As flamboyant as the 1958 Cadillacs appeared, there was another styling frontier ahead. That threshold was crossed with the immortal 1959 Cadillac.
GM gave its division's largest cars, the so-called C-bodies, another new basic design for 1959. For Cadillac, that meant more-curvaceous styling devised as a hurried reply to Chrysler's resurgent '57 Imperials.
Hallmarks included huge curved-top windshields, thin-section rooflines, slim roof pillars -- and soaring fins of heroic proportions, adorned with high-riding bullet taillamps.
Offsetting such excesses were worthy suspension changes and improved power steering. In addition, a V-8 stroked to 390 cubic inches produced predictably higher horsepower: to 345 on Eldorados, to 325 on other models.
The Cadillac De Ville became a distinct series for 1959, offering hardtop sedans with flat-top four-window styling and a rounded six-window roofline, plus a hardtop coupe.
The 1959 Cadillac Series 62 duplicated these body styles, and added a convertible.
After just two years and 704 units, the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham was fully restyled, too. Moreover, assembly was farmed out to coachbuilder Pininfarina in Italy. Only 99 Eldorado Broughams were built for '59, another 101 of the near-identical '60s. Though appearance was clean (a preview of Cadillac's 1961 styling, as it turned out), these cars were larger (on a 130-inch wheelbase), heavier, and not put together as well (bodies contained lots of lead filler). They're collector's items now, but restoring one is a chore.
Also still pillarless (as it had been since 1957) was the lush 1959 Cadillac Sixty Special, now on the 130-inch wheelbase shared with other standard models, including the line-topping Eldorado Seville, Biarritz, and Brougham.
Cadillac prices were generally higher for 1959, with Series 62 models at around $5,000 and the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado going for $7,400 and up. Still, Cadillac built more 142,000 cars for the model year, a fair gain on 1958.
At the time, of course, it took some foresight, or a certain contrarian outlook, to believe that American car styling had reached some outlandish zenith with the 1959 Cadillac. But even within GM there was a sense that things had to be dialed back, and indeed they were, beginning in 1960.
What can't be disputed is that the 1959 Cadillacs, defined by those saber-edged fins and projectile taillamps, are among the most evocative objects of the 20th Century. What precisely they evoke is open to interpretation, and that's part of the magic.
The 1960s would evoke a cleaner, more streamlined Cadillac design, as well as record sales numbers. Read our 1960-1969 Cadillac report for more on this Cadillac era.
For more infomation on Cadillac, see:
- Cadillac: Learn the history of America's premier luxury car, from 1930s classics to today's newest Cadillac models.
- Consumer Guide New Car Reviews and Prices: Road test results, photos, specifications, and prices for 2007 Cadillacs and hundreds of other new cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs.
- 1940-1949 Cadillac: Cadillac produces some of its most beautiful cars and some of its most important engineering developments -- not to mention the tailfin.
- 1960-1969 Cadillac: Cadillac brings unmatched elegance to the luxury market and is rewarded with unchallenged popularity.