The Petersen show takes pains to illustrate that finned cars pre-date their 1950s flowering by decades. Early fins usually took the form of a single blade down the back of the car, ostensibly to add aerodynamic stability. After Harley Earl's GM design team introduced a pair of fins gracing the fenders of their stunning new 1948 Cadillac, the fishy fashion moved from aero aid to necessary accessory. And soon, practically no car was seen without them. Even staid, Germanic Mercedes was not above slapping an incongruous looking pair on their boxy sedans.
Visitors can expect another brilliant show by curator Leslie Kendall who keeps the hits coming. Over a dozen vehicles will be on display including the ne plus ultra of finned automobiles, the 1959 Cadillac. A Virgil Exner-designed Chrysler will share space with the 1937 Delage Aerosport and fantastic 1952 Spohn Palos with its fins derived from styling cues on Earl's iconic 1951 LeSabre dream car.
In today's world of look alike aero blob-mobiles, manufacturers desperately seek to differentiate their sleekly efficient cars from one another. A styling cliche like side fender vents immediately catches on and appears everywhere. Could fins make a comeback? It's possible, after all, Virgil Exner proved their stabilizing effect with wind tunnel tests on his Chrysler products way back in the mid-1950s.