Sports cars weren’t common in the US at the beginning of the 1940s, especially since the country was deep into WWII and the masses had no time or money for exotic vehicles. At the end of the war, troops began coming back home and European sports cars started trickling in with them. Before then, Americans didn’t really have an idea of what a true sports car looked or felt like, as they’d only seen the two-seaters that had previously been pushed out of Detroit.
As automakers were able to resume production after 1945, they saw that sports cars were becoming more in demand, especially among the wealthy. The demand spread when an increasing number of car companies decided to develop their own affordable models to compete with well established brands such as Jaguar, Porsche, and MG. Anyone who takes a casual look around today can see how influential events in the 40s were, as there’s no shortage of exotic and sporty cars on the roads now.
Here are ten of the top sports cars of the 1940s.
1. 1945 MG TC Midget
The TC Midget was MG’s first postwar model, and it shared a similar style to the TB, the last car the company produced before WWII. The two door roadster had a 1.3 liter engine and it could go from 0 to 60 mph in less than 23 seconds, which was notable for sports cars during the mid-40s.
2. 1946 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Freccia d’Oro (Golden Arrow)
The 1946 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Freccia d’Oro was a luxurious car that was aimed towards the wealthy, and many celebrities and dignitaries owned one. It’s so iconic that it was featured in the 1972 film The Godfather. Aside from its striking good looks, this model was equipped with a 2.5 liter straight six engine, four speed manual transmission, and it could reach a top speed of 96 mph.
3. 1947 Maserati A6 1500 Pininfarina
Maserrati’s A6 1500 A6 1500 Pininfarina was the legendary brand’s first road production vehicle. It was first designed in 1941, but production and completion of its development had to wait until after WWII. The two door, two seater gem had a 1.6 liter straight six engine and a four speed manual transmission. The A6 1500 Pininfarina came along with a huge dose of style, but since less than 80 cars were built it’s a rarity today.
4. 1946 Triumph 1800 Roadster
British auto manufacturer Standard Motor Company produced the Triumph 1800 Roadster from 1946 to 1948. The gorgeous sports car had a four speed manual transmission, 1776 cc engine, and was the predecessor to the Triumph 2000 Roadster. It’s now a collector’s item that’s a hot seller at auctions.
5. 1947 Allard K1
Allard’s first postwar vehicle was the K1, a very stylish sports car with a specially designed and built steel frame. The attractive model had a V8 engine and three speed manual transmission, plus it packed an impressive amount of power. Today, this classic model is quite rare and can sell for over $175,000 at auction.
6. 1948 Bristol 401
British car maker Bristol Cars produced the 401 between 1948 and 1953. It had a unique suspension system and Lockheed hydraulic brakes, along with a straight six engine and four speed manual transmission that helped the car reach 97 mph. The 401 accelerated from 0 to 60 in just over 15 seconds — that sounds terribly slow considering today’s vehicles, but at the time it was an impressive stat.
7. 1948 Ferrari 166 S
Ferrari’s famous 125 S evolved into the Ferrari 166 S, a sports car that’s well remembered for its performance and styling. Just 39 of the model was produced, which makes it a collector’s item today that can sell for well over $2 million. It was equipped with a 2.0 liter Colombo V12 engine that produced up to 140 hp, and it won several races during its day. The Ferrari 166 S isn’t just a classic car, it’s a pop culture icon.
8. 1949 Jaguar XK120
Without a doubt, one of the most famous cars of any type to debut during the 40s was the Jaguar XK120. It was the fastest car on the market for about a decade — it reached 132 mph, which was very speedy for the time — and the Jaguar XK120 helped the brand reestablish itself after the war. Before releasing the XK120, Jaguar hadn’t produced a sports car since the SS 100, which ended production in 1940. When auctioned off today, these cars fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars.
9. 1949 Healey Silverstone
The Donald Healey Motor Company produced the Silverstone sports car from 1949 to 1950, and it’s one of the most distinctive looking cars of the decade. The model’s headlights are positioned behind its grille to boost its aerodynamics, and it was an open two seater. The Healey Silverstone had a 2.5 liter Riley I-4 engine, four speed manual transmission, and produced 104 hp. When it was designed, the car was meant to be suitable for both racing and casual driving. The Healey Silverstone did win many racing competitions including the 1949 and 1951 Coupe des Alpes.
10. 1949 Aston Martin DB1
The Aston Martin DB1, also known as the 2-Liter Sports, was a serious beauty. Just 15 of the models were produced between 1948 and 1950, before the DB2 came along. The two seater car had a 2.0 liter Claude Hill engine that produced 90 hp. At a June 2016 auction, an Aston Martin DB1 that was horribly rusted with cobwebs and a faded paint job was still estimated to sell for between $600,000 and $1 million. In decent condition, this classic model can sell for well over $2 million.