The Five Finest Grilles of the ’50s
It’s time for a proper follow up to my 1940’s grille post from last week. If a custom grille was common on a ’40s period custom car, it was downright MANDATORY on a radical ’50s era Kustom Kemp. Modified front brightwork had gone beyond mere swaps, as complete tube grille kits, aluminum mesh, bullets, and aftermarket floating bar units were showing up everywhere by late in the decade. Nonetheless, the swapped set of OEM chrome teeth could still make just the right statement. Below I’ve listed my top five 1950s factory grille picks, in no certain order. Keep in mind these are factory stock units that I feel work best in custom applications, and there are plenty more great ones I can’t squeeze in, so please add your own:
1. 1951-53& 54/55 DeSoto: Still the grille of choice for some of the best Mercs in the custom world, over 60 years later. The original individual “teeth” looked perfect in a leaded surround, and the later 1954/55 floating units worked on most open mouthed cars from ’49 up till ’58 or so (see Frank Sonzogni’s Merc for reference). Heck, I had a ’54 DeSoto grille in my 1949 Lincoln Cosmo, and it looked like it was born there!
2. 1952-53 Olds: The original floating bar grille. Classy, simple and clean. That works for me. The 51 Ford is the perfect ‘modified’ unit (as in the Sam Barris Merc) but for a stock piece, the ’52 Olds is hard to beat.
3. 1953-55 Corvette: Much like the ’54 Chevy teeth, but smaller and a bit more rare. When you see a row of these stacked up in a shoebox Ford or Chevrolet, they just ooze mean and cool.
4. 1951 Kaiser and 1952 Kaiser bumper guard: The widest, cleanest floating bar grille you could score off a stock car. And the ’52 bumper guard is a work of art. I don’t know who was designing Henry J’s brightwork back then, but he had a really good eye.
5. 1954 Pontiac: Another cool bar grille that worked well in a wide mouth application: 49-51 Ford & Mercs, I’ve even seen one in a 1955 Olds (HAMB name belair) and it looked great.