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When you think of the 1950s, what car or feature springs to your mind right away, especially if you are child of that era? The 1959 Cadillac is usually the one and the feature that makes it memorable is its rear end.
That rear end is dominated by the right and left rear quarter fins that feature bright surrounds and the dual airplane style taillights that are designed into the fin about halfway up. By now you must have a mental picture of the vehicle we're talking about. There was a film about it made about 20 years ago called "The Pink Cadillac" and there have been any number of martial arts films from the 90s to now that feature the either the similar Caddy Eldo convertible (about 1,320 built) or the Model 62 (about 11,000) built.
At the time of its release, the advertising compared it to a jet aircraft and you can see that if you look at the lines that sweep up from a low front end through lines that take you through the passenger compartment and then up and out through the fins.
Indeed, the midlevel belt line that's picked up just at the headlights and then which carries through the A-, B- and C-Pillars is one of the few that successfully literally moves visually. In many vehicles, the beltline starts on the front fenders and then carries through the body and usually finishes up somewhere on the rear deck.
The interesting thing about the 1959 Cadillac, aside from the fins which define the era, is that it is a car full of contradictions such as:
- Dual low-level headlights
- Bright grille
- Sweeping front fenders
- Broad, rounded doors with interesting sweeping complex lines
- Nearly vertical quarter panels, aside from the beltline that sweep up into the finds
Yet, somehow it all works. It comes together as the car which defined an era. It is a car that boasted power when everyone else on the market was still boasting a big six as their prime power plant. The Cadillac Model 62 (official name for the non-Eldorado convertible, yet virtually the same) boasted a 390-cubic-inch V-8 powerplant that put out 325 horsepower as standard. The more expensive Eldorado had the same engine. The engine was slightly massaged and cranked out 345-horsepower.
As you'd expect the handling isn't exactly taut. Yes, the ride is smooth – outrageously so – but thanks to the recirculating ball steering and front end parts that seem to be very loosely connected, you really never know where the front wheels are going, unless you have the deeply dished wheel centered.
The seats, while fairly well designed, seem to have been designed by committee and yet are still strangely comfortable.
Overall, the 1959 Caddy – the vehicle which defined the car of the time – was about as nice as you would find, if you could afford the princely sum of $7,401 for the Eldo, or $5,455 for the Model 62. Remember, the average great pay of that era was still $15,000 or less.