The tailfin era of automobile styling encompassed the 1950s and 1960s, peaking between 1955 and 1961. It was a style that spread worldwide, as car designers picked up styling trends from the US automobile industry, where it was regarded as the "golden age" of American auto design.
General Motors design chief Harley Earl is often credited for the automobile tailfin, introducing small fins on the 1948 Cadillac, but according to many sources the actual inventor/designer of the tailfin for the 1948 Cadillac was Franklin Quick Hershey, who at the time the 1948 Cadillac was being designed was chief of the GM Special Car Design Studio. It was Hershey who after seeing an early production model of a P-38 at Selfridge air base thought the twin rudders of the airplane would make a sleek design addition to the rear of future modern automobiles. Tailfins really captured the automotive buying public’s imagination as a result of Chrysler designer Virgil Exner’s Forward Look, which subsequently resulted in manufacturers scrambling to install larger and larger tailfins onto new models. As jet-powered aircraft, rockets, and space flight entered into public recognition, the automotive tailfin assemblies (including tail lights) were designed to resemble more and more the tailfin and engine sections of contemporary jet fighters and space rockets.
Harley J. Earl was an American automotive designer and business executive. He was the initial designated head of design at General Motors, later becoming vice president, the first top executive ever appointed in design of a major corporation in American history. He was an industrial designer and a pioneer of modern transportation design. A coachbuilder by trade, Earl pioneered the use of freeform sketching and hand sculpted clay models as automotive design techniques. He subsequently introduced the "concept car" as both a tool for the design process and a clever marketing device.
Chrysler is one of the "Big Three" automobile manufacturers in the United States, headquartered in Auburn Hills, Michigan. The original Chrysler Corporation was founded in 1925 by Walter Chrysler from the remains of the Maxwell Motor Company. In 1998, it was acquired by Daimler-Benz, and the holding company was renamed DaimlerChrysler. After Daimler divested Chrysler in 2007, the company existed as Chrysler LLC (2007–2009) and Chrysler Group LLC (2009–2014) before merging in 2014 with Fiat S.p.A. and becoming a subsidiary of its successor Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. In addition to the Chrysler brand, FCA sells vehicles worldwide under the Dodge, Jeep, and Ram nameplates. Furthermore, the subsidiary includes Mopar, its automotive parts and accessories division, and SRT, its performance automobile division.
Virgil Max "Ex" Exner Sr. was an automobile designer for numerous American companies, notably Chrysler and Studebaker.
Plymouth claimed that the tailfins were not fins, but "stabilizers" to place the "center of pressure" as far to the rear as possible and thus "reduce by 20% the needs for steering correction in a cross wind",while Mercedes-Benz called its own tailfins “Peilstege” or “sight lines,” which ostensibly aided in backing up.
Plymouth was a brand of automobiles based in the United States, produced by the Chrysler Corporation and its successor DaimlerChrysler. The brand first appeared in 1928 in the United States to compete in what was then described as the "low-priced" market segment dominated by Chevrolet and Ford. Plymouth was the high-volume seller for the automaker until the late 1990s. The brand was withdrawn from the marketplace in 2001. The Plymouth models that were produced up to then were either discontinued or rebranded as Chrysler or Dodge.
Mercedes-Benz is a German global automobile marque and a division of Daimler AG. The brand is known for luxury vehicles, buses, coaches, and trucks. The headquarters is in Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg. The name first appeared in 1926 under Daimler-Benz. In 2018, Mercedes-Benz was the biggest selling premium vehicle brand in the world, having sold 2.31 million passenger cars.
Automobile engineer Paul Jaray added a center fin to his prototype designs in the 1920s for aerodynamic stability. Influenced by his patents some car producers made streamlined prototypes with one center positioned tailfin. For example, the Audi F5 Stromliner prototype, Kdf-Wagen prototype, Tatra T77 production car or Fiat Padovan prototype.
Paul Jaray was an engineer, designer, and a pioneer of automotive streamlining.
Some sub-models of the 1937 Cadillac Fleetwood, which predates the P-38, also contained hints of tailfins via projecting tail-light "paddles", although it is unclear if this influenced later fin designs.The 1941 Cadillac Series 63 4-Door Sedan also had a form of jutting tail-lights, although milder than the 1937 Fleetwood. Even though the 1948 model was the first conscious effort at fins, the earlier partial occurrences may have made the concept more acceptable to consumers and designers. (World War II produced a gap of Cadillac model production between the early 1940s and late 1940s as factories turned to military goods production, interrupting the development of the fin concept.)
The Cadillac Fleetwood is a model of luxury car that was manufactured by the Cadillac division of General Motors between 1976 and 1996. The "Fleetwood" name was previously used as a prefix on several of Cadillac's models dating back to 1935. Four door cars bearing the name "Fleetwood" generally had longer wheelbases than Cadillac's more common Series 62 and DeVille models.
World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.
The Cadillac 1948 fin styling proved popular, and its use spread to other models in the General Motors family of brands. Soon it was adopted by other manufacturers, with top Chrysler stylist Virgil Exner in particular taking the tailfin look on board. As confidence grew in the styling trend, the fins grew larger and bolder.
The most extreme tailfins appeared in the late 1950s, such as on the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado and the 1959 Chevrolet Impala. The 1959 Cadillac fins looked like jet airplane vertical stabilizers with sharp points and twin bullet-shaped taillights. Many of automotive press and much of the public were getting weary of the exaggerated tailfins, and the manufacturers were ready to phase them out because they added cost and complexity to design and manufacturing. Tailfins descended throughout the early 1960s, even adopting a downward slope on the 1965 Cadillacs. Mostly they disappeared, although in instances a sharp-edged quarter panel meeting a downward sloping trunk created the look if not illusion of fins. Vestigial tailfins, however, remained on American cars into the 1990s, at least as far as the 1999 Cadillac Deville.
Mercedes-Benz introduced a modest tailfin on its 1959 W111 series of sedans, which gained the nickname "Fintails". In company terminology they were Peilstege (sight lines) for aid in backing up. In 1997, Lancia introduced the Lancia Kappa Coupé with similar rear "sight line" augmentation.
Tailfins have been criticized as a safety concern, even as a parked vehicle. In Kahn v. Chrysler (1963), a seven-year-old child on a bicycle collided with a fin and sustained a head injury. A case of the same era, Hatch v. Ford (1958), is also prominent in the study of personal injury from parked vehicles. In both of these cases, children were injured by sharp protrusions on parked cars.
Examples of tailfin styling:
In 1999 Cadillac launched the Cadillac Evoq concept to lead the new design known as the art and science campaign. Recent Cadillacs have continued the tradition of the brand's signature vertical taillamp tailfins. Cadillac's designers call the current Cadillacs's styling evocative of tailfins. In 2010, the Cadillac SRX styling incorporated the trademark vertical taillights sculpted into tiny tailfins projecting from the rear. This was also done with the Cadillac XTS, which launched in 2012, and with many other models in later years.
In 2009 Trabant introduced the Nt concept with extremely distinct tail fins projecting from the rear similar to the earlier models made the Trabant company.
The Chrysler 300 from 2011 to the present has subtle, but distinct tailfins.
Though not officially mentioned by the manufacturer, reviews from the media compared the sharp angles of the fourth generation Toyota Prius tail-lights similar to tailfins. This is better seen when the tail-lights are lit.[ citation needed ]
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Packard was an American luxury automobile marque built by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan, United States. The first Packard automobiles were produced in 1899, and the last Detroit-built Packard in 1956, when they built the Packard Predictor, their last concept car.
The Lincoln Continental is a series of mid-sized and full-sized luxury cars produced by Lincoln, a division of the American automaker Ford Motor Company. Introduced in 1939 as a personal vehicle of Edsel Ford, who commissioned a coachbuilt Lincoln-Zephyr convertible as a vacation vehicle to attract potential Lincoln buyers. In what would give the model line its name, the exterior was given European "continental" styling elements, including a rear-mounted spare tire. Produced for 55 years across nearly eight decades, there are ten generations of the Lincoln Continental.
The Studebaker Golden Hawk is a two-door pillarless hardtop coupe type car produced by the Studebaker Corporation of South Bend, Indiana, between 1956 and 1958.
The 1957 and 1958Packard lineup of automobiles were based on Studebaker models: restyled, rebadged, and given more luxurious interiors. After 1956 production, the Packard engine and transmission factory was leased to the Curtiss-Wright Corporation while the assembly plant on Detroit's East Grand Boulevard was sold, ending the line of Packard-built cars. However, Studebaker-Packard executives hoped to keep the Packard name alive until a fully restyled model could be funded, developed, and produced. These cars were built in hopes that enough would be sold to enable the company to design and build a completely new luxury Packard.
Imperial was the Chrysler Corporation's luxury automobile brand from 1955 to 1975, and again from 1981 to 1983.
The GM B platform, was General Motors' full-size rear-wheel drive automobile platform from 1926-1996. It was closely related to the original rear-wheel drive GM C and GM D platforms, and was used for convertibles, hardtops, coupés, sedans, and station wagons.
The Studebaker Champion is an automobile which was produced by the Studebaker Corporation of South Bend, Indiana from the beginning of the 1939 model year until 1958. It was a full-size car in its first three generations and a mid-size car in its fourth and fifth generation models.
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The Packard Clipper is an automobile which was built by the Packard Motor Car Company for models years 1941–1942, 1946–1947 and 1953–1957. For 1956 only, Clipper was classified as a stand-alone marque. The Clipper was introduced in April, 1941, as a mid-model year entry. It was available only as a four-door sedan. The Clipper name was reintroduced in 1953, for the automaker's lowest-priced lineup. By 1955, the Clipper models were seen as diluting Packard's marketing as a luxury automobile marque. It was named for a type of sailing ship, called a clipper.
The Chevrolet Brookwood is a series of full-size station wagons produced by Chevrolet from 1958 to 1961, and again from 1969 to 1972. It debuted in 1958 as Chevrolet's mid-range model in its station wagon lineup, positioned between the less expensive Yeoman and more luxurious Nomad station wagons. After the Yeoman was discontinued in 1959, the Brookwood was subsequently demoted to entry-level status, before going out of production altogether in 1961. It made a brief reappearance from 1969 and 1972, once again as the least-expensive wagon in Chevrolet's lineup.
DeSoto is an American automobile marque that was manufactured and marketed by the DeSoto Division of the Chrysler Corporation from 1928 to the 1961 model year. The De Soto marque was officially dropped November 30, 1960, with over two million vehicles built since 1928.
The Excellence is a luxury saloon automobile that was unveiled by Facel-Vega of Paris, France, at the Paris Auto Show in October 1956 to rave reviews by the motoring press.
The Moskvitch 402 is a compact car manufactured by the former Soviet automobile maker MZMA, first time introduced in 1956 as a second generation of the Moskvitch series. In comparison with its predecessor, the Moskvitch-401, the M-402 model featured many improvements which included independent suspension with double wishbones, telescopic shock absorbers, 12-volt electrics, more solid and comfortable car body, more modern trunk, heater, standard car radio, wider viewing range for the driver, etc.
Dagmar bumpers is a slang term for chrome conical shaped bumper guards which began to appear on the front bumper/grille assemblies of certain American automobiles following World War II. They reached their peak in the mid-1950s.
The Lincoln Capri is an automobile that was sold by the Lincoln division of Ford Motor Company from 1952 to 1959. A full-size luxury car, the Lincoln Capri derives its name from an Italian island in the Gulf of Naples. Introduced as a premium trim variant of the two-door Lincoln Cosmopolitan, the Capri was introduced in 1952 as a stand-alone model line serving as the premium Lincoln. With the introduction of the Lincoln Premiere, the Capri replaced the Cosmopolitan as the standard Lincoln product line.
This is a list of automobiles produced for the general public in the North American market. They are listed in chronological order from when each model began its model year. If a model did not have continuous production, it is listed again on the model year production resumed. Concept cars and submodels are not listed unless they are themselves notable.
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