“Tearin’ Up the Highway Like a Big Ol’ Dinosaur”

For generations it has been a symbol of success, celebrated in story and song and a cow pasture outside Amarillo. Most of us have never owned one, never driven one, and our first ride in one is apt to be a ride that we are in no hurry to take. Here are six Cadillacs seen around town:

Body by Fisher: Speaking of the last ride, this 1980 Cadillac at Hangman’s Noose House of Horrors was designed to deliver just that.

The rocket’s red glare: In 1959 the space race and cheap gasoline had a love child, and this is it. Measuring just shy of nineteen feet long, this behemoth was seen on Northside Drive. With the ’59 Cadillac the great automotive tailfin craze of the fifties reached its apex (nadir, some might say). MSRP for a new Cadillac in 1959 began at $5,000 ($37,000 today).

Harley Earl, General Motors chief designer, had introduced tailfins just eleven years earlier on the 1948 Cadillac. He is said to have been inspired by the aerodynamics of the P-38 Lightning fighter plane.

Homebody: At age fifty-six this Cadillac seen on 5th Avenue is just two miles from the dealership that sold it in 1956. Frank Kent opened his Cadillac franchise on Lancaster at Main downtown in 1953.

Chrome, chrome on the range: On Lipscomb Street, a 1970 model is my guess.

High roller: A 1964 on the roof of Dean-Kingston on Foch Street.

Cowtown Cattleac: This familiar sight at the Stockyards is a 1975 Eldorado, weighing in at five thousand pounds (not counting the horns). Engine displacement? Five hundred cubic inches. Gas tank capacity? Twenty-seven gallons. Cost of a full tank of premium? One hundred dollars. Gas mileage? As the saying goes, if you have to ask . . .

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2 Responses to “Tearin’ Up the Highway Like a Big Ol’ Dinosaur”

  1. Michael Sullivan says:

    I read an interesting story about Harley Earl and the fins of the 1959 Cadillac. I thought I would share it with you, true or not.

    So apparently back in about 1957 or 58 Harley was busy designing the 1959 Cadillac. His designs were more or less what we see today. A full clay model was carved from his work and the top GM executives were ushered in to have a peek. Appalled at what they saw(especially considering that all of their friends and they themselves would be riding around in this new garish automobile) they forced Harley Earl into agreeing to cut down the extravagant tail fins. But old Harley still had one trick up his sleeve. After the executives had filed out of the studio, he had one of his designers RAISE one fin to twice the height it was before. After a few days, Harley called the GM top dogs back to take another quick glance. None of the executives had paid enough attention the first time to realize just what Harley Earl had done. They saw what appeared to be a tail fin that was now half the size it was before and therefore tasteful and acceptable. They wholeheartedly approved the design and that’s how we got the 1959 Cadillac tail fins.

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