10 super-rare cars people won on 'The Price Is Right' in the '50s and '60s
From the King Midget to massive Lincolns, these cars made contestants lose their minds.
Image: Cars of the 50s (Beekman House, 1981)
When The Price Is Right premiered in 1956, it was hosted by Bill Cullen and featured none of the games that devoted fans of today's game show know so well. That's right: no Plinko.
Instead, contestants sat in booths and bid on items in a stripped-down version of the game. What it lacked in action was made up for with stunning showcases that we would never see today.
Of course, because this was the 1950s, some of the greatest prizes that rolled onto the floor, time and time again, were jaw-dropping automobiles, both domestic and foreign. These cars were either manufactured in limited runs, or else The Price Is Right was debuting them in their first production years.
Our favorite part, as we looked back on The Price Is Right's original run, was seeing the wild items packaged with these cars, sending contestants home with with a shotgun and a hunting dog, for example.
Below, we've picked out the most stunning, super-rare cars we could find from the first series run, mainly focusing on episodes between 1957 and 1959. See if you remember these showcase prizes.
1. Hillman Minx convertible
The Hillman Minx was a British mid-sized family car, and the model featured here was their 1957 two-door convertible. According to the show it sold for $2,160.50 (which equates to roughly $18,899.05 today). These cars were briefly popular in the U.S. because they had great gas mileage, but Americans never really warmed to the car itself. On the show, this car was featured in a special viewer giveaway, so contestants never even got a chance to bid on the Minx.
2. Skoda 440 America
The Skoda 440 America came from Czechoslovakia and featured an unusual design that was only produced from 1955 to 1959. It was a showcase item on The Price Is Right in 1957, in a “Riviera” package that also included perfume, a leather diary, an alarm clock and a two-week stay in the Hollywood Knickerbocker Hotel. Just the car was valued then at $1,635, which today equals about $14,000.
3. Jaguar XK150
Here’s a classic car we all know and love, the Jaguar XK150, which was only in production from 1957 to 1961, so The Price Is Right contestants had a chance at what was truly a buzzworthy car. In 1959, it was tested by The Motor and found to be the fastest closed car they’d ever examined. On the show, it was part of a “sportsman showcase” that included a shotgun, a golden retriever, a sport cruiser boat and a trip to Switzerland.
4. Lincoln Capri
The Lincoln Capri was a luxury car manufactured between 1952 and 1959, which was their top-of-the-line model until the Premiere rolled off their lots. The model featured here on The Price Is Right is rumored to be one of the biggest cars Lincoln ever made — even counting Cadillacs and Imperials. It was included in a “Christmas showcase” that also included a giant Christmas tree and “presents for the whole family,” such as a diamond heart necklace for the daughter and a bicycle for the brother.
5. Oldsmobile 88 Holiday Coupé
The Oldsmobile 88 enjoyed a long popular run from 1949 to 1999, but the 1958 model like the one shown here on The Price Is Right stood out for one obvious reason: It was decked out in chrome trim, head to tail. That’s why it was known as a “ChromeMobile.” On the show, this car was actually a bonus prize awarded to this charming schoolteacher, whose reaction is basically all of us if we ever were on The Price Is Right — and she hadn’t even seen the car yet! Host Bill Cullen brought the car out saying, “I’m afraid to even do this.”
6. Mercury Commuter station wagon
The Mercury Commuter station wagon was on the market from 1957 to 1968, and the four-door model that appeared on The Price Is Right here in 1958 proved more popular than the two-door model option that was ultimately discontinued the next year. It was one of those classic Price Is Right moments when the wagon pulled out right in front of contestants to their utter glee. The big feature touted on the show? It had a power-operated rear window. If you’re curious, the winning bid was $3,700, which today amounts to $31,454.
7. AMC Ambassador Rambler super sedan
AMC began producing their Ambassador series in 1958 and the 1959 super sedan seen here included improvements in both design and safety features. Instead of awkward rear doors that ended abruptly before the tailfins, the doors were reimagined to sweep into the tailfins, creating a slicker look. It certainly impressed when it appeared on The Price Is Right, as the every first item up for bid in a 1959 episode. Instead of regular host Bill Cullen, Merv Griffin hosts, and the winning bid was $2,500 for the $2,991 car. That car today would be worth $24,987.
8. Ford Sunliner convertible and 9. Ford Falcon sedan
The Ford Sunliner convertible was among the most expensive models they made between 1957 and 1959, and on The Price Is Right, it was packaged into a two-car power-prize with the Falcon 4-door sedan. The Sunliner was valued then at $3,397, which made it the bigger prize of the pair. We’re guessing this episode is from 1960 because that’s the first year that Ford made the Falcon, which had an adorable marketing campaign featuring the first time the Peanuts characters were ever shown animated. The Falcon was valued on the show at $2,302, which if it was 1960, the cars’ combined value today would be worth $46,803.
10. King Midget
This adorable micro-car was a prize on a 1960 episode of The Price Is Right, produced by Midget Motors Corporation from 1946 to 1970. The car shown here was a Model 3 introduced in 1957, with an estimated 5,000 cars manufactured through the end of the 1960s. They were mainly marketed to home mechanics for their economical price tag. On The Price Is Right, the car was the first item up for bid, and every contestant over-bid. In case you’re wondering, this episode features our first time seeing someone make that frustrating bid just $1 over the highest bidder. When the dollar bidder’s move didn’t work the first time, she tried it again on the next round, strategically using her position last in row to ultimately win the car with a bid of $726. The car was actually valued at $900, which today is worth $7,390.
See also: QUIZ: WHICH CLASSIC TV CAR SHOULD YOU DRIVE?
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