In 1948, Cadillac stylists began offering what became known as "fish tails" on the rear fenders of the long luxury cars. The terminology later changed to "tail fins." Cadillac's identity was locked into the rear fender treatment until 1964 with the final subdued tail fin design.
From the first tail fins of 1948, these fins grew in proportions, culminating in the outrageous designs in the 1959 Cadillac models. There was nothing at all conservative about the 1959 Cadillac tail fins. And that's exactly what appealed to Bob Brown who was fresh out of high school.
For many, many years Brown searched for an affordable 1959 Cadillac convertible. In the spring of 2010 he finally found one located in Millburn, N.J.
Brown went to inspect the 1959 model and liked what he saw. The odometer showed only 52,000, but he didn't know if that figure was accurate. He drove the Cadillac around town for about 45 minutes and it seemed to be functioning properly, so the papers were signed and he became the new owner of the 18-foot, 9-inch-long car.
The 390-cubic-inch V-8 engine delivers 325 horsepower, which is more than sufficient muscle to propel the 4,855-pound car in fine Cadillac style on its 130-inch wheelbase.
Brown set off on the 260-mile trip home to Leesburg, Va. At the southern end of the New Jersey Turnpike a push rod in the engine became bent. From that point, the Cadillac was towed the remainder of the 122 miles home. Once there the engine was overhauled, as was the automatic transmission.
Brown discovered that his red-painted convertible had left the factory wearing a coat of tan paint. He says that the current paint on the 1959 Cadillac shows someone did a wonderful, professional job. The convertible top is white and features a plastic rear window. The upholstery is red and white with everything resting on a red carpet. The red padded dashboard houses the window controls on the dogleg beneath the left end of the wraparound windshield.
Brown's Cadillac features chrome-covered spoke wheels, as well as a tinted windshield. All 1959 Cadillacs were equipped with rear fender skirts. The speedometer can register speeds up to 120 mph.
When new in 1959, the Cadillac sold for a base price of $5,455. Of course, very few Cadillacs were sold at the base price. Both optional and standard equipment on the well-appointed car includes many power-operated features, such as brakes, antenna, steering, windows and seating. The convertible even has air conditioning. In a day when many motorists smoked tobacco products the Cadillac folks accommodated them by providing four ashtrays, along with four lighters.
While seated behind the two-spoke two-tone red and white steering wheel Brown listens to music coming from the rear seat radio speaker and he couldn't be more pleased.
"It's a car that I've always wanted," Brown says happily.
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