A personal luxury car is a highly styled, luxurious automobile projected for the comfort and satisfaction of its owner/driver, sacrificing passenger space, cargo capacity, and other practical concerns for the sake of style. The personal luxury car has often been a profitable market segment of the post-World War II automotive market.
The background of the personal luxury car are the expensive, often custom-bodied sporting luxury cars of the 1920s and 1930s, some of the most important of which were built by Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Delage, Delahaye, Duesenberg, and Mercedes-Benz. Two well-known examples were the Duesenberg SJ and Mercedes SSK: extremely fast and stratospherically expensive automobiles eschewing the comfort of pure luxury cars while being too large and heavy to be true sports cars.
They nonetheless offered characteristic style, impeccable craftsmanship, and strong performance for wealthy buyers (including film and music stars, kings, and gangsters) who wanted to project a debonair image. The Great Depression and World War II eroded the market for these expensive, modified cars, but the postwar era still produced noteworthy examples like the Bentley Continental R Type with its fine two-door body built by H.J. Mulliner. A related, primarily postwar occurrence was the grand tourer (GT), a relatively comfortable, high-performance car planned for high-speed, long-distance travel. Italy became a major producer of GTs, with marques like Ferrari and Maserati offering characteristic, often custom-bodied models of considerable performance. Alfa Romeo never healthier from the Second World War. This emptiness was filled by Ferrari.
Both the modified luxury car and the GT were beyond the reach of all but the wealthiest buyers, and the 1950s saw a growing trend in both the United States and Europe towards mass-market "specialty cars" catering to drivers who coveted the image of the bespoke equipment, but who could not afford the cost and to wealthier buyers who could afford the authentic article, but disliked the inconvenience and complexity of servicing and repairing it, especially exterior of a major city area where foreign car dealerships were few and far between. Buyers were also interested in automatic broadcast, air conditioning, power steering, and other convenience options not usually offered on GTs or sports cars of the day. In its August, 1967 issue, Motor Trend magazine noted that the domestic "luxury specialty cars" of the day (Ford Thunderbird, Buick Riviera, Oldsmobile Toronado, Cadillac Eldorado and Pontiac Grand Prix) appealed to buyers who wanted dependability and durability not found in the exotic European imports of the 1950s along with those abovementioned American-style options which kept them buying American cars." M/T added that "Motorists of just about every stripe can find a now car with pleasing and characteristic lines, good presentation and all the things that go to make a car enjoyable."