Car tailfin

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The tailfin was first introduced on the 1948 Cadillac 1948 Cadillac Series 62 sedan (8702651993).jpg
The tailfin was first introduced on the 1948 Cadillac
The tailfin at its apex on the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado 59svl.JPG
The tailfin at its apex on the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado
Another view of the 1959 Cadillac tailfin Cadillac1001.jpg
Another view of the 1959 Cadillac tailfin
Tailfins were Peilstege (sight lines) in Mercedes-Benz terminology, seen here on a 190D sedan Heckflosse190D.jpg
Tailfins were Peilstege (sight lines) in Mercedes-Benz terminology, seen here on a 190D sedan
A finned British Vauxhall Cresta PA Vauxhall cresta pa sideon arp.jpg
A finned British Vauxhall Cresta PA

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. [1]

Contents

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 [2] , who at the time the 1948 Cadillac was being designed was chief of the GM Special Car Design Studio. [3] 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. [4] 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 Earl American designer

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 automotive brand manufacturing subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

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", [5] while Mercedes-Benz called its own tailfins “Peilstege” or “sight lines,” which ostensibly aided in backing up.

Plymouth (automobile) US car brand

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.

Background

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 Hungarian engineer

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. [6] 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.)

Cadillac Fleetwood model of luxury cars

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 1939–1945 global war

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.

Tailfin era

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.

Legacy

The 1959 Dodge Coronet shows the fin as a separate assembly added to the tail Dodge Coronet Fin.jpg
The 1959 Dodge Coronet shows the fin as a separate assembly added to the tail
Latent tailfin on the compact Lancia Kappa Coupe Lancia-kappa-coupe-tailfin.JPG
Latent tailfin on the compact Lancia Kappa Coupé
Cadillac tailfins had started to turn downward already by 1965, here seen vestigially a quarter century later on a 1990s Cadillac Brougham d'Elegance 1991 Cadillac Fleetwood gold-edition black rr.jpg
Cadillac tailfins had started to turn downward already by 1965, here seen vestigially a quarter century later on a 1990s Cadillac Brougham d'Elegance
2013 Hindustan Ambassador. Since the Ambassador's exterior design remained virtually unchanged for nearly sixty years, the tailfins were retained for the duration of its production Rear View, HM Ambassador Grand, 2013 Model.JPG
2013 Hindustan Ambassador. Since the Ambassador's exterior design remained virtually unchanged for nearly sixty years, the tailfins were retained for the duration of its production

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. [7]

Examples of tailfin styling:

Subtle reintroduction into car 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 ]

See also

Notes

  1. pbs.org
  2. Gantz, Carroll. "Hershey, Franklin (Frank) Q." industrialdesignhistory.
  3. Knoedelseder, William (2018). Fins (First ed.). New York NY: Harper Collins. pp. 176–177. ISBN   9780062289070.
  4. http://www.100megsfree4.com/cadillac/cad1940/cad48s.htm
  5. Allpar.com
  6. http://www.100megsfree4.com/cadillac/cad1940/cad48s.htm
  7. Jain, S. Lochlann "'Dangerous Instrumentality': The Bystander as Subject in Automobility". Cultural Anthropology 19:1 (February 2004): pp. 61–94.

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