1950s, whatever he drove become the car of the day. And
Elvis loved the glamour that shiny new tail-fins exhibited.
His fans loved them, too, which led to over thirty heart-
stopping models being designed during the 1950s. No one
cared back then whether cars were gas-guzzlers or whether
the paint job would last, or whether the shiny chrome that
protruded out the back begged to have dents inserted within
the first few weeks.
The appeal of cars during the 1950s was more than just
Elvis. It was prestige and glamour for even the average
working person. The feeling of luxury seeped into one’s
feelings and emotions, and romance bloomed with respect
while riding in these elegant vehicles.
The Chrysler Town & Country Newport coupe which came out in
1950 didn’t have fins (they started creeping into the design
around 1952). Yet it wasn’t the typical car of the 1940s.
Almost a dinosaur compared to today’s styles, the Newport
featured distinctive, external wood framing (referred to as
being a ‘Woodie’) and strongly appealed to the hunter and
Pontiac had a mascot – an Indian Chief– whose unsmiling face
formed the base of the front hood. His headdress consisted
of streaks of chrome sliding back over the hood and being
picked up again on the trunk. Sleek looking! Everyone wanted
a car with a personality, and the Indian Chief gave the
Because the cars of the early 1950s had a somewhat dowdy
appearance but reflected the potential of sparkling glamour,
car designers became aggressive in their creativity. By 1957
and 1958 the designers produced disastrously overblown
responses. Sharp clean fins reached in all directions. They
were streaked with chrome, and somewhere in the middle a
body was grafted into them. Bright yellows! Passionate reds!
Baby blues! And regardless of the weather where one lived,
convertibles were in, even if you never lowered the top.
The intense competition among the car manufacturers meant
that each model became extinct quickly. Planned obsolescence
meant the customers had to choose between buying a new car
each year or being a social leper. Because of the expense of
redesigning all models every year, the manufacturers took to
keeping the inner workings of the cars basically the same
and only changing the outward look.
By 1958 some models,such as the 1958 Oldsmobile, were
beginning to be called ‘ugly.’ Some even said it looked
like a brick with a hardtop sitting on it. However, the
indented chrome on the doors still caught one’s eye of
All systems self-destruct from within. The era of the
glamour cars had outdone itself and common sense dictated
that what would follow in the 1960s would be based on
performance, a concern for the environment, and conservative
packaging. During the 1960s people weren’t impressed with
external appearances to the exclusion of what existed
underneath. This attitude was reflected towards both people
and cars. Yet, who will ever forget Elvis? Or the glamour
cars of the 1950s?
Cottis Pardens is the webmaster and operator of
CarsUlike Dotcom which
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