As Michael Lamm related more than 40 years ago in his story looking at the 1948 and 1949 Cadillacs for Special Interest Autos (issue #11, June 1972), Harley Earl gets credit for introducing the tailfin to GM’s designers when he took them on a field trip to Selfridge Field near Detroit to sketch the new Lockheed P-38 Lightnings. Whether legendary designer Frank Hershey was among that group, Lamm didn’t say, but it was Hershey’s advanced design studio within GM that got Earl’s assignment to design the postwar Cadillacs and in the process bring some of the P-38′s design elements into the automotive world.
Lamm wrote that the aircraft-inspired front-end designs did make it into production, in a way. “Nickles calls it the ‘interceptor’ or bullet nose that the fighter planes had in WWII. This theme was widened to become the rather delicate, arch-shaped grille of the ’48 Cadillac, taking its cue from previous Cadillacs at Harley Earl’s direction. An important, integral part of the front ensemble was the bumper, with its bullet guards and curved, wrapping ends. For 1949, the grille was widened and then got even wider as time went on.”
What Lamm didn’t have to point out is that the bumper guards remained integral on Cadillac front ends through 1958. While they grew bigger and gained the “Dagmar” nickname for their supposed resemblance to other prominent twin pokey-outie thingies, their origins are decidedly less prurient than most people believe.
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by Daniel Strohl.