The Tailfin Era

This was shot at the 2011 Good Guys Rod and Vintage show in Pleasanton, California. This was the largest tailfin I could find and is iconic of a whole era of classic cars!

The tailfin era of automobile styling encompassed the 1950s and 1960s, peaking between 1957 and 1960. It was a style that spread worldwide, as car designers picked up styling trends from the US automobile industry where it was the golden epoch of American auto design.

General Motors design chief Harley earl is generally credited for the automobile tailfin, introducing small fins on the 1948 Cadillac. Harley credited the look of WWII fighter aircraft his inspiration, particularly the twin-tailed P-38 Lightning. 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.

The most extreme tailfins appeared in the late 1950s. The fins on the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado were the largest and most outrageous ever fitted on a production car. Those fins were too much for many customers, however, and the tailfins shrank after that point. Within a couple of years, tailfins had become much less prominent, and by the mid 1960s, they were gone on many models. Vestigial tailfins remained on American cars into the 1980s, with the sides of the quarter panels often being raised above the trunk lid and the corner sharp-edged, or at least raised.

5 responses

  1. Tim

    Great shot. I liked the light reflecting off the red… Cars used to be so much more fun!

    September 8, 2011 at 9:37 am

  2. I love your work with the classic cars and trucks Erik, you really have a knack for finding the sweet spot in a scene and bringing it to life!

    September 8, 2011 at 10:21 am

  3. Nice work with the DOF too. Just enough focus on the tail fin before it falls off.

    September 9, 2011 at 11:26 am

  4. Hi, i think that i saw you visited my web site thus i came to “return the favor”.I’m attempting to find things to enhance my site!I suppose its ok to use some of your ideas!!

    September 22, 2011 at 4:04 pm

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