ROAD AND TRACK WAS BARELY three years old in 1950, but it had already attracted a goody number of readers and advertisers. Here are tidbits about the latter, with the caveats that addresses—and prices—may no longer be valid. May no longer?? The CPI Inflation Calculator puts 1950 prices in perspective.
A Rarity of Imports. According to traderiskguaranty.com, in 1950 only around 21,000 imported cars came into the U.S, a minuscule 0.4 percent (that is, 0.004) of the perhaps 5 million produced that year.
Morris and “Morris Garage.” British cars dominated in 1950, including those from Morris Motors, not yet merged with Austin to form British Motor Corporation (established two years later).
Through much of the year, Morris and MG appeared on the inside front cover of Road and Track. Distributors were in New York City, Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Dealers were listed in 25 states, the District of Columbia, and the Territory of Hawaii, with a separate listing for Long Island, New York.
The Morris Minor was priced at $1250, “Convertible or Sedan, fully equipped, duty and Fed. taxes paid, landed U.S.A. port.” Figure $15,548 in today’s dollar.
The MG TC cost $1895, equivalent to today’s $23,570.
Want More Power? Directly across from this full-page ad was another labeled “Superchargers!” The company went by several names, I.T., Italmeccanica, and S.Co.T., this last one for Supercharger Company of Torino.
Its two distributors, Antonio Pompeo in New York City and John Edgar in Los Angeles, became well known in sports car racing circles. Tony was the primo importer of Abarths, Bandinis, Guiars, Morettis, Stanguellinis, and other potent little Fiat-engine “Etceterinis.” I first encountered Carroll Shelby in 1956 when he was racing John’s Ferrari 4.5-liter Grand Prix car at Giants Despair Hillclimb.
As reported here at SimanaitisSays, Henry N. Manney’s Crosley Hotshot had an I.T. supercharger. One for the Crosley listed for $245.75 back then, around $3000 in today’s dollar.
High-end Imports. The coveted Road and Track back cover was regularly devoted to Jaguar, one of the few high-end imports back then. Demonstrations, you’ll note, were made “by appointment.” Four dealerships were cited, including International Motors, which employed a Santa Monica kid named Phil Hill. He had gone on to England as a Jaguar trainee in 1949; while there, he started appearing as Road and Track’s Representative in England.
SimanaitisSays reported that the Jaguar XK-120 more than earned its 120 moniker, albeit in modified form. Its $3945 equates to around $49,000 in today’s currency.
Auto Show Attraction. Winning an MG TC would have been neat. Even more so would have been encountering a 1950 hottie who liked sports cars.
Mobilgas Economy Run. Long before EPA rated mpg, indeed, back before Nixon established EPA in 1970, the annual Mobilgas Economy Run gave a controlled assessment of American automobiles.
A Class D Mercury posted a best 26.524 mpg among 31 cars in the 1950 run; a Class J Cadillac was the thirstiest at 17.245 mpg. The average American iron got 22.07 mpg in the year’s 751-mile, 18 1/2-hour run.
To put these mpgs in perspective, when Road and Track (note, still “and”) tested a Morris Minor Sedan in early 1954, the magazine listed its fuel economy as a tidy 33/40 mpg. When R&T assembled a Classic Test of the MG TC in 1956, it reported a range of 22–28 mpg. The high-performance Jaguar XK-120 got 16/22 mpg.
Books For Sale. Armchair enthusiasts read ads for now coveted books, including The Grand Prix Car 1906-1936, which reappeared in 1954 as Volume One of the Laurence Pomeroy classic. The original volume went for $17.00 (figure $211.45 in today’s dollar).
The 1954 pair is listed today for as much as $610.32; the original 1949 single volume, for $711.20.