- Posted March 30, 2014 by
Kansas City, Missouri
The "Fin-Tastic" Fifties: American Cars That Strutted Their Stuff ..
Most of the cars seen today on America's highways are a homogenized blend of ho-hum styling. It's hard to tell the foreign Hondas, Kias and Toyotas from the Fords and Chevys whizzing by as the drivers glued to cellphones rush to Walmart or who knows where.
In a slower time, American car styling stood apart from the rest of the world. A dramatic styling difference emerged in the 1950's with the introduction of tailfins and an almost pornographic over-use of chrome. American cars were different. They weren't compact European sensible runabouts. The American cars were bulge-mobile gas guzzling behemoths, outrageous in styling, and attitude.
The 1959 Cadillac Eldorado featured the largest tailfins of any car Detroit ever produced. Loved or hated, this car is the king of tail fins. The dual bullet taillights added even more to this over-the-top Cadillac design. The car was a classic 50's monster of the road when Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin were appearing in Vegas at the Sands, and Lucky Strike cigarettes still ran commercials on television. It was a different time back then.
Tailfins evolved in car design about the same time America began to think about the future. The great surges of industrial activity just after WWII led to all kinds of futuristic dreams for our society. The design trends of the time reflected those dreams of the future. As movies depicted space travel, and rocket science developed in real life, tailfins began appearing on cars, and boats. Popular kid's toys were ray guns and signal rings. Even home appliances began to take on a new look of a streamlined future, with vacuum cleaners that looked like they could take off and fly around the house.
Harley Earl is credited with some of the earliest tailfin styling for cars. He was considered by some to be an American hero of automible design. His dramatic designs influenced several models over the years. The La Sabre concept (pictured at the top) was breathtaking for it's time, and still looks very hot today.
The tailfins of the 50's are long gone, but not forgotten by those who yearn for a simpler time when cars made lasting impressions and a Honda was just a cheap Japanese motorcycle nobody in America wanted to buy.
Today, foreign cars seem to represent the bulk of quality that American manufacturers lost in the last decade..
It seems that the "Big Three" American car makers are getting the message that styling and quality do make a difference in sales.. The "Japanese Decade" of sales dominance may be diminishing at last.
At any rate, the flamboyant fifties design styles remain as reminders of an era when hopes for the future reflected design dreams like no other time in American automobile styling, and American heros still lived in comic books.
Please share this article with other auto/style people you know.. I'd love to hear comments good or bad about it! Thanks!