General Motors redesigned their entire line of automobiles in 1959 and Cadillac was redesigned as well. The first thing that stands out with this automobile are the massive tail fins.
The year 1959 would be the year of the tail fins and Cadillac sported the largest of the General Motors fleet. The 1959 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special shown in this article represents the prime example of what an automaker can build using tail fins. Fins were in in 1959. The tail fins had a bullet shape and the bumper ends were squared off resembling a jet exhaust. You could say that the entire design had the effect of a jet engine.
Designing the 1959 Cadillac
Some pass off the 1959 Cadillac as a car representing excess in design. The tail fins and the overall aircraft like theme is discounted by some as being too over the top and therefore don't give credit to the car itself. The entire jet like appearance of the car was one in which people either liked it or didn't. There didn't seem to be a lot of people in the middle.The fact of the matter is that fins on cars were more prevalent each year during the 1950's, mostly since the mid 50's. Cadillac by all means was not the first with tailfins.
The real criticism leveled at Cadillac pertaining to the 1959 models were the size of the tail fins, not the fact that the car had tail fins. General Motors could be credited with the tail fin idea in as much as they sent an engineering team to an airbase outside of Detroit in 1948 to study the details of a Lockheed P-38.
The body style itself for the Sixty Special was introduced in 1957 and held sway until 1960. The car body however was modified each year and 1959 represented the introduction of the large fins. Some observers point to the competition from Chrysler who had been outdoing GM in the tailfin department in the 1950's as being the real reason for Cadillacs extra large tail fins in 59.
The 1959 Sixty Specials also came with an extruded aluminum panel that was applied to the rear quarter panel and about one foot forward of the rear door's trailing edge. An identical panel was placed to the rear deck lid.
Buick Doors on Cadillac Cars
The Cadillac designers had their work cut out for them beginning in 1957. It seems that General Motors was looking for a way to scale back costs and in this effort used Buick doors on all C-models. The Buick door was designated as interchangeable. This did indeed save money on retooling. The Buick door unfortunately didn't fit the Cadillac because of it's slanted design and as a result the Cadillac engineers put a lot of work in redesigning that part of their automobile.
The Cadillac Sixty Special during the 1957 to 1960 period are also characterized as having plenty of chrome, as shown on the photo below, and an impressive large size to attract car buyers. In fact it was much of the chrome styling that differentiated the Sixty Sixes from other models.
The Cadillac was always meant to be a luxury automobile and with this in mind, the Cadillac buyer had many options to choose from. One such option of the late 50's Cadillacs were a powered vent window.
The Coach Builders
Fleetwood was an old coach builder from the very early 1900's which was acquired by GM when they purchased Fisher Body in 1925. The company built both wood and metal bodies. This was the time when car companies like Ford were building chassis and buyers would engage the services of a coach builder. When automakers made the entire car, not just the chassis, the coach builders had to merge in with the car builders. Fleetwood became a mark of quality in the GM line and thus in it's Cadillac brand.
Another interesting fact is that GM had been using the name "Sixty Special" from as far back as 1938. The name was on lower costs cars from 1938 to the start of World War Two, but as history shows, the name was brought back by Cadillac and used on it's most luxurious automobiles like the one shown here. Almost 18,000 Sixty Specials were produced from 1938 to 1941.
1959 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special Specs
All Cadillacs in 1959 came with long 130 inch wheelbase. The car's length was 225 inches.By the same token, the 1959 models were 3 inches lower giving the car a sleeker look.
The engine was a 390 cubic inch V-8 producing 325 horsepower.
Prices for the new 1959 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special started at a little over $6,000 and went up depending on options.
(Photos from author's collection)