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Vintage Inspired by the Jet Age–Tail Fins

April 3, 2021 by in category Partners in Crime by Janet Elizabeth Lynn & Will Zeilinger tagged as , , , , ,

Tail Fins

If you happen to be of a certain age, you will remember tail fins on the cars from your childhood.

Although most people think the trend of having tail fins on cars lasted approximately from 1955 to 1965, the first subtle appearances of tail fins began in the late ’40s. What started as a small chrome trim piece on a tail light, or a subtle fin of a few inches in length.

Growing in size each year until they (literally) peaked in 1959. American cars were not unique in this fad. By the early ’60s, the appeal began to wane. With a few exceptions, by 1965, they had disappeared from the automotive landscape.

A Little History

General Motors and Chrysler deserve the credit with starting the finny “arms race.” Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell at GM and Virgil Exner at Chrysler attempted to wow the public with each new model year by introducing the most outlandish fins on their vehicles. Ford was in the mix too. Remember, the original Thunderbird also employed design elements that took their cues from jet aircraft. This trend carried through to the 1963 model year. The full-sized Ford lost its fins by 1962.

Even European automotive designers got into the act. French Italian designers have always been avant-garde, but even the British and Germans, who tend to be more conservative, slapped fins on some of their cars.

And the Winner Is…

The ultimate fins of the era belonged to the 1959 Cadillac El Dorado Biarritz. The eye-popping red paint job and fins that look like they could impale someone made this car unmistakeable…Even today.


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