Journal: Tailfins: Which Classic Wore Them Best?

Tailfins: Which Classic Wore Them Best?

Michael Banovsky By Michael Banovsky
September 9, 2016
26 comments

I know, right? The moment you see the Citroën DS Safari’s well-hidden and beautifully-integrated tail fins—that start just ahead of the cockpit, as on many airplanes—is a great time to reflect on the most memorable Jet Age styling cue. Which classic car wore the best tailfins?

The brief is simple: they should exist mostly for styling, and the addition of both chrome trim and styled rear lenses is a bonus (as with the Safari) but not a strict requirement. I adore the Safari’s modest and sleek fins, but there are examples of outlandish ones that fit the bill. My favorite fins are on a European sports car, feature brash chrome alone the top, afterburner-style taillight lenses, and were drawn by one of the most famous Italian carrozzeria.

Better still: they’re on one of the most affordable European sports cars available: the Volvo P1800.

“The P1800 has tailfins?!” you may be thinking, but look: there they are. So well-integrated into the overall shape, the fins aren’t pointed at the top of their trailing edge as on many American classics that also wear the styling cue. Volvo even included a ton of chrome to brighten things up, but again, the trim is on a surface that naturally receives a lot of sunlight, so it’s not really noticed until you see a P1800 without it and wonder why it looks so strange.

For a dash of provenance, Volvo asked a design house to help assist during the car’s development. Even the original Frua-penned prototype wears the fins and trim that entered production, which is (in my estimation, at least) one of the few times a carrozzeria design was reproduced without much alteration in such large numbers.

Anyway, which classic car do you think had the nicest-looking set of tailfins?

Images by: Jeremy Heslup, RM Sotheby’s, oldconceptcars.comcoachbuild.comcars-mercedes.com

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nakasasmithHoracio Romeo101.20Steve TannerJames Toal Recent comment authors
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nakasasmith
nakasasmith

Ded on the https://showbox.run/ as of now.

nakasasmith
nakasasmith

Neui, https://kodi.software/ ded tou.

nakasasmith
nakasasmith
Horacio Romeo
Horacio Romeo

The first car that came into my mind was (and is) the W111

101.20
101.20

The 1959 chevrolet gullwing shape deserves to be mentioned here…

Steve Tanner
Steve Tanner

Triumph Herald and Vitesse..

David Moore
David Moore

Including the BAT cars isn’t fair. Those cars are ridiculous art pieces, barely cars. haha. Oh and I don’t care how much people hate American cars, nothing beats a 1959 Cadillac Deville 4 door. Why 4 door? The rear glass is one of the craziest things ever, aside from those 59 tail fins.

Jim Levitt
Jim Levitt

You can’t beat the “BAT” cars

Bill Meyer
Bill Meyer

I simply cannot believe nobody mentioned the Sunbeam Alpine of either the Series I, II, or, III. Aside from the splendid tailfins the Alpine was the first James Bond movie car.

Alpine at Willow time tri#E.jpg
IMG_20160307_0002.jpg
James Toal
James Toal

I did…on facebook.

Melanie Y'lang
Melanie Y'lang

Tailfins for the win – even when they’re done badly, they’re interesting! I personally like the fins on the Vauxhall Velox of the early ’60s, in part because they’re an elegantly toned-down version of more flamboyant fins on cars from the US. Speaking of elegant, a friend has a mid-60s Rambler Classic with a very subtle fin topped with a chrome strip. And what about the Chrysler Royal, with double fins… Glory hallelujah!

Sparkino
Sparkino

Another vote for Bristol – either 405 must be a contender!

John Raezer
John Raezer

Late 50’s early 60’s rambler and studebaker wagons had spunky fins. They deserve some credit. Original Thunderirds finned well too!
The Mercedes were just the worst. The Volvo is a paradox.

Which American is best or worse is more fun. The Cadillacs, Imperials, and Desotos are too obvious on both scores.

HitTheApex
HitTheApex

Easy. 1959 Cadillac Series 62. Nothing else even comes close.

George Heissenberger
George Heissenberger

MGB , like the Volvo P1800 they’re subtle but there.

Linda N Brian Schick
Linda N Brian Schick

The 1959 Cadillac Eldorado.

HitTheApex
HitTheApex

Bingo!

Mos6502
Mos6502

The 1956 Studebaker Champion is one of the only American cars that got tailfins right.

Nicolas Moss
Nicolas Moss

The DB5 is pretty nice… I mean, really, they helped hide all the extra kit.

Peter Lukáč
Peter Lukáč

And what about Škoda 1000/1100 MB? Pretty decent, but that’s how I like it!

B Bop
B Bop

Daimler SP 250 Dart surely deserves a place at the table.

William Luster
William Luster

That chicken in front of the Volvo takes it

Derelict
Derelict

1966 Batmobile (Adam West era)

Volleybas
Volleybas

agree on the p1800s

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange

Bristol 404

John King
John King

And while we’re on the subject, also the Peugeot 404.