If Two Fins Are Good, Three Must Be Better Yet: How The 1959 Buick Might Well Have Looked

(first posted 10/23/2012)     Since we’re keeping the 1959-1960 GM theme going with today’s ’60 Buick CC, let’s take in this design concept that made it pretty far into the serious consideration stage during the difficult gestation of the new 1959 models. This shot (at mrjynx)  is of a clay, but Buick took the idea even further with the fiberglass mock-up pictured below. Obviously, this took place during the second phase of the ’59 body development, as the finalization of the production cars’ eventual shape is already well under way. We’ve joked in the past about management putting LSD in the water cooler of the Design Center, but according to historian Michael Lamm, that’s almost true.

image: hemmingsblog.com

His write up on the whole 1959 design revolution at GM is documented in a two-part 1991 Special Interest Automobile (SIA) series (Part 1 here) (Part 2 here) entitled “When Imagination Ran Rampant”. And indeed it did:

Several interesting highlights of the 1959 body program are worth noting here. Dave Hollis makes the point that this was the period when no idea or concept was too weird, or bizarre, to be considered. In fact, any designer who couldn’t or didn’t come up with wilder and farther-out ideas risked losing his job. The rush to be different and unusual became almost competitive and led, as you can see in the photographs, to such trial balloons as headlamps planted in foreheads of hoods, trunk-mounted tailfins, and gas-turbine exhausts.

Lamm goes on to say that many of the more extreme ideas obviously were winnowed out, but the extreme ’59 Chevy and Buick gullwings first proposed by Bob Cadaret did make it to production (sans the third fin, thankfully).

image: hemmingsblog.com

I heartily recommend a read of Lamm’s account, as it is more comprehensive than any other I’ve read. He notes that there is disagreement as to whether the “revolution” that discarded the earlier, Earl-led designs started before or after Earl went to Europe. He even suggests that GM Prez Harlow Curtice, unhappy about the way the 59s were taking shape, might just have sent Earl to Europe so that the revolution could take place.