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After the Second World War, with several years of building military vehicles and aircraft, the American car manufacturers in Detroit could finally return to producing cars. Initially – just as in Europe – they got things going again by producing the same models as they were before the war. But by the fifties, consumers wanted something drastically different, something new, and something which looked totally different than what they were accustomed to from the dark and gloomy wartimes.

By now, aircraft were entering the jet age, and Detroit followed suit by designing their cars with what was perceived as being an aerodynamic look. The American public were obsessed with speed and the jet age grew to become a national passion. Up through the fifties and sixties the rear wings of American cars were all kitted out with extravagant fins to mimic the technological advances made with fast jets.

By now, aircraft were entering the jet age, and Detroit followed suit by designing their cars with what was perceived as being an aerodynamic look. The American public were obsessed with speed and the jet age grew to become a national passion. Up through the fifties and sixties the rear wings of American cars were all kitted out with extravagant fins to mimic the technological advances made with fast jets.

It was of course form before function as there was nothing remotely aerodynamic about those huge tailfins. The engines alone were responsible for the capabilities of the cars back then. But as a grand scale marketing campaign those fins were pure genius, and resulted in a massive boost for car sales in the USA. The car that got the trend rolling was the 1948 Cadillac Series 62, and soon enough no marque with self-respect would dream of launching a new model without it wearing fins bigger than its predecessor.

On several occasions, I’ve shared pictures of the imposing tailfins on the ViaRETRO Facebook page under the title: OVERMUCH? One reader replied “Too much is NEVER enough!” Another wrote: “When design was cool and they were given carte blanche…. not like the current dull colour-coded plastic computers on wheels”

I believe that describes perfectly how fabulous car design used to be, regardless whether there was any logic or function behind it.

 

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2 Responses

  1. holmen
    Love cars with fins and I am convinced that they add enormous amounts of stability at speed – here an image of my Alpine crossing stormy waters across Store Baelts Bridge on the way back from a race weekend. The fins inspired directly from Studebaker and Raymond Loweys past employee.
    OK – photo will have to wait until it’s made possible in comments – nudge,nudge, wink wink
    Reply
  2. Anders Bilidt
    Hint taken Per. ;-)
    I know that along with several other ideas for improvements and upgrades, it’s already something we have on our to-do-list for the English site. We’ll get there eventually…
    Reply

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