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Family Cars

These bigger saloons were the sort of cars people aspired to, purchasing them as their children grew and their careers progressed. They were cars driven by managers rather than their staff. Rarely the most exciting models in their makers’ line-ups, they were often big enough sellers and commanded a high enough price to be the first cars in their ranges to have design sophistications such as independent suspensions or all-of-a-piece bodies that did away with separate chassis frames. They were often among the first truly new vehicles produced after World War II, taking over from designs that dated back to the 1930s.

Ford Zephyr Mk II, 1956


Engine2,553 cc, straight-six
Top speed90 mph (145 km/h)

Replacing the slab-sided 1951 Zephyr, the Mk ll gained a stylish, chassis-less body with strong American overtones, column gear levers umbrella handbrakes, and strip speedometers. Soon these cars were available with overdrive and automatic transmissions, but still retained vacuum wipers that slowed down as the car sped up.

Long and low

The longer wheelbase of the Mk II Consul, Zephyr, and Zodiac models permitted sleeker looks with a lower stance; the wraparound rear window greatly increased visibility.

Dashboard style

With its ribbon speedometer, large steering wheel with chrome ring horn push, and column gear lever, the Zephyr had a typical 1950s dashboard.

Opel Olympia Rekord, 1953


Engine1,488 cc, straight-four
Top speed75 mph (121 km/h)

Opel first used the name Rekord as a version of its existing Olympia models, but it would be applied to a series of ever bigger saloons until 1986. The first Rekord replaced a 1930s’ design and had American-inspired styling. Opel was, and still is, owned by US car giant General Motors.

Alfa Romeo 1900, 1950


Engine1,884 cc, straight-four
Top speed103 mph (166 km/h)

The 1900 was the first Alfa Romeo without a chassis and the first to be engineered for mass production—older Alfas were low volume and many parts were made and built by hand. With its twin-cam engine and full-width, aerodynamic body, the 1900 was a truly modern car.

Mercedes-Benz 220, 1954


Engine2,195 cc, straight-six
Top speed101 mph (162 km/h)

The first Mercedes not to have a chassis, the 1953-launched 220 was still a solid and well-made car whose body found a ready market. It was popular with everyone from affluent businessmen to taxi drivers who liked the diesel versions. Six-cylinder petrols arrived in 1954, and the car sold well.

Volvo PV544, 1958


Engine1,583 cc, straight-four
Top speed95 mph (153 km/h)

The first Volvo to sell in quantity outside Scandinavia, the PV544 quickly established a reputation for quality construction and a robust toughness. With its chassis-less body, independent front and coil spring suspension, it handled well too. The PV544 continued in production until 1965.


It is a quote. The Classic Car Book – The Definitive Visual History 2016

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