AUTOROTICA: The Flamboyant Flight-of-Fancy of the Tailfin Era.

To me there is little that is more piercingly flamboyant than classic automotive tailfin of the 1950’s and 60’s. As bouffant hairstyles reached for the clouds, so did the spiked protrusions jutting out from the rear quarters of classic Cadillacs, Buicks and even Mercedes Benz (albeit a little more reserved in their height and nicknamed "Heckflosse" in German).

1958 Cadillac Fleetwood

Automotive lore has it that World War II fighter aircraft, and space rockets were the inspiration. While some marketers tried to spin stories of aerodynamics to rationalize the sharp growths on the trunks of the cars, most tailfin enthusiasts see find reason ias simply a design fancy of the day. The tailfin era was at its peak between 1957 and 1960.

A classic tailfin may include a jutting tail-light or may rest on its own, apparently serving no other purpose than create a certain aggressive character through its impossibly sharp edges and spiked tip.

From the 1940’s until 1960, fins grew larger, sharper and bolder.

The fins on the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado are reported to be the largest and most outrageous ever fitted on a production car. The ‘Rado’s fins hit the limits consumer acceptance, with designs shrinking after that model year. By the mid 1960s, few cars were designed with aggressive tailfins.

Tailfins of the day were criticized as a safety concern by some. In Kahn v. Chrysler (1963), a 7-year-old child on a bicycle collided with a fin and sustained a head injury. And, in Hatch v. Ford (1958), a child also claimed injury by the sharp protrusions of the classic tailfin.

The tailfin era: A bygone, but not forgotten time of flamboyant car design.

1960 DeSoto Fireflite

1957 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz

1960 Dodge Matador

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