Appreciating all that makes America special

Americana: 1959 Cadillac

The 1959 Cadillac proved the ultimate conquest of man's search for fin excellence. Uploaded by

Ah, the fin. The fins on cars in the late fifties came in three sizes: Big, Bigger, ’59 Cadillac. The style mavens of the day minced no words in their disdain. “Ridiculous,” they said. “Outrageous.”

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And really, who can argue? It’s a style that has never regained popularity, as auto designers appear content to let fins remain an artifact of the past. (I just realized what a redundant phrase that is. I leave it in as a warning to others.) But the ’59 Caddy shows how enamored the brand’s design team was with jet aircraft. The tail lights actually look like exhaust ports of a jet. As one person said, “It looks like it’s really moving even when it’s just sitting in the driveway.”

It makes me smile just to think of how apoplectic this design would make radical environmentalists if it were introduced today. It was 225 inches (over 18 feet!) from bumper to bumper. A 130-inch wheelbase. Four-barrel carb and dual exhausts standard. 4,800 pounds, 10-16 mpg. Every luxury item created at that time available. And you could have it all on a DeVille sedan for just $5498! (Think of it as $2749 per fin.)

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