The 1948-1949 models created the iconic Cadillac tail-fin
This was a Harley Earl/Bill Mitchell creation
The tail fins were inspired by the P-38 Lightning aircraft
Would you believe that the eminent Cadillac Sixty-Special sedan was once the “entry level” Cadillac? The 1938 model began in Cadillac’s lowest price range as the LaSalle. The Sixty-Special went through an evolution to become the flagship augmenting the Cadillac model line-up perennially. The Sixty-Special eventually was considered a full-fledged Fleetwood model that reigned as King of the Hill until the drastic down-sizing in 1977 when the name became badge-engineered with the DeVille series.
In spite of its humble beginnings, the Cadillac Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special became the most luxurious owner-driven sedan in the model hierarchy. The 1949 Sixty-Special was a milestone automobile. With new sheet metal the previous year and all-new power for the 1949 model year, Cadillac introduced myriad technology to the auto industry.
The 1948 model year was a complete re-design. It was the birth of many milestone models in the formidable Cadillac style discharged on the grand Cadillac scale. First, the iconic tail-fin was spawn. They were inspired by the P-38 Lightning aircraft. The silhouette of the 1948-1949 model years would inspire Cadillac architecture for the entire decade of the 1950s. The power for the 1949 model year introduced the legendary Over Head Valve 331 CID V8 engine.
1949 Was the first year for the extremely popular hardtop coupe body style with the introduction of the Coupe deVille. It was the industry’s first pillarless hardtop. It was the 1948-1949 Cadillac Sixty-Special that initiated the dignified Fleetwood series which would echo styling cues for many different Cadillac model years to come. The “Standard of the World” stood alone.
The 1949 Sixty-Special retailed for $3,869. Sales were at a record 11,399 vehicles for the 1949 model year. Power windows and seat were standard. The biggest news for the model year was the all-new 331 CID V8 OHV engine.
Its short stroke configuration allowed a lower hood, thus, the entire car could be lowered as well. Notice how much lower the 1949 models were than the previous model years. The higher compression had the benefits of quieter, more economical operation with smoother and higher performance.
The all-new 5.4 litre 16-valve 331 CID OHV V8 engine used a Carter WCD742S 2-bbl carburetor. The engine produced 160 hp @ 3,800 rpm with 423 Nm of peak torque @ 1,800 rpm. The engine was mated to the GM Hydra-Matic transmission. It was rated as 0-60 mph in 12.5 seconds, 0-100 mph in 36.5 seconds, and had a top speed of 96 mph. It could do the ¼ mile @ 71 mph in 19.2 seconds.
One thing I admire about Cadillacs from this generation is their rugged construction and truck-like integrity. The front suspension was the independent Knee-Action type with large helical coil springs. This was a 13 year proven design that provided smoother riding comfort and effortless driving control. The rear was set-up with a hypoid semi-floating axle that gave quiet and dependable performance; the springs at the rear were semi-elliptic with spring leaves lubricated by wax-impregnated liners. These were the patents of Cadillac’s magic carpet ride.
From its sophisticated simplicity to the richness of its bold new interior, this was personal luxury for those who seek the finer things in life. A quality tradition was apparent in every graceful line of the 1949 Cadillac Sixty-Special sedan. Its brilliant new design was the finest interpretation of the ultra-modern Cadillac. Powered by the newly designed 331 CID V8 engine and GM’s Hydra-Matic Drive, the 1949 Cadillac Sixty-Special achieved once again “Standard of the World” stature.
The incomparable Fleetwood touch was evident in the 1949 Sixty-Special. Every resource of the world’s distinguished custom coachcrafter was called into play to create this unique contemporary design with its sumptuous luxury for the day.
The Sixty-Special was dramatically distinguished in appearance and comfort. It was the most advanced motor car ever to bear the honored “Standard of the World” tradition. The Series Sixty-Special stood as the crowning design achievement of Cadillac for the 1949 model year. Will Cadillac ever have another flagship?
Twenty years of Cadillac, look at how sleek it had become by 1969.