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Old Cars turns 50 and celebrates 50th anniversary models

In honor of Old Cars 50th year we look back at other members of the ‘50th Anniversary Club.’
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There were more than 5,000 hopeful U.S. vehicle manufacturers around the turn of the 20th Century. By World War II, there only about two dozen left mass producing cars and pickup trucks, making the benchmark of 50 years of production rare in the automotive industry.

To recognize the historic occasion of building cars or trucks for 50 years, manufacturers often produced golden-anniversary editions. These 50th anniversary editions not only marked a company’s success, they often afforded the company additional public relations in the media, as well as solidified trust in customers. (After all, if a company had been building vehicles for 50 years, it would probably be around long enough to service and support its current models.) The upcharge of an anniversary model also added some cash to the company’s coffers, sometimes for the relatively small additional expense of special gold paint or trim.

The following are a selection of 50th anniversary editions of makes and models produced for car-loving Americans through the years.

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1949 Packard

Oldsmobile, once America’s oldest manufacturer, skipped 50th anniversary celebrations in the immediate-postwar sellers’ market, but Packard didn’t let the opportunity pass. By 1949, it was a buyer’s market, so Packard created great publicity around its golden anniversary that year. On May 3, it gathered “nearly 2,000” (some sources state 1,500) gold-painted, 23rd Series 1949 Packards at its Packard Proving Grounds in Shelby Township, Mich., on May 3. These cars were parked there as part of a highly publicized drive-away event in which they were picked up by dealers and Packard “distributers” for eventual delivery to customers around the country. Packard touted that the gold Packard sedans and club sedans at its proving grounds were worth more than $3 million, and were driven away at a rate of 3 cars per minute.

The gold paint involved a clear lacquer (paint code R) and did not hold up, so many 50th anniversary Packards were repainted. As a result, finding one today is an especially rare occasion.

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1952 Cadillac

Like Packard, Cadillac heavily touted its golden anniversary in its ads and brochures, but it didn’t create a special anniversary model or event for the occasion. Instead, it decked all of its little-changed 1952 models with a golden anniversary feature: new gold crests and Vs on the hoods and decklids. A golden, winged emblem also appeared beneath each headlamp, flanking the grille.

Cadillac also built two show cars for its 50th anniversary, both specially trimmed and equipped for the occasion. One of these was a Sixty Special sedan dubbed “Townsman,” the other a convertible with a unique wrap-around windshield named “Eldorado,” which became a special model for 1953. Neither show car is known to survive.

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1953 Buick

Marking its 50th anniversary the same year as Ford, and one year later than Cadillac, Buick’s golden anniversary campaign shared features with both makes, but with more subtlety. For 1953, Buick came up with a medallion showing the profile of an early model encircled by splinters of red, white and blue. This medallion appeared on the front bumper overrider of all Buick models and often as the horn button in the steering wheel. Buick ads sometimes featured this medallion, or simply mentioned Buick’s 50 years of production, but they certainly didn’t scream “Golden Anniversary!”

Like Cadillac, Buick also offered a sporty, top-of-the-line 1953 convertible — the Skylark — although this car was rarely, if ever, marketed as a 50th anniversary model, although its retroactively been treated as such.

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1953 Ford

At its 50th anniversary in 1953, Ford touted “50 years forward on the American road” and “50 years forward with Ford” in commercials, and on June 5, 1953, the company broadcast a live, two-hour TV program called “The American Road” highlighting its milestone. Issued were tokens/medallions depicting profiles based on Norman Rockwell art of Henry Ford, Edsel Ford and Henry Ford II. No special 50th anniversary Ford models were built, but horn buttons of Ford cars and trucks were scribed with the occasion.

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1957 International

1957 International At the occasion of 50 years of truck building, and to market its new and up-to-date A-100 pickup, International Harvester offered a specially painted gold-and-white version trimmed with gold upholstery accents. Additionally, all Golden Jubilee International A-100s featured a deluxe cab and a 7-foot box with modern bed sides built flush with the cab. Old International trucks don’t see to die, and with appreciation for trucks generally growing, more and more 1957 International Golden Jubilee trucks seem to be receiving comprehensive restorations, although they still are not common.

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1958 General Motors

General Motors started celebrating its 50th anniversary Golden Jubilee with nationwide newspaper ads in October 1957, followed by its “General Motors Fiftieth Anniversary Show” aired on NBC on Nov. 17, 1957. GM based its festivities in Flint, Mich., the birthplace of the company, but there were also open houses at 20 GM plants across the country, an AACA region held a car show at the Fisher Body plant in McKeesport, Pa., and many chambers of commerce sponsored celebrations for GM,

For all of this hoopla, special GM Golden Jubilee models were minimal. A special Anniversary Gold paint color was offered on Chevrolet and Pontiac models, but only Pontiac ran farther with the Golden Jubilee campaign.

For 1958, only Pontiac offered Golden Jubilee models, but that was generally a marketing phrase to sell standard Pontiac models. Pontiac advertised that its 1958 models were “planned from the ground up as the Golden Anniversary showpiece for Pontiac and General Motors,” and it was “The Golden Jubilee Car.” It did additionally decorate 1,070 Anniversary Gold-painted Star Chief four-door sedans (Z included in paint code) with a gold emblem centered on the trunk lid that said, “The Golden Jubilee Car” and “Pontiac 58.” There are a few survivors of this rare edition.

 Chevrolet posed an Impala Sport Coupe with a 1911 Chevrolet for this press photo at its 50th anniversary.


Chevrolet posed an Impala Sport Coupe with a 1911 Chevrolet for this press photo at its 50th anniversary.

1962 Chevrolet

Chevrolet began celebrating its golden anniversary on Nov. 3, 1961, when the 1962 models were already in production. However, you would only know that if you had access to press materials of the time, or vintage TV commercials, as Chevrolet didn’t advertise its 50th anniversary in its brochures, and rarely, if ever, in its print ads. To find out about Chevrolet’s golden anniversary in late 1961, you’d have to have seen an Anniversary Gold-painted Impala to learn of the milestone. Chevrolet may have painted as many as 16,925 of its Impala and Impala SS models Anniversary Gold (paint code 927), or as few as 300-some — sources greatly disagree. Some early Chevy documents say Anniversary Gold paint was available only on Impala Sport Coupes, but it’s been documented on nearly every Impala and Impala SS model, regardless of body style, but never a Bel Air or Biscayne. Anniversary Gold Impala Sport Coupes were fitted with yellow-gold bucket seat interiors (trim code 891). There were no other special identifying features of these anniversary models, which hasn’t helped clarify the mystery of these Anniversary Gold cars.

A 1968 Chevrolet painted Anniversary Gold and Ivory White.

A 1968 Chevrolet painted Anniversary Gold and Ivory White.

1968 Chevrolet trucks

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Chevrolet trucks, Chevrolet painted some of its pickups, Sports Vans, Suburbans and panels Anniversary Gold and Ivory White (paint code 551). The pickups seem to have been the most popular truck model to feature the anniversary treatment, with gold covering most of the bodies and white running along the bottom and covering the roof and grille. Pickup models given the golden anniversary paint schemes were Customs or CSTs and had chrome bumpers and side trim to divide the Ivory White and Anniversary Gold paint. Inside, golden anniversary pickups had a gold and parchment interior (code 625).

The 1967-’72 generation of Chevrolet pickups have always been beloved, and there seems to be a fair amount of golden anniversary survivors.

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1971 Lincoln

Lincoln celebrated its 50th anniversary with all of its 1971 Continentals, and even issued a gold-colored token showing profiles of an early touring and new Continental sedan. It also built a limited-edition Lincoln Continental Town Car painted code J9 Gold Moondust Metallic. These cars featured all of the Town Car edition’s features: “Town Car” scripts, glovebox vanity, deep-pile carpet, an upgraded vinyl headliner, the owner’s monograms on the driver’s door and instrument panel plus softer leather upholstery. Anniversary Lincoln Continental Town Cars also featured an anniversary plaque on the passenger side of the instrument panel and 22-carat-gold-plated keys in a presentation box.

There were 1,040 Lincoln Continental Town Cars painted the anniversary Gold Moondust Metallic color, but we’ve never seen one in person.

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1976 Pontiac

While America’s bicentennial was grabbing all of the attention, Pontiac had to fight to get noticed at its 50th anniversary in 1976. For that model year, Pontiac came out with one “official” golden anniversary edition, and one simply identified as a Special Edition.

At its golden anniversary, Pontiac debuted its black-and-gold Special Edition Trans Ams. The striking combination went on to be an annual offering by Pontiac, which may explain why its name didn’t reference Pontiac’s 50th anniversary.

Pontiac’s lesser-known 50th anniversary model, but its official model, was the 1976 Pontiac Golden Anniversary Grand Prix. Quite a few were built: Pontiac planned to build 50 per day from Oct. 1 to Dec. 12, 1975, but the final total was 4,807 Golden Anniversary Grand Prix models.

All of these Golden Anniversary Grand Prix models were painted anniversary gold with gold Rally II wheels and a white padded Landau roof plus body accent stripes. The interior trim was doeskin with buckskin vinyl trim. The anniversary model was given a special hood ornament and trunk lock cover with an Indian head, Pontiac crest and the number 50 (this ornament design also appeared on lapel pins and key chains that year). All Golden Anniversary Grand Prix models had Hurst Hatch T-top roofs and were based on the SJ model with LJ appointments.

With nearly 5,000 produced, one might expect to regularly see Golden Anniversary Grand Prix Pontiacs at car shows, but that is not the case.

Reader Brian Hanson’s 2003 50th Anniversary Edition Corvette.

Reader Brian Hanson’s 2003 50th Anniversary Edition Corvette.

2003 Corvette

Long-running models can also get the 50th anniversary treatment, as 50 years is a long track record for a manufacturer, but outright rare for a model. The Corvette is one of those few models that has been in almost continuous production for more than 50 years, only missing a beat in 1983 when C4 production was delayed. However, there were a few 1983 model year prototypes built

For 2003, Chevrolet offered a 50th anniversary Corvette, RPO Z25, painted Anniversary Red Metallic with a Shale interior (and top, on convertible models). There were also 50th anniversary badges on the fenders, deck lid and hood, and also embroidered on the headrests. The 50th Anniversary Edition Corvette also came with special painted wheels and the new F55 Magnetic Selective Ride Control Suspension.

Reader Bev and Barry Richman’s 2005 Thunderbird hails from the 50th anniversary year.

Reader Bev and Barry Richman’s 2005 Thunderbird hails from the 50th anniversary year.

2005 Ford Thunderbird

Although it wasn’t in continuous production, Ford didn’t miss the chance to mark the 50th anniversary since the Thunderbird was first offered in 1955.

All 2005 Thunderbirds were badged as 50th anniversary models, but Ford also offered a golden anniversary collector’s edition of 1,500 cars in a Cashmere color with matching leather and a number plate on the inside of the glovebox door. Unique 17-inch wheels were part of the package.

Many of these cars were bought new as instant collectables and have been sparingly driven.

The 50th Anniversary Commemorative Edition Challenger for 2020

The 50th Anniversary Commemorative Edition Challenger for 2020

2020 Dodge Challenger

MoPar really didn’t bother with mass marketing anniversary models on a grand scale until the 21st Century. When it did, it milked the milestone to the max.

Even though the Dodge Challenger hadn’t been in continuous production since its debut as a model in 1970, Dodge offered a 50th anniversary model for 2020. Well, two anniversary models, actually. Dodge’s first run of 50th Anniversary Edition Challengers was limited to 1,960 cars. These cars offered a Shaker hood scoop and special colors and 50th badges and pre-orders quickly sold out.

Not wanting to miss an opportunity to sell more cars, Dodge then offered its 50th Anniversary Commemorative Edition Challenger. Production of this anniversary model wasn’t capped, and it featured many of the same features as the limited-production 50th anniversary model with some tweaks.

The Challenger is hot and people haven’t yet tired of anniversary models, so these cars are expected to remain in as much demand as they were when Dodge first offered them.

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