More 'dream cars' appeared during 1953: Buick's Wildcat,
Dodge's Firearrow, Hudson's Italia, Lincoln-Mercury's XL500 and Packard's Balboa. A 'dream car come true' was Chevrolet's plastic-bodied Corvette. It became one of the most successful American sports cars. A total of 6,116,948 cars were sold in the US in 1953, and the majority of these had eight-cylinder engines, many of them being V8s.
Most car makers now offered automatic transmission and several top-line models featured it as standard equipment. Buick and Ford celebrated their golden anniversaries and in April Willys-Overland was purchased by the Kaiser Motors Corporation (formerly Kaiser-Frazer Corp.). Kaiser's Willow Run plant, built originally by Ford in 1942 for bomber production, was sold to General Motors for manufacture of Hydra-Matic transmissions, following the multi-million-dollar fire which destroyed their transmission plant at Livonia, also in Michigan. As a temporary measure, Cadillac and Oldsmobile buyers were offered Buick's Dynaflow and Pontiac adapted Chevrolet's Powerglide for their automatic transmission cars.
Although advertised as a sports car, the early Corvettes didn't quite live up to the image-but first-class personal cars they certainly were, with well proportioned glass-fibre bodywork and two-speed 'Powerglide' automatic transmission to take the strain out of stop-and-go driving. The cleanest-looking and best-styled car of the 'Fifties was undoubtedly the original Raymond Loewy-styled Studebaker coupe of 1953, known either as 'Starlight' or 'Starliner'. With the passing years, through, the basic design became ever more cluttered and bogged down with needless chrome and ill-fitting exterior trim.
Studebaker's merger with Packard didn't help financially, so face-lift followed face-lift, while the once-renowned Packard turned into a bulbous envelope, which nevertheless covered flawless mechanical components. Even the Caribbean convertible looked more like a foundering whale than a graceful open-air conveyance for which the grand old marrque had long been a styling leader before the war.
It was in 1953 that the Arnolt concern got off the ground, the company producing cars up to 1964. The Chicago-based company used MG chassis and Bertone bodies The most popular of these machines were the Bristol-engined devices that scored quite a few racing successes. The Woodhill fibreglass Body Corporation of Tustin California also built cars to a slightly more sophisticated standard. From 1952 to 1958 they manufactured cars based on Willys running gear and with engines up to Cadillac 300 bhp units.
1953 Buick models had minor styling changes. Super 50 and Roadmaster 70 models had a new OHV V8 engine with bore and stroke of 4 x 3·2 inch. The Special 40 Series retained the in-line eight cylinder engine.
The 1953 Cadillac El Dorado Convertible was luxurious new model with panoramic windscreen and an overall height of 58½ inches. The interior was trimmed in leather. Cadillac offered the then most powerful engine (210 bhp) ever used in an American production car.
Checker taxicab styling had not changed much since about 1948 and continued until 1955/56. Checkers were also available as family cars but few were sold. The 'big three' offered taxicab versions of their popular models, mainly Chevrolet, Ford and DeSoto. Large numbers of these saw service throughout the United States and elsewhere.
The Chevrolet Series 2400 Bel Air Sedan, Model 2403, featured all new Fisher bodywork for 1953. There were three series: One- Fifty or 1500 Special, Two-Ten or 2100 DeLuxe and 2400 Bel Air, with 6, 7 and 4 body styles respectively. Manual transmission cars had 235 CID 108-bhp engine (1952 Powerglide engine with hydraulic valve lifters). Powerglide-equipped cars had the new 115-bhp Blue-Flame engine, featuring aluminium pistons, insert connecting rod bearings and full pressure lubrication. All had one-piece windscreen.
Chevrolet Corvette plastic-bodied Sport Roadster made its debut this year. It had a 150-bhp six-cylinder Blue-Flame engine and Powerglidetransmission. In later years it was available with a wide range of engine performance options.
In 1953 Chrysler dropped the Saratoga and offered the C-60-1 Windsor and C-60-2 Windsor DeLuxe models with 264·5 CID 119-bhp Six and C-56-1 New Yorker and C-56-2 New Yorker DeLuxe with 331·5 CID 180-bhp V8. All had 125½ inch wheelbase. From June, PowerFlite was available. This was Chrysler's first full automatic.
The 1953 Chrysler Imperial series comprised luxurious C-58 Custom Imperial with 1 33½-inch wheelbase (pictured left) and C-59 Crown Imperial with 145½-inch wheelbase. Both had the same 180-bhp 'hemi-head' engine as regular Chryslers. The new PowerFlite auto-transmission was installed on Imperials beginning in March. The C-59 had 12-volt electrics.
DeSoto models with six-cylinder engines were redesignated Powermaster (Series S-18), the V8 retained the Firedome name (Series S-16). The two engines were rated at 116 and 160 bhp respectively. The Wheelbase was 125½-inch for all regular models. Firedome Eight models outsold the Powermaster Six by almost two-to-one. Firedome was sometimes written as FireDome.
DeSoto SP-24 Diplomat and Diplomat Custom (pictured left) were available for export with nine body styles. Like the Dodge Kingsway these 114-inch wheelbase economy models were mechanically similar to the Plymouth but they had 7·01 compression ratio engines, rated at 97 bhp, like the 1949-52 Plymouth.
Dodge introduced its first V8 in 1953. Named Red Ram and featuring hemispherical combustion chambers, it was a 241·3 CID unit rated at 140 bhp. Over half the Dodges sold this year were V8's. The 1953 series comprised Kingsway (export), D-46 Meadowbrook and Coronet Six with 119-inch wheelbase, D-47 Meadowbrook Six with 114-inch wheelbase, D-44 Coronet V8 with 119-inch wheelbase and D-48 Coronet V8 with 114-inch wheelbase (pictured left).
Ford's 1953 range was virtually the same as that of 1952, in spite of the fact that this was Ford's 50th anniversary. The usual annual styling changes were confined mainly to the radiator grille and body side mouldings. Shown left is the top-line Victoria Convertible, Model 60B, of the Crestline series.
The Henry J for 1953 had same appearance as 1952 models but featured many detail improvements. There were Corsair-4 and Corsair DeLuxe (6-cyl.) versions. Sales literature listed 'Penny-Minder' carburettor, 'Synchro-Flex' rear springing, 'Triple-Tooth' steering with 'Finger-Tip' linkage, etc. However, this little Kaiser was discontinued after Kaiser bought Willys-Overland who had their Aero compact cars.
Hudson C Series" width="270" height="180" border="0">
The 1953 Hudson C Series comprised the Jet 1C and Super Jet 2C with 105-inch wheelbase, Wasp 4C and Super Wasp 5C with 119-inch wheelbase, and Hornet 7C with 124-inch wheelbase. All had Six in-line engines. The new Jet and Super Jet (pictured left) had a 104-bhp 3.3-litre engine, with 114-bhp twin-carb option and were available with conventional, overdrive or automatic (GM Hydra-Matic) transmission.
Kaiser had won international beauty prizes during 1950-52 in France, Holland, Switzerland, etc. and for 1953 the DeLuxe and Manhattan models were continued with only minor changes. The Coupe and Traveler models were discontinued. Pictured left is the DeLuxe four-door Sedan.
1953 Lincoln styling changes were slight. The big news was under the hood, the Lincoln sporting a brand-new 317·5 CID OHV V8 with four-barrel concentric-bowl carburettor, developing 205 bhp at 4200 rpm. The transmission was dual-range Hydra-Matic (later Turbo-Drive) and 'power' was available for steering, braking and seat adjustment. There were three Capri and two Cosmopolitan
The Nash 1953 range comprised four Rambler (Convertible pictured left), five Statesman and five Ambassador models. Ramblers equipped with Hydra-Matic had the same bore and stroke as the larger Statesman.
The Nash-Healey Le Mans Hardtop Coupe was additional to the already existing Convertible/Roadster. The chassis came from Donald Healey in Warwick, England (using twin-carby 140-bhp Nash Dual Jetfire Six engines), bodies from Pininfarina in Italy. Altogether 506 were made until August 1954.
The Oldsmobile Super 88 Holiday Coupe featured fashionable hardtop styling. Compared with 1952, 1953 models had squarer rear wings (fenders) and restyled grille, bumpers and side mouldings on otherwise unchanged Fisher bodies. This year's output of 319.414 cars included the company's four-millionth and the two-millionth with Hydra-Matic.
The Oldsmobile 98 Fiesta Convertible Coupe, Series 98, had a 124-inch wheelbase, DeLuxe 88 and Super 88 120-inch wheelbase. All had 303 CID Rocket V8 engine. 165-bhp for 98 and Super 88, 150-bhp for DeLuxe 88, and 12-volt electrics.
Packards 26th Series Patrician 400 six-passenger Sedan featured
new body side mouldings, radiator grille and other detail changes Eight-passenger and Limousine variants were introduced, as well as an attractive new sports roadster, called the Pan American. The latter had a 185-bhp eight-in-line engine and a top speed of 125 mph. In addition there were the 300 (three models), the Clipper range with a smaller-bore engine, and various Ambulances.
The Plymouth Range was simplified and now consisted of 114-inch wheelbase P-24-1 Cambridge and P-24-2 Cranbrook models. The 217·8 CID engine was the same as before but the compression ratio was increased from 7·0 to 7·1:1, and output from 97 to 100 bhp, both at 3600 rpm. The Hy-Drive auto-trans. was available for the first time.
The Pontiac Dual Streak 1953 range comprised Series 25 Chieftain Six and Series 27 Chieftain Eight each with 11 models. The wheelbase was extended from 120 to 122 inches. The engines used were still the in-line L-head 239·2 CID Six and 268·4 CID Eight. A number of Pontiacs were supplied with Powerglide auto-trans.
In 1953 Studebaker introduced totally new body styling by Loewy, as exemplified by the Commander Regal Hardtop Coupe, Model 4H-K5. As usual there was a wide range of body styles in the Champion Series 14G and Commander Series 4H, topped by the luxurious Model 4H-Y5 Commander Regal Land Cruiser.
The 1953 Willys Aero range now comprised Lark, Falcon, Ace and Eagle two and four-door models. Three engines were available, the Lightning 6 (L-head, 75-bhp), Hurricane 4 (F-head, 72-bhp: Lark export option) and Hurricane 6 (F-head, 90-bhp).
The Willys CJ3B Universal Jeep was produced from 1952. It was basically the same as the preceding CJ3A but fitted with the new 71-bhp Hurricane 4 F-head engine, necessitating a higher bonnet and grille.
The Willys MD/M38A1 military Jeep was also produced from 1952. Mechanically similar to the CJ3B it had entirely new bodywork and 81-in (vs. 80-in) wheelbase. For civilian use it was made available as CJ5.