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Cars, Fins & Chrome

                                                                                             http://lotsasplainin.blogspot.com/2008_08_01_archive.html  (1957 Chevy Photo)

The 1950s brought a rich history of people, politics and culture. One of the best parts of that rich history is the beautiful vehicles the era produced. World War II halted the production of cars, and then, in the fifties, they re-emerged with a fashion that had not yet been seen. Two very unique styles appeared during the 1950s. The first was the extensive use of chrome on new cars. The use of fins on cars was the second emerging style that appeared and is arguably what made the cars of that era most recognizable.

The cars of the fifties were overall big in size, made of mostly steel. One of the key features that attracted people to these big-bodied cars was the amount of chrome that they had piled on them. Chrome was a completely aesthetic feature that matched the boldness of the personalities of that era.


The most recognizable feature of the cars in the fifties was the tailfin. The Detroit auto companies, Chrysler and GM, seemed to be in a competition every new model year to come out with the most extravagant fin. Perhaps the most famous tailfin was from the 1959 Cadillac. GM automotive designer, Harley Earl, has historically been credited for the emergence of the tailfin. Although the first tailfin appeared on the 1948 Cadillac, it was really popularized in the following decade. The first idea of the tailfin was based on the WW2 fighter plane, P-38 Lightning.

The emergence of these two styles nearly doubled the amount of vehicles owned in the United States during that decade. These bold features made the vehicles not only popular back then, but very collectible and sought after today. The auto companies of Detroit made some of the most memorable and recognizable vehicles to this very day, and provide a portal that takes one back into the design and style of the 1950s.


Activity 1:

For this activity, I want you to imagine that you are the leader of an automotive design team in the 1950s. I want you to come up with a car design to the best of your ability that incorporates the features of the cars in the fabulous fifties. You can either draw this picture or write down the features of the vehicle you're envisioning. We will then talk about the ideas you came up with in class.

Activity 2:

For this activity, go to the link above and print off the word-search. Once printed, complete the word-search. After completing the word-search, try to recognize the theme of the activity, and come up with words that could be added to the word-search. Write your words on the back of the printed worksheet. We will go over some of your ideas in class. Also, on the back of the word-search, write a brief paragraph including the words correctly in the puzzle. Feel free to use the words you came up with, but the paragraph must include the words listed in the word-search.

Resources, and for more information go to the following:


6- 1.4  Historical Understanding

6 – H1.4.1 

Describe and use cultural institutions to study an era and a region (political, economic, religion/ belief, science/technology, written language, education, family).