Automotive Icons of the 1950’s and 60’s

By Doug Breithaupt – July 25, 2020

Three new Tomica Premium models from my favorite source, Jeff Koch (@the_toy_pimp), set me thinking about iconic cars of the 1950’s and ‘60’s. You could make a good case that the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz, Aston Martin DB5, and Ferrari 365 GTS4 Daytona are three of the most desired and recognized cars of this era. I love that Tomica is reaching back to offer models like these to collectors.

We could certainly have a lively discussion regarding the many great cars from this period of time. The definition of an automotive icon is also subjective. My opinion is that it can take at least 30 years to truly identify the cars that will become automotive blue chip collectibles and after 50 years, the icons are clearly evident. Few could disagree that these three toy cars represent some of the most desirable production cars of the period. That said, it seems only fair to broaden the field. If you read on, you will see I’ve selected five cars from England, Italy and the United States to propose as auto icons of the 1950’s and 60’s. See if you agree. First, let’s look at the new Tomica models.

Ferrari 365 GTS4 by Tomica

There has long been a debate as to which Ferrari is the most beautiful. The 250 California, GTO and Lusso are favorites, but the 365 GTB/S4, forever labeled the Daytona, is always a strong candidate. Once again, popular entertainment has played a part. While it was a TV double with a exhaust-note sound track, the public saw a 365 GTS4 Daytona on the Miami Vice TV show of the 1990’s and it made the right impression. The real cars reached seven figure values and owning one is only a dream unless you are of the one percent crowd. The Tomica model is excellent with this example in black over tan just like the Miami Vice version. The interior, top cover, and windshield trim are especially well done. I like the clear front indicator covers.

Aston Martin DB5 by Tomica

Is there an Aston Martin more recognized than the DB5? Thanks to Ian Fleming and his creation of James Bond, the books and movies have made the DB5 more than just an automobile. It has become a life-style symbol that exudes danger, style and sex appeal. Values and desirability are at the highest level. That Tomica decided to add a DB5 to their line is easy to understand. Over the last several decades, other toy car makers have done the same. Tomica has offered the DB5 without reference (or royalties paid) to the James Bond money-making machine. They have, however, offered it in the silver color most associated with 007. The casting is a very good representation of the real DB5 and offers opening doors. I would love to see chromed wire wheels, but curiously, Tomica does not seem to offer this on Premium level models.

1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz by Tomica

The 1959 Cadillac models were B52 bombers for the highway. Check out the front bumper driving light nacelles and you will see the B52 was a literal inspiration. If those rear fins were horizontal, getting airborne might take on a whole new meaning. The Eldorado Biarritz was the ultimate model choice for those who wanted to see and be seen. Popular culture has given this car the ‘king of fins’ crown. Tomica joins a number of other toy cars makers to offer the ‘59 Biarritz. They could not resist offering it in hot pink, a color never seen from the factory. The closest you could get was wood rose. I know – I owned a ‘59 Coupe de Ville in that color.

The 1959 Cadillac Coupe de Ville I owned in wood rose and white.

Painting a ‘59 Cadillac hot pink may be gauche but it is also the color most associated with this car thanks to popular music videos, song titles, and movie roles. Tomica’s choice is understandable. The casting is very good with the correct shape, interior, trim and hub-caps in place. The fin and taillight points are a bit blunted.

It is interesting that no toy car maker offered the DB5, Daytona or Biarritz in small-scale when they were contemporary cars. Corgi came the closest with their DB6 which was pressed into service as a James Bond car in place of the DB5. Road Champs did the first Biarritz in the 1980’s, and Maisto finally offered the Daytona coupe in the 1990’s.

If you are still with me so far, and waiting for the promised auto icon choices, here they are. Let’s start with five from England.

British icons of the 1950’s and ‘60’s

My British choices in addition to the DB5 are the Jaguar ‘E’ type (Matchbox), the Mini Cooper (Tomica), the Rolls Royce Silver Cloud (Matchbox), and the Land Rover Safari (Matchbox). None of these really need to be identified by anything more than their shape.

Italian icons of the 1950’s and ‘60’s

My Italian choices in addition to the 365 GTS4 Daytona are the Maserati Ghibli (Kyosho), Lamborghini Miura (Matchbox), Alfa Romeo Giulia Spyder (Impy Roadmaster), and Fiat 500 Abarth (Hot Wheels). While some of these cars might not be as well known world-wide, they are certainly icons to car collectors – or to most Italians.

American icons of the 1950’s and ‘60’s

My American choices in addition to the Eldorado Biarritz are the 1964.5 Ford Mustang (Johnny Lightning), 1971 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda convertible (Johnny Lightning), 1957 Chevrolet Corvette (Matchbox), and 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado (Johnny Lightning). While some might be confused about the year, most car lovers would agree that these designs are some of the best and most desired. The Hemi ‘Cuda is from the 1970’s, but the design dates to the 1960’s. Full disclosure – I currently own a 1966 Toronado.

Many of you are no doubt already forming your own list of iconic cars from this era. No one is objective where our favorite cars are concerned. I would love to see your lists in the comments. Perhaps I’ll even do a follow-up story on icons from Germany, France, Sweden or Japan.

5 Replies to “Automotive Icons of the 1950’s and 60’s”

  1. It’s hard to argue that any of those British cars shouldn’t be on there but I gotta believe that the Austin-Healey 3000 has to be a runner-up. At the very least, it was the featured car touring the California desert in an iconic 1980s music video, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” from Tears for Fears.

    1. The Austin-Healey 3000, MGA, Triumph TR6, Lotus Elan, and so many others could be included but that’s what makes this discussion fun.

  2. “While it was a TV double with a exhaust-note sound track, the public saw a 365 GTS4 Daytona on the Miami Vice TV show of the 1990’s ”

    FYI Miami Vice started in 1984 and ended in 1989…..I don’t 90s started that show so you might wanna correct that immediately

    1. You are right. This was an ‘80’s show. I guess I was influenced by all the re-runs in the ‘90’s.

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