Thumb through an old magazine—were talking pretty old here—and you’re likely to come across car ads that featured vehicles staged in images with jet aircraft. In fact, we have a collection of such ads right here. It is no coincidence that what sociologists sometimes refer to as the Jet Age occurred roughly concurrently with the automotive tailfin era. The tailfin era, which is difficult to nail down, peaked between 1955 and 1961.
General Motors’ Design Chief Harley Earl is generally credited with beginning the tailfin era by including small rear-fender fins on the 1948 Cadillacs. There are those to give credit for the Caddy fins to an Earl subordinate, designer Franklin Quin Hershey. Regardless of who made the final decision, it is indeed the ’48 Caddy that is understood to be first of the breed.
What’s fun about tailfins is how differently brands employed them in their respective designs. As we only had space for a dozen print ads in the gallery below, we sought our some of our favorite, and the most incredible designs.
As the 1959 Chevrolet is often considered “peak tailfin,” we made sure to include that vehicle in our collection. Note also, that the Mercedes-Benz vehicle included here is said not to have included fins as a design element, but as a functional tool designed to assist drives of the car when moving in reverse. The cars, often referred to as “Fintails,” were built between 1959 and 1968.
What’s your favorite tailfinned car? Let us know by leaving a note below.
Classic Car Ads: Tailfins
1957 Lincoln Ad
1965 Mercedes-Benz “fintail”
Classic Car Ads: Tailfins Gallery
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