1958 De Soto Fireflite - Chrome, but little chroma.

Like everybody else in postwar America, De Soto was all about The Future. I wish there was still as much interest in futurism. "Styled for the future". When's the last time you saw a car ad bragging about futuristic design? Not that De Soto could be said to have an inside line on the styles of The Sixties or anything beyond. Far from it. Tail fins and chrome. This car has it's butt solidly parked in The Fifties.
That's nothing to hold against them, though. Predicting future trends is nearly impossible. It would have been  fairer to say that the '58 De Sotos were "styled for the cartoonsh vision of The Future" that everyone shared at the time. However, that wouldn't sound so good to potential customers.

I'm the only multicellular life form that thinks tail fins on cars were childish and stupid. People are more than willing to make fun of the giant picnic tables spoilers that racer boys mount to the trunks of their Hondas, but I'll bet the same people get all misty talking about tail fins, when they serve the same aerodynamic purpose as add-on wings and spoilers: none.*

Yes, I understand that aerospace was new and exciting at the time, and that car manufacturers wanted to include jet-age styling cues to their production vehicles, but you didn't see grown men driving around with pretend space helmets and ray guns, right? Cowboy shows were also popular at the time, but they didn't design cars with stuffed horsey heads on the front. Well, not production vehicles, anyway.

Anyway, this ad is interesting from a design standpoint. They've chosen to show a white car on a white background surrounded by (all white) people in white clothing. Why's that? The big title of the ad is talking about the interior room that the car offers. They also mention the exterior styling of the car, so you can't do a close-up of the inside of the car. With all the visual clutter of the human figures, how do you direct attention to the interior? Color. They chose an all-white color scheme and used a car with a red interior, so it pops off the page. The only other color in the ad as a low-saturation steel blue seen in the text, and the pinkish color of the honkeys surrounding the car. By using a bright red interior, they've directed your eye into the car first, and then to the people and shape of the car afterwards. Very clever.

Sorry for not painting out the magazine's groin today. This one would have been a fairly hard job, as the fold goes right through the sailor's backside and much of the car's detail. There would have been a lot of information to fake in.

*Yes, spoilers, and wings CAN provide vital downforce for racing purposes, and sometimes reduce drag, but those are added to a car only after proper wind tunnel testing and analysis. A Pep Boys- sourced rear spoiler on a front-wheel-drive Civic is pointless and stupid. It probably adds no downforce under 100mph, and even if the retard happens to have it pointing in the right direction (downwards), the wing is applying the downforce at the wrong end of the car, as front-drive cars suffer from understeer, not oversteer, which is the handling trait that rear spoilers are meant to reduce. If anything, the spoiler is probably adding aerodynamic drag, making the car slower and ruining gas mileage. Don't get me started.

Click for big.


Michael Leddy said...

My family's first car had fins, great big ones. I remember the stories that fins disappeared because people were being impaled. I attribute their disappearance though (the fins', not the people's) to evolution.

PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

You know what, now that you mention it, I remember hearing that people were getting injured by tail fins. Maybe on some History Channel show? You know - back when the History Channel showed stuff about history and not shows about space men or Rummage Sale Grudge Match.

Thanks for commenting, Mike!


M Feilmeier said...

Tail fins are ridiculous, but I think it is awesome that the country's design-mind, and therefore many appliances and furniture (and vehicles of course), were basically imaginary/cartoon futuristic. It wouldn't be surprising if the whole rings-on-the-shoulder-joints-Jetsons fashion statement had really caught on. I think that the lengths to which the willful suspension of disbelief went in that era is astounding, and the tail-fins on those cars are a goofy symptom of the mass mind of the time.

PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

Absolutely, Feilmeier! Thanks for the input. Reminds me of this:



Steve Miller said...

Well, if you had to have tail fins, I've always felt this car was the one to have. Maybe it's the chrome spear, maybe it's the slab side, but design-wise, these fins look organic to the car (OK, don't look at the front end, which is, um, "confused").

Backstory on the fin was GM design chief Harley Earl echoed the tail of the P-38 when Cadillac got the first bump on the rear fender (something about that suggests a young girl and her first training bra...). So the fin -- the "look of the future" -- was a glance at the past, just as Studebaker's 1950 Bullet Nose might have had an aerial antecedent, complete with little chrome wings either side of the bullet.

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