- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 2, 2004

The U.S. Postal Service next year will issue “The Sporty Cars of the 1950s” commemorative postage stamps.

“We understand the power our stamps have in helping to celebrate our American history and culture — in this case, the innovative brilliance of our automotive technology and design,” said Anita Bizzotto, chief marketing officer, U.S. Postal Service. “They will be a reminder of the unique style and culture of the 1950s.”

Featured on the stamps are a 1952 Nash Healey, a 1953 Chevrolet Corvette, a 1953 Studebaker Starliner, a 1954 Kaiser Darrin, and a 1955 Ford Thunderbird.

• In 1952, the Nash Healey was an elegant little sports car and the product of the creative genius of three countries in its development: the Nash six-cylinder engine created in the United States; the Donald Healey-engineered chassis developed in England; and Pinin Farina’s sports car body design from Italy. Only 150 Nash Healeys were made in 1952, and it came in first in its class and third overall in the 1952 LeMans sports car race in France.

• The 1953 Studebaker Starliner was developed to appeal to younger drivers. It was low-slung, long and wide, and light on the chrome, with such a sophisticated look that the Museum of Modern Art in New York proclaimed it “a work of art,” and featured it as the lone American representative in an auto exhibition that year.

• At the GM Motorama in New York City in January 1953, the new fiberglass-bodied two-seater Chevrolet Corvette was introduced to the public, and quickly captured its imagination while setting the bar for competition. Only 300 models were produced that year, all hand-built and white, with a red interior and black convertible top, a marked departure from other GM designs. Its sporty appearance promised speed and high performance for its fun-seeking drivers.

• Entrepreneur Henry J. Kaiser teamed up with master designer Howard “Dutch” Darrin (formerly of Packard fame) in 1954 to develop the fiberglass beauty, the Kaiser Darrin. The two-seater featured doors that slid forward into the front fenders; a unique pointed, compact grille; long sloping lines; and a three-position landau top; a total of 435 were made that year.

• The 1955 Ford Thunderbird, “a sports car with luxury,” was designed to compete with the Corvette, and it featured a steel body, interchangeable hard and soft tops, an overhead-valve V-8 engine and roll-up windows, and its road performances were virtually identical to the Corvette’s. More than 16,000 models were produced that year, and the styling remained the same until 1958, when Ford revamped Thunderbird’s sports car status and added a back seat, which actually quadrupled sales.

The 1950s Sporty Cars stamps were illustrated by Art Fitzpatrick of Carlsbad, Calif., and the designer/art director is Carl Herrman of Carlsbad, Calif.

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