American Car Spotters Guide - 1956

Send This Page To A Friend
Fade To White
American Car Spotters Guide - 1956


The Top Cars of 1956



EVERY year Motor Trend, one of the top American motoring magazines, carried out a penetrating survey to find the top cars of the year. After a lot of figuring, Motor Trend's research staff arrived at The Top Cars Of 1956, and from these they selected the car that handled best, the car with the best fuel economy per dollar, and the most beautiful cars on the road.

Here's the honour roll of past winners: In 1951 the Car Of The Year was Chrysler. In 1952 it was Cadillac, and there was no award given in 1953. The 1954 Ford was the best handling, and Cadillac the hottest. The most beautiful cars were the Studebaker Starliner (overall winner) and the smaller Buick (among four-door sedans).

In 1955 the Studebaker Champion and Cadillac held their top spots. Packard's torsion-bar suspension earned it the "Newest Concept In Motorin"g award. Mercury and Chevrolet tied for the best-handling spot; the Chrysler 300 was the best-looking car and Mercury Montclair the handsomest four-door sedan. Here's how the 1956 cars rated: Take the standing-start 0-60 figures, for example. The car that reached 60 quickest was the Studebaker Golden Hawk, giving it 100 points.

Next fastest was the Buick Century, which required 9.6 seconds; this was 97 percent as good as the Golden Hawk, so the Buick was awarded 97 points. All others were dealt with in the same way. In the passing-speed acceleration figures from 30 to 50, the Golden Hawk again took the lead, as it did in every category, earning 400 points. Its 3.3 time from 30 to 50 mph therefore earned it another 100 points, and the other cars a proportion. When the figures in the four columns were totalled (horizontally for each car, points varied from the Golden Hawk's impressive 400 down to about half that.

Each test car's total was then divided by its list price, equipped with automatic transmission or overdrive, but none of the optional extras. The result gave the figures in the last column, establishing Chevrolet as easily the top performer performer per dollar of all the cars tested. To keep the ratings entirely on the basis of fact, no attempt was made to interpret all the figures in terms of, say, middle-line sedans or de luxe hardtops. The test cars were about evenly divided among sedans and two and four-door hardtops. Differerent body styles and models vary in weight, price, and performance per dollar and only an enormous program of testing every car in each line could give all the answers.

The first thing that was evident was that the Chevrolet was a clear-cut winner for 1956, though it tied with Mercury in 1955. This was because of the three distinguishing points that made Chevrolet a trend setter. Weight distribution was something in which the Chevrolet stood alone in the industry. No other V8 was truly light or had a weight advantage over the six that it replaced. The third point was not commonly associated with handling. Styling - whether it meant impressive bulges or modest overhangs, fender upheavals, and the like - could have a definite effect on the pleasure of handling a car. The Chevy's restraint here made it the class leader.

Any car can feel good on a smooth highway, but it's on rough roads, gravel, and sharp turns that the stiffish suspension of the Chevy (and the runner-up Mercury) brought peace of mind to the driver. When the test car was let deliberately loose, its power and steering were right there to help the researchers out of trouble without any loss of dignity. Directional stability was slightly affected by wind. This was the only handling category remaining to the advantage of a heavier car and this only at high speeds.

Styling Changes



Most 1956 American models differed only slightly from those of the 1955 model year but a new fashion began to emerge - tail fins. Still fairly rudimentary, they continued to 'grow' until by the end of the decade on some cars they had become so large as to be undesirably cumbersome, if not dangerous. 1956 Chrysler Corporation cars featured larger engines, push button automatic transmission controls and 12-volt electrics. Ford also introduced 12 volts as well as a bigger engine (Fairlane with Thunderbird V8), optional safety belts and a new high-quality car, the Continental.

General Motors now offered four-door hardtops in all its car division's lines. This body style was becoming increasingly popular and accounted for a large slice of the year's total passenger car sales, which was, nevertheless over a million down on 1955 but still amounted to a staggering 5,816,109. It is interesting to note that in 1956 Ford Motor Company stock became available to the public for the first time when the Ford Foundation offered more than 10 million of its shares at $64.50 each. The first public stockholders' meeting took place in May.
Fade To White
1956 Buick Series 40 Special Sedan
USA

Buick Special

  Also see: Buick Road Tests and Reviews | Buick Brochures
 
Buick offered four series: 40 Special, 50 Super, 60 Century and 70 Roadmaster. All models had a 352 CID V8 engine, new front suspension, rear axle and other chassis improvements.
Fade To White
1956 Buick Estate Wagon
USA

Buick Special Estate Wagon

  Also see: Buick Road Tests and Reviews | Buick Brochures
 
The Buick Estate Wagon was available in both the 220-bhp Special (pictured left) and 255-bhp Century Series. Dynaflow auto transmissions were standard on Centurys, optional on Specials.
Fade To White
1956 Buick Series 50 Super four-door Hardtop
USA

Buick Super

  Also see: Buick Road Tests and Reviews | Buick Brochures
 
The Buick Series 50 Super four-door Hardtop was available in the 50 and 70 Series for the first time in 1956. They had the 255-bhp engine with variable-pitch Dynaflow and Power Steering as standard equipment.
Fade To White
1956 Cadillac Coupe de Ville
USA

Cadillac

  Also see: Cadillac Road Tests and Reviews | Cadillac Brochures
 
Cadillac's 1956 styling changes were relatively minor but the engine and transmission were further improved. The new 365 CID engine developed 285 bhp and the Hydra-Matic had a 'dump-and-fill' controlled coupling. Power brakes, with 18-in wide pedal, were standard equipment on all models.
Fade To White
1956 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Convertible
USA

Cadillac ElDorado

  Also see: Cadillac Road Tests and Reviews | Cadillac Brochures
 
The Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Convertible (and Seville Hardtop Coupe) had 305-bhp 365 CID V8 engine with 9,75:1 compression ratio, and dual four-barrel carburettors. These high-performance models had distinguishing rear wings, flowing rearward to newly styled oval exhaust ports.
Fade To White
1956 Chevrolet Series 2400 Bel Air Convertible
USA

Chevrolet Bel Air

  Also see: Chevrolet Road Tests and Reviews | Chevrolet Brochures
 
The Chevrolet 1956 range comprised some 20 models in Special (1500), DeLuxe (2100) and Bel Air (2400) series. Engine options included V8s and a more powerful Six.
Fade To White
1956 Chevrolet Series 2900 Corvette
USA

Chevrolet Corvette

  Also see: Chevrolet Road Tests and Reviews | Chevrolet Brochures
 
The Chevrolet Series 2900 Corvette, Model 2934, was produced during 1956-57 and featured revised styling with concave side panels in the plastic body, power-operated top and side windows and other improvements. It was powered by the 225-bhp Turbofire Special V8, For winter driving there was an optional plastic hardtop.
Fade To White
1956 Chrysler C-71 Windsor Convertible
USA

Chrysler Windsor

  Also see: Chrysler Road Tests and Reviews | Chrysler Brochures
 
All Chrysler Windsors, including the Nassau and Newport hardtop models had a 331 CID Spitfire V8 engine, rated at 225 bhp, and, like the C-72 Series, 126-inch wheelbase.
Fade To White
1956 Chrysler C-72 New Yorker Sedan
USA

Chrysler New Yorker 300B

  Also see: Chrysler Road Tests and Reviews | Chrysler Brochures
 
A second Chrysler 300, the 300B, was brought out with a 340 horsepower engine. Tim Flock drove a bright red 300B to the fastest flying mile of the unlimited displacement class (over 350 cu in.) for 1956 at the Daytona Beach Annual Speed Trials. Speed was 139.373 mph. All told, the 300B won 21 NASCAR Grand National Races for the year.
Fade To White
1956 Chrysler C-72 New Yorker Sedan
USA

Chrysler New Yorker

  Also see: Chrysler Road Tests and Reviews | Chrysler Brochures
 
Chrysler New Yorkers, including Newport and St. Regis hardtop models, featured 280-bhp 354 CID Firepower V8, push-button PowerFlite transmission, Power Smooth brakes and other refinements. Optional equipment included air-conditioning, instant gasoline heater which reached 100 degrees in seconds, and record player.
Fade To White
1956 300B high-performance Hardtop Coupe C-72-300
USA

Chrysler 300B

  Also see: Chrysler Road Tests and Reviews | Chrysler Brochures
 
The Chrysler 300B high-performance Hardtop Coupe C-72-300 had increased horsepower, now up to 340 (355 optional). In 1955 a Chrysler 300 won both NASCAR and AAA Stock Car Championships. Like all other 1956 Chryslers it had 12-volt electrics and 126-inch wheelbase. Height was 58·6 inches.
Fade To White
1956 Continental Mark II
USA

Continental

  Also see: Lincoln Road Tests and Reviews | Lincoln Brochures
 
The Continental Mark II was Ford's ultra-luxury prestige car. There was only one model, a two-door hardtop Coupe, Model YA-60. A convertible version by Derham was offered later. The 300-bhp V8 engine. Turbo Drive automatic transmission and other mechanical components were the same as on the Lincoln Capri and Premiere.
Fade To White
1956 DeSoto Diplomat Custom SP-28-3
USA

DeSoto Diplomat

  Also see: DeSoto Brochures
 
The DeSoto Diplomat DeLuxe SP-28-2 and Diplomat Custom SP-28-3 had a 125-bhp PowerFlow Six engine. The Diplomat SP-29 V8 models had V-motif on grille and 187-bhp Hy-Fire engine. A less powerful V8 export model, designated SP-29X, was available also.
Fade To White
1956 DeSoto S-24 Fireflite four-door Sedan
USA

DeSoto Fireflite

  Also see: DeSoto Brochures
 
The DeSoto S-24 Fireflite four-door Sedan. Like the S-23 Firedome it had 126-inch wheelbase and a 330 CID V8 engine. The top-line Adventurer, a limited-production hardtop coupe, had a 320-bhp 341 CID engine. Fireflites had push-button operated automatic trans as standard (optional on Firedomes).
Fade To White
1956 Dodge Lancer Custom Royal D-63-3
USA

Dodge Custom Royal

  Also see: Dodge Road Tests and Reviews | Dodge Brochures
 
In 1956 Dodge introduced a new four-door Hardtop, the Lancer. Pictured left is the Custom Royal D-63-3 version, but the same body style was offered in the lower-priced Royal D-63-2 and Coronet D-63-1 Series. V8 engines of various bhp ratings were available, but the Coronet could also be bought as a Six (D-62-1). All had 120-inch wheelbase. Dodge Kingsway D-49 export models had similar front end styling but smaller engines and 11 5-in wb.
Fade To White
1956 Dodge Custom Sierra four-door Station Wagon
USA

Dodge Custom Sierra

  Also see: Dodge Road Tests and Reviews | Dodge Brochures
 
The Dodge Custom Sierra four-door Station Wagon was available with two or three seats; the latter seated eight. Two-door station wagons were named Suburban.
Fade To White
1956 Ford Fairlane Victoria
USA

Ford Fairlane

  Also see: Ford Road Tests and Reviews | Ford Brochures
 
The 1956 Ford models were facelifted editions of the previous year's range but there were some changes in model availability. The Customline Country Sedan 8-passenger Wagon was discontinued, and three new models were added in the Fairlane range: Victoria Fordor (57A Ford's first four-door hardtop), Parklane Ranch Wagon (59C) and Victoria (64C, pictured left). The 292 CID V8 engine which powered the 1955 Thunderbird was now available for other models as well. It developed 202 bhp. The smaller 272 CID V8 and the 223 CID Six now produced 173 and 137 bhp respectively.
Fade To White
1956 Ford Thunderbird
USA

Ford Thunderbird

  Also see: Ford Road Tests and Reviews | Ford Brochures
 
The Ford Thunderbird featured an outside spare wheel. There was choice of two engines: Thunderbird Y-S 292 CID for gearshift models (202 bhp) and Thunderbird Special Y-S 312 CID for cars with overdrive (215 bhp) and Fordomatic (225 bhp).
Fade To White
1956 Hudson Wasp
USA

Hudson Wasp

 
 
Hudson cars were again based on contemporary Nashes. The Wasp was powered by the 202 CID Six engine that had been used in the Hudson Jet prior to the merger with Nash, when the Jet was superseded by the Nash Rambler with Hudson name plates. For the Hornet AMC used the Packard V8 power unit as in 1955.
Fade To White
1956 Imperial four-door Sedan
USA

Imperial

   
 
Pictured left is the Imperial four-door Sedan of the 133-inch wheelbase C-73 Series. Other body styles were new Southampton two and four-door Hardtops. The FirePower 9·01 compression ratio 354 CID V8's developed 250 bhp and auto-trans (PowerFlite), power brakes and power steering were standard equipment. The C-70 Crown Imperial had 149½-inch wheelbase.
Fade To White
1956 Lincoln Premiere Convertible
USA

Lincoln Premiere

  Also see: Lincoln Road Tests and Reviews | Lincoln Brochures
 
Pictured left is the Lincoln Premiere Convertible, Model LD-76B. Other models included the 60B Coupe and 73B Sedan. The Capri range comprised the 60E Sport Coupe and 73A Sedan. All had 126-inch wheelbase, power steering and a new 285-bhp 368 CID V8 with 9.01 compression ratio, and a "Push-button lubrication system" for front suspension and steering was optional.
Fade To White
1956 Mercury Montclair Hardtop Sedan
USA

Mercury Montclair

  Also see: Mercury Road Tests and Reviews | Mercury Brochures
 
The Mercury Montclair Hardtop Sedan, also known as Phaeton, was one of Mercury's four top-line models. Other series comprised Monterey with four models and Custom with five. The 5.1 litre V8 delivered 210, 215 or 225 bhp, depending on model and transmission type.
Fade To White
1956 Meteor Rideau Sedan
Canada

Meteor Rideau

   
 
The Meteor, produced by Ford Canada from 1948, was claimed to be the only North American car sold exclusively in Canada.
Fade To White
1956 Metropolitan Series 1500
USA

Metropolitan

   
 
The Metropolitan Series 1500 Convertible 561 and Hardtop 562, made for AMC by Austin of England, were modified in various respects. Radio, heater and lighter were standard. Three-speed transmission had dash-mounted control. The engine was an Austin A50 1500-cc. From December they were sold outside North America as the Austin Metropolitan 1500.
Fade To White
1956 Nash Ambassador
USA

Nash Ambassador

  Also see: Nash Road Tests and Reviews
 
Nash offered one Statesman and seven Ambassador models, the latter with Special, Six and V8 variants. Specials had a new AMC 190-bhp V8 and were announced in April. Rambler became a separate marque in 1956.
Fade To White
1956 Oldsmobile Series 98 DeLuxe Holiday Coupe
USA

Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight

  Also see: Oldsmobile Road Tests and Reviews | Oldsmobile Brochures
 
For 1956 Oldsmobile introduced the new Jetaway Hydra-Matic Drive and Starfire styling. The Rocket engine's power was increased to 240 bhp. An automatic six-way power seat was made available and in November the three-millionth Hydra-Matic-equipped Olds was produced.
Fade To White
Oldsmobile Tornado
USA

Oldsmobile Toronado

  Also see: Oldsmobile Road Tests and Reviews | Oldsmobile Brochures
 
This huge, stylish coupe of 1965 was the first car of its kind to bring front wheel drive to the U.S market (excluding of course the beautiful Cord's from the mid 1930's, such as the 810). The Toronado came on a massive 119 inch wheelbase, and weighed an enormous 4,366 pounds - the size and weight counting against it if you were looking for a true sports car. But a "muscle" car it was, having the mighty 425 ci V8 producing 385 bhp as standard, matched to an aggressive style and wonderful flowing lines that somehow belayed its sheer mass.
Fade To White
1956 Packard Clipper Super Hardtop Coupe
USA

Packard Clipper

  Also see: Packard Road Tests and Reviews
 
The Packard-built Clipper was now on its own and no longer advertised as a small Packard. However, this was the last year of Packard and Clipper as individual cars. The Clipper, pictured left in Super Hardtop Coupe form, had a 240-bhp V8 engine, and torsion bar suspension. A Twin-Traction limited-slip differential was available for the first time in the medium-price field, on all models.
Fade To White
1956 Plymouth Belvedere V8 Sedan
USA

Plymouth Belvedere

  Also see: Plymouth Road Tests and Reviews | Plymouth Brochures
 
Plymouth Plaza, Savoy and Belvedere models were offered with six-cylinder (P-28) or V8 (P-29) engines, supplemented by a high-performance Fury two-door Hardtop model in P-29 range. The Six was a 125-bhp 230 CID L-head, the Standard V8 was a 277 CID unit of 187 or 200-bhp rating. Optional was a smaller 270 CID V8 of 180 bhp and the Fury had a 303 CID V8 with 9·251 compression ratio and output of 240 or 270 bhp.
Fade To White
1956 Plymouth Belvedere V8 Hardtop Sedan
USA

Plymouth Belvedere V8 Hardtop Sedan

  Also see: Plymouth Road Tests and Reviews | Plymouth Brochures
 
The Plymouth Belvedere V8 Hardtop Sedan was one of 15 models in Plymouth's 1956 line of cars. Automatic transmission, if fitted, had push-button control.
Fade To White
1956 Pontiac 860 Catalina Hardtop Coupe
USA

Pontiac 860

  Also see: Pontiac Road Tests and Reviews | Pontiac Brochures
 
Pontiac offered four Series: 860, 870 and Safari with 122-inch wheelbase and Star Chief with 124-inch wheelbase. All had Strato Streak 316.6 CID V8 engine, developing up to 227 bhp, depending on model and transmission type.
Fade To White
1956 Pontiac Laurentian
Canada

Pontiac Laurentian

  Also see: Pontiac Road Tests and Reviews | Pontiac Brochures
 
General Motors of Canada produced Pontiac Laurentian and Pathfinder models, employing Chevrolet mechanical components, including the Powerglide automatic transmission.
Fade To White
1956 Rambler Cross Country Station Wagon
USA

Rambler

  Also see: AMC Road Tests and Reviews | AMC Brochures
 
Rambler was now offered as an individual make and offered larger models than hitherto, all on 108-inch wheelbase and with 120-bhp OHV Typhoon Six engine. The 'dip' in the roofline was introduced by Nash on their 1954 Rambler four-door wagon. Note: Until 1957 American Motors continued registering Ramblers as Nash and Hudson cars.
Fade To White
1956 Willys 4 x 2 Model DJ3A Dispatcher Jeep
USA

Willys Jeep

  Also see: Willys Road Tests and Reviews
 
Willys continued their range of Jeep vehicles and in October 1955 introduced the low-priced 4 x 2 Model DJ3A Dispatcher, with canvas top or optional hardtop (incorporating fibreglass plastic roof and sliding side doors) and as a basic open model. All had the 60-bhp L-head Four Go-Devil engine.
1956 Ford Continental
1956 Ford Continental.
1956 Ford Station Wagon
1956 Ford Station Wagon.
1956 Ford Thunderbird Hardtop Prototype
1956 Ford Thunderbird Hardtop Prototype.
   
Latest Classic Car Classifieds


Sell Your Car or Parts Browse the Classifieds It's Absolutely Free! - Find Out More
You may also like...