Tuesday 3rd February 1948
The first Cadillac with tailfins was produced, heralding the dawn of the tailfin era. General Motors design chief Harley Earl is generally credited for the automobile tailfin, introducing small fins on the 1948 Cadillac. Harley credited the look of World War II fighter aircraft for his inspiration, particularly the twin-tailed P-38 Lightning. Tailfins really captured the automotive buying public’s imagination as a result of Chrysler designer Virgil Exner’s Forward Look, which subsequently resulted in manufacturers scrambling to install larger and larger tailfins onto new models. As jet-powered aircraft, rockets, and space flight entered into public recognition, the automotive tailfin assemblies (including tail lights) were designed to resemble more and more the tailfin and engine sections of contemporary jet fighters and space rockets. Plymouth claimed that the tailfins were not fins, but “stabilizers” to place the “center of pressure” as far to the rear as possible and thus “reduce by 20% the needs for steering correction in a cross wind”,while Mercedes-Benz called its own tailfins “Peilstege” or “sight lines,” which ostensibly aided in backing up.