It’s 1956: Which Would You Pick?

Did you really think your work was over?  We’ve still got a lot to do here in 1956.

A while back, you might have enjoyed a CC piece about a circa 1924 municipal fleet.  Well, our visit to 1956 should be even better, because this time you get to pick your own chariot.

After you take a close look at this 1956 Auto Fleet spreadsheet, let’s brush up on our 1956 history.

In November 1956, Dwight Eisenhower was re-elected President of the United States. Earlier in the year, he’d signed legislation authorizing construction of the U.S. Interstate Highway System.

Also in November, the 1956 Summer Olympics were held in Melbourne, Australia, not long after the equestrian competition had taken place in Stockholm, Sweden. Ultimately, the Soviet Union won 98 medals; the United States earned 74; and 35 stayed in Australia. That year’s Winter Olympics were held in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.

Finally, the long-running soap opera As The World Turns first hit the airwaves in 1956.

In 1956, you’re a new employee of the Missouri State Highway Department whose position requires an assigned vehicle. Unlike the 1924 spreadsheet, this one breaks down, by make and model year, the number of available vehicles to choose from. There’s quite a variety, with Chevrolet, Buick, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Ford, Plymouth and Chrysler all represented. Let’s examine their offerings, in no particular order:

The most plentiful offering is the 1955 Ford Coach; the fleet’s 85 units covered 1,920,195 miles in calendar year 1956.  This spreadsheet’s terminology has prompted some thought due to its use of “coupe”, “coach”, and “sedan” to describe certain cars.  I’ll speculate that “coupe” may mean business coupe, since relatively few were purchased, while “coach” describes a two-door sedan (I’m quite eager to read your thoughts on this matter).

Your best odds lie with landing one of these.  Since all color choices were available, which would you pick? Just remember it’s a state-owned vehicle, and that pinks might not go over well with the public.

The ’55 Fords achieved 16.4 miles per gallon, a wee bit better than the 75 Ford coaches purchased for 1956, that are pictured here.

You might also note the two new 1957 Ford sedans that had already covered a total of 1038 miles, with a combined fuel cost of $13.56.  But do you really think that you, as a new employee, would be assigned a brand new car?

If you aren’t a Ford person, then how about a Buick?  Here’s a ’51 you might like. Although the 1950 model had been auctioned off, the fleet still had at least one example of each model year from 1951 through 1956.  It is unfortunate that engine sizes were not noted, but the Buicks did travel 13 to 16 miles per gallon.  If you don’t mind driving something already broken in, I’ll bet you could settle into a ’51 or ’52 quite nicely.

If a bow tie captures your fancy more than a tri-shield, then you might not want to hear about the waning  popularity of Chevrolets in 1956.  The year started with 109 Chevrolets from model year 1952, 39 of which were sold to new buyers.  The most-utilized Chevrolets were 1953 models like the one pictured above, which traveled a combined distance of just over 1,000,000 miles.  Some new employees are truly devoted Chevrolet people, and there are Chevys available.  What’s your preferred body style?

The 1951 and 1952 Oldsmobiles were starting to get up in years, but they delivered better fuel economy than nearly every Chevrolet–over 16.3 miles per gallon.  Who would have pegged Oldsmobile as the more fuel efficient nameplate?  A ’52 like this one could be a good choice if you’d be covering large areas of territory. Comfort with fuel efficiency is always a winning combination.

There’s a new 1957 Pontiac in the mix.  It’s too bad the purchase price isn’t shown here, but in any case don’t hold your breath: “New employee” doesn’t translate to “new car”, despite what you’ve been told.

It’s too bad the single ’54 Pontiac had been wrecked.  You like being unique, so grabbing the only entry could have worked in your favor.

If you are a Chrysler person–and there are several who’ve just been hired–maybe the best has been saved for last.  You definitely had the most upscale brand in the ’55 Chrysler sedan on tap.  However, it also is not available to you: The Chief Engineer needs a car, doesn’t he?

Could I sell you a Plymouth instead?  As a group, Plymouths are the newest vehicles in the fleet; in fact, the oldest is a 1954 model.  How about this ’55?  With six units available, it’s the most popular Plymouth.  Not only is its fuel mileage comparable to the Fords and Chevrolets, but it will provide you with a more exclusive ride.  Sound good?

As for me, I’m rather partial to the ’53 Ford Country Sedan.  There’s only one, and I have snagged it.

Yes, there are a few constraints that go with being a new employee.  Nevertheless, you need a ride and the choice is yours.  What would you pick?

I would like to thank Jeannie, from the Missouri Department of Transportation in Jefferson City, for providing me with this information.  She was kind enough to lend me copies of original annual fleet reports for nearly every calendar year from 1956 to 1980 for use in this article.