Ahh….1959…the year in which my Mom and Dad both conceived and brought this longrooffan into the “Year of the Fin.”
I arrived home from St. John’s Mercy Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri in my Mother’s lap while riding in an off white two door 1958 Chevy Belair hardtop. And not a seat belt nor a car seat in sight! Being the seventh child (of ultimately 10), this was not an unusual experience for my folks!
Incidentally, sharing my birth year were fellow Curbdweller jpcavanaugh (welcome aboard!), Barbie, Food Stamps, The Coppertone Girl, and Coors gave birth to the aluminum can. And a little known fact, Ford beat Chrysler in a court battle for the use of the Falcon nameplate!
But I am certain my Curbdwelling friends don’t really want to take a stroll down memory lane with this olelongrooffan. Let’s talk about some really cool stuff. Like Cars. From 1959. “The Year of the Fin.”
Yes, the “Year of the Fin.” In my opinion, 1959 represented the ultimate in design excess, especially when it came to the rear end of General Motors offerings. But I still like them. Alot.
A couple of extreme representatives of this styling were the 59 Impala, with its huge picnic table like horizontal fins as shown above. It is interesting, the 57 Chevy’s had huge vertical fins, the 58 I rode home in sported angular fins leading to the 59’s huge horizontal ones. Transistional styling direction by GM back in the day seemed to be the case.
And I don’t know about you but I think Paul’s most recent CC Clue has to be somewhere on that 59 Impala. I just can’t find it.
And these even larger vertical fins offered by Cadillac that model year. This was the most extreme fin offered on a production car (the Rocket Cars weren’t production) to date and lasted only one model year. But a hell of a lot of them were built and are still around. Just look at the shadow cast by that driver’s side fin on the trunk as captured in the last afternoon sun down here in the Sunshine State a year or so ago!
But, as the headline suggests, this is not about fins or, for that matter, something even constructed here in the United States for that model year. No, this is about my favorite ’50’s era sports car, the Triumph TR3A.
All jokes about Lucas Electrics, jars of smoke and oil leaks aside, these cars represented a break through in the offering of modern British sports cars in the United States.
There were several remarkable items included in 1957 redesign of the Triumph TR including the wind deflectors on the windscreen,
As well as secondary set screws to hold the bonnet in place. Yeah, one of these on each side of the hood to provide a backup to the standard latch.
This one possesses the optional luggage rack on the rear deck. I always wanted to get one of these cool items for the deck of my E30 convertible. And see that removable panel to which the license plate is attached? Stay tuned for more on that.
Last year while I was out and about I spotted this white one at a show down in Cocoa Beach. It, unlike the red one I saw a couple weeks ago, possesses steel wheels as opposed to the optional wire wheels on the red one.
Under its hood there were twin SU carburetors attached to that 1991 cc (2.0L) product of the, what was at that time still independent, Triumph Motor Company in Coventry, England.
This one also contained the optional rear seat although it is suitable for a couple bags of groceries and maybe a small pet.
And remember that panel I pointed out earlier? Behind it is the spare tire. Between it and the petrol tank, there is probably not a whole lot of trunk room in this little sweetie.
About 15 years ago, my Dad sent me a thick scrapbook of old car ads, old car stories and other miscellaneous old car print material. One of the items contained within that scrapbook is a copy of an article titled “Stars and Their Cars.” Included in that article was this image of Anne Francis, of Hollywood fame, posed on the bonnet of her Triumph, although this one is an earlier TR model as is evidenced by the “small” grill on its nose.
And in a final somewhat related note, the above photo is of a good friend posed on the front of his 1958 Morris Garages MGA, a direct competitor to the Triumph TR3A, back in the day. This was his first car and to this day he laments ever selling it! Sound familiar? Also, just check out all those CC’s just down the street!
(digital images by longrooffan, photos courtesy Robert G. Lee, TomK)
I too was a lover of these TR series cars, starting with the TR2.(The TR1 was a prototype showcar, with a different tail treatment )
When these were made, Triumph had already been taken over by Standard, and the engine was a modified Standard unit. In the 60’s, after Leyland took over Standard, the Standard name was dropped, and all cars produced were badged as Triumphs.
Fellow Curbdweller. I like it.
Your post made me think. You came home from the hospital in a 58 Bel Air and your favorite 50s car is a 59 TR3A.
I came home from the hospital in a 59 Karmann Ghia and my favorite 50s car is the 59 Fury. Coincidence?
Nice post; love those old Triumphs. Nothing to make you feel closer to the road, when you can actually reach out and touch it!
Can’t talk about fins in the late 50s without mentioning DeSoto. Gone, but not Forgotten:
The Ultimate 1957 DeSoto site
I went home in 58 in a 54 Vauxhall Velox that already had the rust removed and painted metallic green. Vauhalls grew fins in 59 but theold man wouldnt be in it he waited till 64 when theyd gone before he bought.
Great post! I really enjoy your stories and your prose style.
Yup, when you compare the ludicrous excesses of 1959 Detroit (which I like, but only because they were imprinted on me at a young age, being of 1958 vintage)…
…to the much more tasteful touches of the British product, excess in its own way, but an excess of form following function…
…it’s no contest. The tragedy is what happened to the British motorcar industry over the decade to come, culminating in serial mercy-killings of hoary old product lines; and with nothing to replace them.
So it is with any saga worth telling; it will be full of tragedies, as well as triumphs. And in this case, the tragedy of Triumph.
…and a friendly aside to LongRoof…
…your taste in subject matter is impeccable, and your prose fine for short essays. But! You! Don’t! Need! To! SHOUT!! so much…
…go easy on that exclamation point. Best to let your prose do its own shouting; as an English Composition teacher once told me, the “!” is best used only in quotes, to replace tone and facial expression.
…for what it’s worth.
As a child in the early 70’s my best friend’s Mom drove a red TR3A. I rode in it frequently, although usually in the back seat (if you can call it that). How I loved that car, it whisked me away from my home life of stodgy AMC products. The last time I saw it was about 1986, huddled in the corner of their garage dirty and unused. I wonder where it is now?
Even after the heartbreak of giving up on my TR4 after 19 years a TR3 is on my short list of cars to own.
You learn so much from this website. I never knew that Ford and Chrysler slugged it out in court over the Falcon nameplate.
The version I heard is that when Ford had settled on “Falcon” for their new compact, somebody remembered that Exner had already used it on one of his mid-fifties show cars, and they contacted him about using it. Exner knew that his Falcon would never be built, so he graciously relinquished the nameplate.
The two versions are not necessarily contradictory. Just because Exner gave his permission doesn’t mean the Chrysler suits did.
There’s some karma here. The current Fusion was originally going to be named “Futura”, which Ford had used as a trim option on the Falcon and later the Fairmont until ’83. Ford found that Pep Boys had named a tire series “Futura”, went to court over it, and lost. Hence the last-minute change to “Fusion”.
Interesting that Ford and Chrysler were fighting over the ‘Falcon’ nameplate, when another Coventry Brand, and eventual stablemate of Triumph had used it 20 years before. I speak of course of Riley
Here is a Riley Falcon…
All of my kids were born at St John’s Mercy…I think they have changed the name recently, but I don’t know what it is now. I think they all came home in minivans. At any rate, the TR3 was such a primitive, cool little beast. Several neighbors had them as toys when I was a kid in the late 70s and early 80s. I seem to recall that the turn signal switch is on the steering hub, and did not self-cancel.
I apparently came home from Good Samaritan in Cincinnati in a 65 Ford Mustang convertible,,,honey gold, white top, white non-Pony interior, 6 cylinder, 3 sp manual trans.
Bought a 1961 TR3A for $895.00 in the fall of 1974. Robbin Egg Blue. It was tough, fun and fast, I loved it…..SHOULD NEVER HAVE SOLD IT…..with the proceeds from the sale, I bought a 1965 Corvair Corsa convertible w/ TURBO….AHHH the cars we could buy back then….