performance and luxury cars,
only produced four-cylinder passenger cars in the years immediately following WWII. That changed with the 1951 introduction of the Mercedes-Benz W187, a six-cylinder luxury sedan with styling that was old fashioned, but not stodgy. Freestanding headlights and a massive grille with the ever-iconic hood ornament let you know exactly who was coming. 
Though it was only in production for a few years, it was popular with the rich and famous of the day. And with Mercedes’ return to performance with the introduction of their first new engine in ten years, it looked like things were going to stay that way. 
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The best SUV of 1951: Ford Country Squire

NADA retail range: $81,000 to $157,000
Powertrain: 3.7-liter inline 6 or 3.9-liter V8, manual or automatic transmission
What makes it special: 
A genuine woody, the 1951
Country Squire was advertised as being built “for beauty and duty.” Though technically a station wagon, it can call itself whatever it wants because it’s gorgeous. With three rows of bench seating and room for eight, the Country Squire was marketed primarily as a family car, but also found a lot of use as a West Coast surf wagon. If you can find one today, it won’t be cheap—they’re highly prized collector’s items.

The best luxury SUV of 1951: Pontiac Streamliner Eight Deluxe Station Wagon

NADA retail range: $40,600 to $201,400
Powertrain: Straight 8 cylinder, automatic transmission
What makes it special:
It’s quite the mouthful to say, and a delightful eyeful to look at. 1951 was the final year for the Streamliner and also
’s 25th anniversary, and this wagon was created to commemorate the event. 
A unique wing-styled grille graced all Pontiacs from this year, and the combination of an all-metal body with wood interior touches earned this model the nickname “The Tin Woody.” The Streamliner Eight Deluxe Station Wagon was outfitted with the finest bells and whistles available, and it was the most expensive model that Pontiac offered at the time. 

The best family car of 1951: Chrysler New Yorker

NADA retail range: $3,475 to $11,400
Powertrain: 5.3-liter straight eight or 5.4-liter V8, semi-automatic transmission
What makes it special: 
While both of the wagons previously mentioned could easily fall into this category as well, we’re going to give a nod to the
New Yorker when it comes to the best family car of 1951. We know what you’re thinking: but this is most definitely not the sad, bland New Yorker of the make’s final generations. 
This New Yorker was a chrome and steel beauty, and was available as a coupe, sedan, convertible and station wagon. New upgrades for this generation featured foam rubber padding on the dashboard for safety (so kid-friendly, right?) and plenty of space for the whole family to pile in. 

The best sports car of 1951: Nash-Healey Roadster

NADA retail range: $62,800 to $132,700
Powertrain: 3.8-liter inline six, three speed manual with overdrive
What makes it special: 
The product of a chance encounter between sports car builder Donald Healey and Nash’s George Mason while they were aboard the Queen Elizabeth II ocean liner, the Nash-Healey roadster was a new breed of sports car aimed at the younger generation
It was the first sports car introduced in the US by a major automaker since the Great Depression, and predated the
by two years. This fun and free spirited roadster could produce up to 125 horsepower, and spent some time on the racing circuits of the day. Only a little over 100 of these were made, and very few remain around today

The best truck of 1951: Chevrolet 3100

NADA retail range: $15,000 to $90,100
Powertrain: 3.5-liter inline 6, three or four speed manual transmission
What makes it special: 
Picture a classic, old school farm truck, like the kind you see abandoned in fields in Instagram-friendly photo ops. Big metal grille; wooden boards in and around the bed; round, wide set headlights. 
More than likely, what you’re imagining is a
3100. These two-door, half ton beauties were extremely popular in the US, and are beloved by collectors today. 
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What cars came out in 1951? 

The dawn of the 50s was a time of optimism, and a lot of bold, brash cars were produced around that time. Here are a few of the notable vehicles that made their debut in 1951:
Vehicle type
Fair market range
Ford Zephyr
Executive car
Inline 6
no info available
Largest passenger car in the British Ford line
Plymouth Cambridge
Full-size sedan
3.6-liter inline 6
$3,575 to $12,450
Featured new electric windshield wiper technology
Talbot Baby
Executive car
Inline 4 or inline 6
$11,274 to $38,019
First made from 1936-1940, revived in 1951
Packard 300
Inline 8
$4,000 to $21,400
Lovely swan hood ornament
Hudson Hornet
Full-size/muscle car
5.0-liter inline 6
Variable, as high as $1.2 million
Extremely rare to find today
Jaguar C-type
Racing sports car
3.4-liter straight 6
$56,100 to $5.3 million
The “C” stood for competition
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How to save money on used car insurance

It’s safe to say that you’re probably not going to need to worry about getting insurance for many of the cars listed here, as some of them are extremely rare. But if you do find the vintage car of your dreams that’s actually attainable, consider getting
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An icon of an era, the most popular car of 1951 was the decade-defining Studebaker Starlight Coupe.
The Spanish-made Pegaso Z-120 was the fastest production car in the world in 1951, with a top speed of 151 mph.
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