1955: What a year!
Rock and roll was edging out Pat Boone on the radio, America was at peace, and we liked Ike.
In a decade when America worshipped the car, the '55 model year was one for the record books. A sensational V8 Chevrolet and an equally new V8 Pontiac were monster hits for GM, and new four-door hardtop Buicks and Oldsmobiles were setting sales records of their own.
The glamour queen of '55 had to be Ford's two-seat Thunderbird. Recognized as a classic from the moment it left the assembly line, the T-Bird was America's newest dream car.
Chrysler Corporation came back strong from a dreary 1954 with a sleek new "million dollar look" penned by Virgil Exner. From Plymouth to Imperial, the Mopar team was "longer, lower, and wider," just the way we liked 'em in the Fifties. The Chrysler 300 hardtop with a 300-horsepower Hemi V8 under the hood was the ultimate banker's hot rod.
The independents were feeling the heat from the Big Three in the mid-Fifties, but Packard's restyled l955 car was still an impressive machine at the country club, especially if it was a Caribbean convertible. Studebaker struggled with carryover sheet metal in '55, but a bright chartreuse and green Speedster coupe was hard to miss.
For Detroit, though, it was all a matter of timing, and in 1955, the stars were in perfect alignment. Eisenhower's economy was roaring, banks had just introduced three-year car loans, and the new Chevys, Fords and Plymouths all had the "gotta have it look."
When the numbers were all added up, U.S. car sales for 1955 totaled 7.7 million, a record that stood for ten years.
The American dream in 1955 was a new split-level in the suburbs and a new tri-toned hardtop in the driveway. Oh, how sweet it was.