Thursday, January 18, 2018

Dodge's Final Tail Fins

When tail fins first became an American styling fad around 1956-1957, one justification for having them was that they could easily be restyled to maintain a design's freshness from year to year.

Chrysler Corporation's styling boss Virgil Exner was the leader of the tail fin charge, first with tacked-on fins for 1956 models.  His redesigned 1957 line looked sensational and sold well.  From then into the early 1960s tail fins on Chrysler Corporation cars were restyled almost yearly.  In general, those new fin designs were not as good as the 1957 set, and sales faltered.

Exner suffered a massive heart attack in 1956 and his return to work was slow.  During his recovery, other stylists did most of the facelifting and fin restyling.  Exner remained partial to fins, and was disappointed when management ordered their deletion on some models.  In the early 1960s he was eased out of his job.

To illustrate some fin variations late in their heyday, this post deals with full-size Dodge cars for model years 1960-1962.


1960 Dodge Dart Phoenix showing the brand's tail fin design five years into that styling fashion.  Photo from Barrett-Jackson auctioneers.

Dodge's 1961 facelift included a new front end as well as revised tail fins. as seen on this Dodge Dart Phoenix.  The new fins were something of an "old-switcheroo" where their profile was flipped front-rear.  The effect was that the fins became less fin-like, being shorter at the rear.  Possibly this was intended as a transition strategy to finless 1962 Dodge Darts.

Here is how those fins looked on a sedan, this a 1961 Dodge Dart Seneca 4-door model.  The more massive, less-graceful sedan greenhouse compared to the hardtop's in the previous photo makes the tail fins seem stubby, not really related to the rest of the design.

Rear view via Barrett-Jackson of a '61 Dodge Dart Phoenix Convertible.  This shows the touch of sculpting tying the aft end of the fin to the side trim.

A 1962 Dodge Dart four-door hardtop sedan.  These redesigned cars were smaller than the 1961 models and tail fins were shorn from the styling package.


emjayay said...

Too bad there is no way to mark spam on this website.

emjayay said...

And then when people didn't like the smaller creatively styled new Dodge, they put the previous year's front end on the old body and stuck a 1962 Chrysler rear end on it and called it the Dodge 880.

emjayay said...

The 1961 Dodge Dart has fairly rare extra round tail lights. Probably that's what being a Phoenix meant. The Dart was on the shorter Plymouth wheelbase. Regular Dodges had a more flamboyant version of the reverse fin, with a tail light in the ending swoop.

Donald Pittenger said...

emjayay -- Oops! I zapped your last comment while dealing with another.

I delete spam when I see it, but I don't always check comments daily (gotta have a life, too), so they do slip in from time to time. That one from India at least was related to cars. Usually I find something generic with wording mentioning what an interesting post I had written ... without offering details.

Perhaps there's some sort of 'bot that scans blogs for subject matter. Or else someone did a lot off Googling looking for car sites.

jrm said...

Two points: first, I would say the 1956 Mopar fin styling was better than "stuck on". Look at the '56 Chrysler, the rear upsweep is well-integrated. Now there were some stubby "stuck on" fins on the '55 models.

The 1960 Dodge apparently had two fin sizes...I know the "Matador" carried a higher fin. Is this the only year a make of car offered two different fin sizes? I can't recall any others at the moment.