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The 1950s Timeline: Year 1959

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by Joe Babiasz  More from Author

A truly grand finale.

Images courtesy of the NAHC Detroit Library and the GM Media Archives.


By 1959, things began to get a little dicey for Chrysler, with its “sporty” Plymouth division losing some of its styling luster. The front end, with twin peaked headlamps and a massive grille, looked heavy. Things weren’t any better in the rear, with a donut-like appendage resting on top of the deck lid and Jetsons style tail fins.

Dodge took the word “strange” to the next level, with headlamp openings that began on the side of the front fenders and continued toward the middle, nearly meeting at the center. The rear end styling didn’t fare much better. Twin tail lamps protruded rearward just below a shortened fin that failed to reach the rear of the vehicle. Clearly, it wasn’t one of Dodge’s finest moments. Dodge, however, excelled with its interior appointments, showcasing swivel bucket seats and handsome seat coverings.

Ford took a big step in the right direction with its Galaxie model. The two-door hardtop copied the roof design from last year’s retractable roof. Ford went back to large, circular tail lamps deeply frenched into large pockets that resembled rocket exhaust. A tasteful V-shaped molding ran across the rear.

GM softened things up a bit for 1959. Chevrolet looked fresher, with headlamps positioned within the grille giving a lower and wider look. The rear end was sharpened up with nearly horizontal tail fins and large cats eye tail lamps. It was a dramatic improvement from 1958.

Pontiac brought in the wide track look using a thin split grille and a long, low look. Twin tail fins, slightly tipped at an angle, were stylish but not gaudy.

Oldsmobile should be given kudos for unsurpassed styling for the model year. The combination of its widely spaced headlamps and slowly sloping side feature line illustrated a well balanced look.

Buick, fighting off a very bad year in 1958, looked totally new. The gaudiness was gone, replaced with handsomely canted headlamps and tail fins. 

Saving the best for last, we have the 1959 Cadillac. Perhaps more has been written about this iconic automobile than any other. Its styling represented the culmination of 1950s’ excesses. From the sky high fins to the “in your face” grille, Cadillac summarized best what the decade was about.

Looking Back At 1959:
Bonanza TV show debuts
Barbie doll becomes available
Hawaii becomes the 50th state
NBA Champs – Boston Celtics
Buddy Holly dies in a plane crash

The 1950s Timeline
Introduction - 1950 - 1951 - 1952 - 1953 - 1954 - 1955 - 1956 - 1957 - 1958 - 1959


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