The Fine Fins Of 59

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The prize tailfin on American cars has often been thought to have been on the ’58 Cadillac Eldorado – see the picture of Penelope Pinze in the desert – but I disagree.

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I shall leave aside the sheet metal freak that was attached to the rear deck of the Plymouth Roadrunner. It is tall, but definitely a bolt-on item and not in the spirit of the 50’s or 60’s. It may, or may not, have contributed to stability at the rear end of this muscle car, but it was not a part of the original sheet metal design for the sedan body.

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For my money the champion tail fin or stabilizer was sported by the 1960 Plymouth line – all the way from the Belvedere to the Fury there were two magnificent fins cutting the air. The junction of the front of the bonnet and the grille may have had an uncertain style to it but the flanks of the beast were all that could be asked for.

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Here in Australia I see that 1959 brought a sort of peak of style as well, but in a bit more hesitant way. See the rear quarters of this 1959 Chrysler at Gillam Drive. They feature tail fins piled upon tail fins piled upon tail fins – surely a combination that deserves some respect. The angles of the side trim have been carefully set to divide the broad white into two manageable sectors. The black roof is stylish, but on Gillam Drive in summer style comes at a price – the price of comfort. It is the only concession that this driver need make – the rest of the vehicle is superb.

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I hope Tony has some success with his sale – a custom car as nicely presented as this one deserves to be treated well. It would have been the pride and joy of a well-to-do person here in 1959, and not too common on the road. Plenty of power in the engine if the owner  wished to tow a caravan…one thinks of the long winding southwest roads in those days and what it must have been like to be stuck behind an Easter caravan on Caves Road…This is what you might have seen  – minus the Coromal…

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Please note one more period piece in the rear window. Not as common as they once were, but authentic nevertheless…

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Detroit 56

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The paint job and licence plate of this car at Gillam Drive this year set up a train of surprising echoes in my memory – ’56 was one of those years.

It was the year my dad set a world record. It was the year he cheated death. It was the year I got beaten at school. It was the year his business failed. It was the year we saw Detroit.

The world record was for the deepest fresh-water dredging operation. The fact that it was nearly impossible to do led to the business failure. The fact that my father decided to leave his former employment and pursue it meant that he was not aboard a Trans Canada Airlines DC – 6 when it hit the side of a mountain in British Columbia – his successor in that job was…

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The school beating was from the principal, for the crime of talking in line. It was the only instance of corporal punishment in all my cschool career, though I was beaten up many times on the playground. The officious unfairness of it still rankles, though it pales into insignificance compared to the sort of abuse Australian high school teachers in the 1960’s regularly got away with.

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The Detroit visit – after the business failure – was as part of a relocation to Montreal for new employment. We went on a guided tour of parts of the Ford Motor Company plant and were shown rolling mills, casting shops, and assembly lines. I could not admire the rolling mills enough. Detroit was , indeed, Motor City.

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Okay – the other memory evoked by the ’56 Chevy you see here involved the colour. That is a scheme favoured in the mid-50’s for many things…and it was the exact shade of pink*and black that our bathroom was. I often think that it influenced us here at home when we chose the tiles for the bathroom and laundry, though we stuck to pink alone and avoided black. If I were to rebuild I think I would bring the black back…

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Please note the details: the custom tail-lights and fin extensions, the pinstriping and graphics, The extremely neat – very stock – interior, and the six-cylinder engine. Proof that not all cool customs need to have enormous V-8’s sandwiched into their engine bays and that effective rodding does not need to chrome everything in sight or poke pipes out through the bonnet.

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Many thanks to the owner for opening the passenger’s side door for a clear interior shot. This is always a welcome thing for a reporter.
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* Mamie Eisenhower liked pink, and it was therefore fashionable.