Cars We Love: 1959 Cadillac Coupe De Ville

1959 Cadillac Coupe De Ville

The 1959 Cadillac Coupe De Ville was beyond big. Even in the late ‘50s when most cars were big, the De Ville stood out from the crowd. It’s hard to convey the immense size of the ’59 Cadillac to those who have never experienced one in person, but let’s try to put the size into perspective.

Most auto enthusiasts of today are familiar with, and have some mental image of the size of the Chevrolet Suburban, which is known as a full-size SUV. The Suburban rides on a 130-inch (that’s a little over 10 feet) wheelbase, has an overall length of 224 inches (just over 18 ½ feet), and is 80 ½ inches (a shade over 6 ½ feet) wide. It is safe to say that anyone who has experience only with today’s automobiles would consider the Suburban to be a very big vehicle.

Well, guess what? The vital dimensions of the ’59 Coupe De Ville are almost identical to those of the Suburban: a 130 inch wheelbase, an overall length of 225 inches, and 81 inches wide. Despite the similarities in size, brash styling that included immense tail fins and seemingly tons of chrome gave the Cadillac Coupe De Ville an aura that no Suburban can approach.

For 1959, Cadillacs were given a significant restyling for the second year in a row, thanks at least in part to the raging tail fin war. Virgil Exner’s design team at Chrysler kept making bigger and bigger tail fins, and those on the 1958 Cadillac were found to be lacking by Cadillac design. They were determined not to be outdone in 1959.

The fins on the ‘59 Cadillac literally marked the height of the tail fin era—two huge fins, each adorned with two rocket-shaped taillights, began rising before the rear roof line met the body and continued to rise until the tops of the fins were about midway between the body beltline and the top of the roof.

By the following year, Cadillac and many other makes offered subdued fins, and within a couple of years tail fins were a thing of the past. With its outrageous ’59 fins, Cadillac had fired the final salvo in the tail fin war.


Image by That Hartford Guy



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