How to Draw Cars From the 50s

Updated April 17, 2017

The automobile not only revolutionised transportation, it became a cultural icon to the consumer market. The hobby of "hot rodding" became largely popular among auto enthusiasts in the 1930s and 1940s; it involved the tuning and customising of vehicles to the owner's personal specifications. By the 1950s, auto manufacturers took strong notice of these customised sports cars and began introducing classics, such as the Chevrolet Corvette in 1952 and the Ford Thunderbird in 1955. While these cars of the 1950s eventually led to even more promising auto productions, the art of drawing and painting these vehicles started to grow as well. Drawing a car from this era can be fun, but you need a reference to assist you to create a realistic portrayal.

Select a photograph of the intended car from the 1950s that you wish to draw. Aside from the basic shape and details of the car, the picture will assist you in properly shading or colouring the vehicle for a realistic rendition.

Sketch the outline of the car with light pencil marks until you have a basic shape. Redraw the outline with a more definitive pencil line so the outline of the car has a more defined shape. Check the photograph with your drawing for any inconsistencies and fix accordingly.

Add detail to the vehicle you have chosen to draw. Start at the front bumper of the car and work backward, concentrating on small sections at a time. Study the photograph as best you can to accurately portray the vehicle through your drawing, taking note of all proportional elements that the car features. Use light pencil marks on the detailed areas until you have confidently created each section.

Darken the lines that you wish to stand out in the car and erase any light pencil marks that are not needed in the drawing. Determine a point on the paper to use as the light source for shading. The picture should already have a common light source, so you may follow this example and shade the car accordingly.

Outline the car and basic details with an ink pen to make the drawing more bold. Erase any remaining pencil marks that were used in the shaping of the car. Clean up any areas around the drawing that might have left pencil smudges. You can enhance the shading of the car by pulling your finger across the areas where you applied this effect.

Things You'll Need

  • Drawing pad
  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Pen
  • Picture of car from the 1950s
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About the Author

Matt Wooddy has been a freelance writer since 2006. His work has been featured in local and national audio magazines. Aside from graphic design and illustration work, he has also taught several classes on painting and drawing basics. Wooddy is also a DJ and technical engineer.