In case you are unfamiliar with the ad, it features a couple
embracing in front of a movie theatre in 1958, just as a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado (you know,
the Caddy with the killer fins) drives by. Their embrace loosens as the young man stares
at the car. Then cut to 1998, the 1999 Eldorado passes, this time the young lady stares. I
LOVE THAT COMMERCIAL- HECK, I LOVE CADILLACS.
To me, there is nothing more sleek or sexy than a pair of Cadillac tailfins. The
tailfin represents all that was America after World War II. Tailfins go with martinis,
beautiful dresses, big bands and swing dancing. They represent an America that was hopeful
about its future and the security of future generations. There weren't presidential
scandals; there were just thankful people glad that the war was over and proud to have
saved allied Europe. The 1948 Cadillac still represents American pride and optimism.
The 1948 Cadillac was the first Cadillac to truly celebrate the end of the war. During
the war, Cadillac was dedicated to the war effort, producing tank engines and M-8 howitzer
carriages. General MacArthur's staff car was a Cadillac Series 75.
The 1948 had a sleek, new look after '"the secret" Lightning P-38 fighter
plane. Harley Earl, head of General Motors' Art and Color Department, was privy to U.S.
top secret projects, of which the P-38 was one. He was so impressed with the design of the
plane that he added a bomber nose as the Cadillac's front bumpers and tailfins to the
rear. These tailfins became the signature for Cadillac, getting larger each year until
1959, when they couldn't get much larger without being comical. The bomber nose bumpers
became affectionately called "Dagmars," after the well-endowed actress by the
In 1953, Cadillac introduced the Eldorado, the first postwar custom luxury automobile.
Its features included leather interior, chrome wire wheels and a signal-seeking radio.
This masterpiece sold for $7,750. In 1953, this was very pricey and only the rich could
afford the comfort and luxury of an Eldorado. Currently, the 1953 Eldorado is the most
collectible of postwar autos.
In 1958, the new Caddys proved to be the worst selling Cadillac of the postwar era.
Today, there are many car enthusiasts who see the 1958 Cadillac as the epitome of style
and engineering. As a member of the 1958 Cadillac Owners Association, I can attest that
there are hundreds of men and women who cherish this beautiful automobile. Current prices
for the various models range from $1,000 for a Sedan deVille that needs work, to $49,000
for a mint convertible. For information on these cars and on the 1958 Owners Association,
go to http://members.aol.com/coa1958/cadillac.html.
The most famous of the finned vehicles is the 1959 Cadillac. The 1959 model was
designed by the young Dave Hollis, though Harley Earl is often credited. The convertible
Eldorado Biarritz was also introduced in 1959. This is the car that many of us see as the
car that defines the 1950s. The fins hit their all-time high in this year and the
taillights were set into the fins, making this one of the most beautiful cars ever built
(at least in my humble opinion). I like to think of the fins on car as angels wings; they
are so beautiful that they are almost feminine. Though this car still has its critics, the
car sold well and still does - that is, if you are lucky to find one for sale!
The fins only lasted four more years, getting less flashy each year. The last finned
model was built in 1964 and featured a new automatic heat and air conditioning system that
maintained a set temperature.
After 1964, Cadillac stopped designing its automobiles with the sleek aerodynamics that
made their vehicles look like they were flying even when standing still. Cadillacs
remained a luxury car, even during the gas short-ages of the 1970s, but never quite
regained their status as sex symbols of the road. Don't get me wrong-I wouldn't turn down
that 1999 Eldorado if it were offered to me. I'd just rather cuddle my honey in a 1961.
Reprinted with permission of
Modern Lounge magazine.