Written by Nicole Ellan James
The 1950s represent an exciting time in America. The war was over, the economy was booming, and “atomic” fever was sweeping the nation, shaping people’s hopes and daring new dreams while inspiring futuristic vision and bountiful optimism with nearly limitless boundaries.
Change was occurring culturally and economically, but most evidently in style and design, with the auto industry setting trends that would define the decade. General Motors design chief Harley Earl is primarily credited for the automobile tailfin, first seen on the 1948 Cadillac. Earl cited the Lockheed P-38 Lightning Fighter as the inspiration. Earl and his team of designers were struck by the way the lines of the tail booms carried through from nose to tail and its stubby, rounded vertical fins.
Designers quickly began drawing inspiration from other sources in the sky. The era’s most radical concepts moved from auto show floors and into every American’s driveway. It had become the new norm, and all major auto companies jumped in on the craze.
Cars adopted a flowing design that echoed the look of rockets. Finished in pastel shades of pink, blue, and green, they received lots of chrome, ornate hood ornaments, wraparound windshields, and their most iconic feature: large tailfins with elaborate taillights. The automatic transmission became more popular and widely available, as well as other luxury items such as power steering and brakes.
Car culture from this time is reflected in popular music and inspired new businesses like drive-in movie theaters, and drive-in and drive-through restaurants.
Unsurprisingly many cars from the 1950s have become highly prized collectibles.
Enjoy this preview of big finned cars offered with No Reserve during the 2022 Las Vegas Auction, held June 30-July 2 at the West Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center.