If you saw the Name That Tailfin Game yesterday and have some answers, here are the original uncropped photos and the answer key. If you missed it yesterday, feel free to go back and take your guesses. If you are ready for answers, or you just want to look at a Feast of Fifties Flamboyance, click through.
I am going the give the Tailfin Trophy to Don W. for the least number of year/make misidentifications (1, the bonus doesn’t count) combined with 5 models identified including impressively i.d.ing the #2 Dodge as a ’59 from the taillights, which I hadn’t realized in my research were different from the ’58. Way to go!
Honorable mentions go out to PaulChgo for having the most models identified (7) and to Don Minick who came back with only a few minor errors in less than 30 minutes from the article going up, which I am assuming shows that he did it all from memory. And even though it was an open book test, Rlplaut stated that he did it from memory and put in a darn impressive show as such. His Lincoln instincts served him well! Kudos to anyone else who did it from memory. From memory, I would not have done as well as any of you guys.
By my estimation, two of the seventeen vehicles could only be narrowed to 2 years, and only four couldn’t be identified by model. Here are my identifications, let me know if you disagree with any of them or have anything to add. I’m not an authority, I just have lots of books and the internet.
#1 is a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air, as most of you no doubt easily guessed. A more distinctive rear end has never been put on a car. This one was at Silver.
It is identifiable as a Bel Air in the cropped photo because Impalas have a fake air vent in the upper rear window molding and Biscaynes don’t have a trim strip along the side of the rear fender.
#2 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk, with a 1959 Dodge D-10 Sweptside pickup at Barrett-Jackson. The Hawk should make an appearance in a future article. The Dodge is an unusual, strange beast. It was a special model made by grafting 1957 Dodge station wagon fenders and rear bumper onto the pickup bed. The special body work was done off the assembly line and they only sold a couple thousand from 1957-59. It sold at B-J for $49,500.
As far as I can tell, there are no differences in the cropped photo between the ’57 and ’58 Golden Hawks. The Golden Hawk is set apart from Silver Hawks on the fins by the five vertical hash marks. If you are incredibly sharp-eyed, you might notice that the dip in the side trim of the Dodge on the driver door is visible through the Hawk rear window, which rules out a ’57. The ’58 and ’59 Dodge Sweptsides are very similar, but the ’59 has slightly different taillights. (Thanks, Don!)
#3 1955 Ford Thunderbird at Barrett-Jackson. I’ll probably do an article on Thunderbirds, but may or may not include this one just because there are a lot to choose from. The base wheel covers are unusual.
The T-bird fin and taillight is similar to other ’55 Fords, but differs in a number of details that you all had no trouble distinguishing. The ’56 T-bird is very similar, but has more chrome on the red lens and it doesn’t have bumper nacelles (because it has a Continental spare that wouldn’t be visible in the photo).
#4 1960 Chevrolet Impala at Russo and Steele. I featured this in my first article on unrestored originals. The car is amazing. In researching this time, I realized I made a mistake in that article by identifying it as a Bel Air, rather than an Impala (and a little disappointed that nobody corrected me on that:)
Chevy did a good job keeping the overall ’59 styling but toning it down. They made what would be considered a pretty bold-looking car on its own merits seem restrained by comparison.
In the cropped photo, the Impala rear beauty panel between the taillights has vertical ribbing, while the Bel Air has horizontal grooves and Biscayne has body color with no panel. Good job to all picked up on that!
#5 1952 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe de Ville at Silver. This was also featured in my first article on unrestored originals. You’re probably aware that the ’49 Cadillac is considered the pioneer of tailfins. Little shoots that would slowly grow into the biggest anywhere in ten years.
There is remarkably little change in the fin and taillight design on ’49-’56 Cadillacs, with ’51-’53 being identical as far as I can tell. From the cropped photo, you can narrow it to ’52 or ’53 based on the gold colored V on the trunk lid which started in 1952. There are no model differences visible. For ’54-’55, the fender shape and taillight are similar, but they are noticeably taller. (After that the Caddy’s started doing steroids!)
#6 1961 Chrysler 300G at Russo and Steele. Featured in my article on Chryslers. Oh my, what a car!
The 1960 and ’61 Chrysler fins are identical, but the ’60 has the taillight in the fin, while ’61 has the taillight moved down into the bodywork and just has the chrome trim piece at the end of the fin. A 300 can be deduced from the cropped photo by the 300-only ribbing running lengthwise down the trunklid, which the ’60 lacked (and had the “toiletseat” pseudospare).
#7 1960 Ford Galaxie Starliner at Russo and Steele. I liked it a lot and would have loved to feature it in my Ford article, but I realized this is the only shot I took and it’s a terrible photo with people blocking the car and the trunk and hood open. It was one of the first cars at the first auction of the week and I wasn’t quite warmed up in my photo taking!
This car has the 360hp 352cid V8, a special high performance, low production engine that was offered mid year in 1960 only. It has an open-element air filter, an aluminum intake manifold, a solid-lifter cam, and header-style exhaust manifolds. It’s one of the early, really hot Detroit engines that blazed a trail for many more to come in the next ten years.
The 1960 fin and whole rear end was strictly a one year affair. The cropped photo could be identified as a Galaxie by the trim strip and stone shield running from the rear wheel opening to the bumper.
#8 1957 Chrysler New Yorker at Silver. This is another car that would be worthy of inclusion in an article, since it’s significant, beautiful and seldom seen. This car was not in fantastic condition, and my Chrysler article was long already, so it joined many other lovable Mopars on the cutting room floor. Still, it’s a rust free survivor, and that’s saying something for a ’57 Chrysler. I’m happy to feature it here, at least.
The ’57 and ’58 tailfins are similar, but the ’58 has a narrower bodyside trim strip with white paint down the middle instead of aluminum and the red taillight lens is shorter. The trim strip and hash marks are New Yorker specific.
#9 1959 Pontiac Bonneville and 1957 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe de Ville at Russo and Steele. I featured the Caddy in my Cadillac article and the Pontiac may show up in a future article. The rear decks on these ’59 Pontiacs are crazy long looking, the rear body work so stretched out it’s almost absurd from certain angles!
The ’59 Pontiac rear styling is totally unique, which is why I cropped it so close, but I didn’t realize that it does look a lot like a ’59 Ford (which a couple of people guessed). The Pontiac has two of the short subfins above the light, but the Ford only has one. I don’t think there is any way to tell the model on the cropped photo. The ’57 Cadillac tailfin is a one year shape. The ’58 is not far different, but the rear edge slants backward, instead of forward for the ’57. It could be on any Series 62 hardtop coupe, sedan or De Ville, but not a Series 60 (which has the fin, but no emblem), or an Eldorado Seville or Eldorado Brougham (which each have different bodywork). Confused yet? Maybe the next photo will help.
The bonus car in the back is a Cord 810/812 which will definitely be in an upcoming article.
#10 1958 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz at Silver. Featured in my Cadillac article. A highlight of the Silver Auction, which had an impressive selection of extremely nice and/or interesting cars for an auction that bills itself as offering second tier vehicles. I’ve said it before, and I will again, it was well worth attending!
The ’57 and ’58 Eldorado Biarritz (that’s the convertible, the hardtop Eldorado Seville has the same fin) have the exact same rear bodywork, but the ’58 has an emblem on the fin while the ’57 is bare.
#11 1955 Pontiac Star Chief Custom Catalina at Silver. Interesting and not often seen model, but a little too custom for me to put in an upcoming article. From 1950 to 1958, pillarless hardtops were called Catalinas, until Catalina became a full entry-level model line for 1959. In 1955, for the first time, all U.S. Pontiacs had V8 power. This would remain the case until the Tempest was introduced for 1961, while all full-sized models would have V8’s until 1977.
The ’55 and ’56 Pontiac fins are the same shape, but the ’55 taillight and side trim is unique, and the ’56 doesn’t have the V8 emblem. The Star Chief Customs are the only model to have the stone shield trim behind the rear wheels.
#12 1960 Buick Invicta at Russo and Steele. I absolutely love 1959-60 Buicks, but this will not make an upcoming article being so heavily customized. I would totally drive this car, though! It sold for $31,500.
The 1959 and ’60 Buicks have a common styling theme, but each year’s body panels and detailing are unique, especially in the tailfin and rear fender. I don’t believe there is any way to tell the model from the cropped photo, even if it had the side trim that’s removed on the custom car.
#13 1957 Lincoln Premiere at Barrett-Jackson. #16 was a trick question because it is the same car and the same picture! I couldn’t resist because the right taillight looks like it is coming out at a steeper angle than the left and the inside of the fins is a different color than the outside. This will probably not show up in a future article on Lincolns. Regardless of what you think about the generally unloved 1957 styling, this particular car was not real nice by Barrett-Jackson standards. The condition was only so-so and I’m confident that the two-tone treatment was not original. As far as I can tell, ’57 Lincolns were available with contrasting color roof but the lower bodies were always one color. It sold for $18,700.
Tom Halter had an excellent article on CC a few months ago on the 1957 Lincolns based on a nicer example he found at a car show.
The ’56 model is a nice looking car and the ’57, while based on the same basic body, has completely different rear styling which mercifully lasted for only one year. There is no way to tell a Premiere from a Capri by the rear.
#14 1956 Plymouth Sport Suburban at Silver. This one will be in an upcoming article.
The tailfin on the ’56 is a lot sharper and more pronounced than on the ’55 with which it shares it’s basic styling. Of the three wagon models, Sport Suburban is the highest and is the only one with stylized “forward look” emblem, and chrome surrounding the reverse light.
#15 1956 Packard Clipper Deluxe at Barrett-Jackson. This may show up in an upcoming article, I haven’t decided. It also was not in real nice condition as Barrett-Jackson cars go and the photos are not too good, but how often do you see a ’56 Packard?
The taillights on the ’56 are significantly different shape from the ’55’s, and of course the ’57 is a completely different animal, though the one thing that is kind of similar are the taillights and fins. The base Deluxe Clipper is the only model to have a single chrome strip along the fender.
Other articles in my Scottsdale 2018 series: