Those Spiffy 1953 American Cars & What They Cost
There was a time when you looked at a car and a Ford looked like a Ford, a Plymouth was a Plymouth and a Buick a Buick.
American cars all had very distinctive looks, and each brand could be readily identified by their lines. Today without looking at the nameplate or symbol, it is difficult to tell automobiles apart with many generic lookalike models.
In the 1950s, there were relatively few foreign cars purchased in the United States. For the vast majority, Americans bought American cars, made entirely in the U.S.A. by American workers,
These ads from the May 16, 1953 Saturday Evening Post, show an optomistic America where car ownership is a status symbol to shoot for. In these wordy ads, not one mentions the manufacturers suggested retail price (MSRP). That’s because buying a new car meant spending the equivalent of an entire year’s salary.
In order to put 1953 new car prices in perspective, let’s look at the median average annual income (prior to taxation):
women farm workers: $500
women rural non-farm workers: $900
men farm workers: $1,400
women urbanized areas: $1,600
men rural non-farm workers: $3,200
men urbanized areas: $3,700
(source: U.S. Census Bureau May, 1955)
An alternate way to look at this would be:
American wealth as broken down by family income:
Family Income Number of Families (Total 41,900,000)
Under $1,000 3,700,000
$1,000 to $1,999 4,600,000
$2,000 to $2,999 5,000,000
$3,000 to $3,999 6,400,000
$4,000 to $4,999 6,500,000
$5,000 to $5,999 5,000,000
$6,000 to $6,999 3,600,000
$7,000 to $9,999 4,700,000
$10,000 to $14,999 1,800,000
$15,000 and over 600,000
Today, every televised car advertisement carries a ubiquitous warning. Even though there is no “Do Not Attempt” beneath the ad copy, I’m pretty sure the Shadow Mountain Club, near Palm Springs, CA would not have allowed you to drive your car right up to the pool.
Here is the stylish Chrysler New Yorker Deluxe Convertible. Emphasizing a V-8 engine and power in their ad. Power steering, power brakes, etc.. It was Chrysler’s top of the line auto. Cost: $3,950. The Chrysler New Yorker Town and Country Wagon: $3,898.
Ford still meant the man himself. Henry Ford had died only six years earlier in 1947, so Ford wasn’t just a car name. Three different Ford station wagon’s are featured here including one with exterior wood paneling.
The Ford Country Sedan 4 Door Station Wagon was a bargain compared to Chrysler’s station wagon with an MSRP of only $2,267.
Ford’s 1953 Lincoln Capri retailed for $3,450. This price did not include power steering, 4 way power seat, power brakes, or white side-wall tires. Price not withstanding, the Capri was still a success for Ford selling 12,916 coupes, 11,352 sedans and 2,372 convertibles.
The two page spread is an appealing way to differentiate the quality of the end product from the other auto ads.