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February 3, 1948 – The first automotive tail fins hit the road

1948 Cadillac had the first tail fins

General Motors design chief Harley Earl was an inspired man after gazing upon a twin-tailed P-38 Lightning fighter plane of WWII. By borrowing elements of the plane’s design he ushered in the tail fin era of the automobile, starting with the 1948 Cadillac, the first of which left the factory on this day in 1948. 

Above: 1959 Cadillac Coupe deVille, the year fins hit their highest point. By Brian Corey. Top: 1948 Cadillac Series 62 by sv1ambo.  CC 2.0

The style proved popular and spread through American automotive design centers and then around the world. By the end of the 1950s, fins had grown from small projections to massive wings with sharp edges. Following an apex in 1959, in which Cadillac again stole the show with its enormous fins, the design disappeared almost entirely by the early 1960s.

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