Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Convertible: Is This the Car for You?

September 28, 2021 Archive Insight
Long white convertible with fins

THF90001

In the prosperous 1950s, many people bought luxury cars like this vast Cadillac, and many more wished they could. The car did more than fulfill needs—it sparked desires. But even at the height of uninhibited automotive design, some people questioned the logic of such vehicles. This car mirrors American attitudes of an era when gas was cheap, times were good, and the future seemed unlimited.

The 1958 book shown below peeked under the chrome and found some grime. The price and operating costs of American cars were soaring along with their size—while quality and fuel economy were declining.

Pink and white book cover with text and image of part of car bumper
"The Insolent Chariots," 1958. / THF108045

George Romney, president of American Motors, said famously in 1955, “Cars 19 feet long, weighing two tons, are used to run a 118-pound housewife three blocks to the drugstore for a two-ounce package of bobby pins and lipstick.” Even America’s inexpensive cars grew bigger. Plymouth, Ford, and Chevrolet all offered flashy entry-level vehicles. By 1960, highways, driveways, and parking lots were full of fins.

Low red-and-white striped diner with large sign and cars parked out front
Postcard, Hart's U.S. 30 Diner, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, circa 1960. / THF297320

Bright comic book cover with text and image of two teens looking at back end of red car with fins
Archie finds the girl of his dreams in July 1959. / THF100874


This post was adapted from an exhibit label in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.

Henry Ford Museum, Driving America, convertibles, cars

Facebook Comments