Concept Outtake: How the 1961 Cadillac Skegs Were Originally Conceived, And The Whipsawing of GM Design By Chrysler and Ford

(first posted 10/11/2017)         Although it’s a bit fussy, I’ve always had a soft spot for the 1961 Cadillac and its “skegs”. But until I stumbled into this concept posted at Flickr by Glen H., I didn’t realize that these were originally conceived to end a lot sooner. I can see why they got an extension.

Here’s the familiar final result. Contrary to popular assumptions, Harly Earl was still in charge when the new ’61 GM cars were being developed, although clearly Bill Mitchell’s influence was rising. The ’61’s were a bit smaller, cleaner lost the wrap-around windshield and had a lot more surface on the sides, there’s also still a lot of Earl legacy in them too.

This is most clearly reflected in the skegs on the ’61, which screams of Harley Earl’s 1958 Firebird III.

That all changed for 1963, when Mitchell’s first truly new cars, the seminal Riviera and Grand Prix arrived. Their predominately slab sides and C-Pillar sail panels were indisputably influenced by the ’61 Continental, although the subtle crease that runs on their sides is also a notable and important difference.

This can be verified by the fact that the earlier versions of the project that resulted in the Riviera, code named XP-715, had a very different look, essentially an evolution of the 1960 Corvair.

It was also a more European-inspired look, one that the 1963 Iso Rivolta IR 300 would wear, and quite handsomely.

It’s really kind of ironic: GM, commonly held as the design leader in the 50s and 60s, was being whipsawed by Chrysler, which resulted in the 1959 GM cars, and then by Ford, starting with the Riviera.