1959 Cadillac tail fins, chrome and post-war exhuberance – GM designer Chuck Jordan dies at 83

In this dark and ongoing recession, or lukewarm recovery (whatever you want to call it) perhaps a revisit of 1959 would be a welcome diversion.

1959 marked the huge tail-fins of the Cadillac. Chuck Jordan was the designer. He just passed at his home in Rancho Santa Fe, California.

Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., the General Motors patriarch, had hired the first design director of General Motors in 1927, Harley Earl. Mr. Earl was a confidant of movie stars and like his close friend Cecil B. DeMille, favored Jodhpurs.

Mr. Jordan was the third successor to Mr. Earl as G.M.’s vice president of design, and his boldness echoed that of Mr. Earl. The tail fins on the 1959 Cadillac El Dorado was “letting the tiger out of the cage” in the words of Mr. Jordan.

Mr. Jordan also designed the “wide track” Pontiac, the baby boomers’ cherished muscle cars. Other designs included the 1963 Buick Riviera, the 1967 Cadillac Eldorado, and the 1973 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. His vision was that of longer, lower, wider–and intended to excite.

At age 30, Mr. Jordan was named to one of G.M.’s most prestigious posts, chief designer for Cadillac.

He also worked on the 1990s design team for the Chevrolet Camaros and Pontiac Firebirds.

He did have one dog…or rather “whale”…which was the 1991 Chevrolet Caprice, which was derided as “Shamu the Whale”.

So long, Mr. Jordan. Thank you for something so wonderfully American. Thank you for the tail fins.

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