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1937-1997 Cadillac 60 Special
Cadillac’s 60 Special was always a more luxurious version of their standard four-door sedans, slotted between Cadillac’s cheapest series and high-end Fleetwood. It really was a “special” model that started in 1938, designed by future GM Design head Bill Mitchell to resemble a convertible sedan. With the passenger compartment shifted forward on the chassis, the proportions helped to define what a contemporary car would become. Because the whole car was lower due to the new 127-inch wheelbase X-frame chassis, the running boards were eliminated and the top had less crown for a leaner, more modern look. The styling was groundbreaking and would translate to other GM products over the next few years. Other hallmarks of the 60 Special was it usually rode on a longer chassis than other Cadillac models, with the exception of the limousines; and it was always a four-door sedan, except in the late-1950s when all Cadillac four-doors were hardtops.
The first generation 60 Special lasted through 1941, with the war-shortened 1942 model completely new. Longer and lower than the previous model, when it returned after the war for 1946 it was little changed. In fact, it remained basically as it was through 1948, the final year of this body. As the line progressed it displayed unique trim distinguishing it from lesser Cadillacs, usually featuring a series of small chrome louvers or special ribbed stainless rear quarter cladding.
A completely new 60 Special was designed for 1948. Still on a 133-inch wheelbase, the extra length came from adding two-inches to both the front and rear doors. This was the first year for tail fins, inspired by Lockheed P-38 fighter planes. The body was more integrated with a wide egg crate grille and lower overall from the previous body. Power continued to be the 346ci monobloc.
A new 331ci overhead valve (OHV) V8 engine rated at 160hp debuted in 1949, which revolutionized the industry. 11,399 60 Specials were built that year at $3,859.
Cadillac was on a roll and so for the second time in two years an entirely new Cadillac debuted in 1950. It utilized a wheelbase four-inches longer than the Series 62, helping to distinguish between the two models. Trim, grille, interior, and color changes helped differentiate between years leading up to the final version in 1953. Factory air conditioning mounted in the trunk became available in 1953. As Cadillac increased in popularity and prestige 1953 saw over 20,000 sales.
1954 debuted an all-new 60 Special with a wheelbase increased to 133-inches. As distinctive as the new design was, sales fell to 16,200 units. In 1955 the top was redesigned while 1956 saw the overhead V8 punched out to 365ci producing 285hp along with an improved Hydramatic transmission. A notable option was the gold-anodized Sabre Spoke wheels.
1957 started the race for the tallest fins. The all-new body featured rear wheel openings for the first time in over a decade, with the 60 Special featuring a ribbed stainless panel on the lower quarters advertising no skirts. Massive front and rear bumpers featured huge bullets with rubber protectors. This body continued for 1958 with substantial changes including larger fins, dual headlights, and the ribbed stainless panels now incorporating skirts.
1959 became one of the most iconic American automobiles based mainly on its excess, which included those outlandish fins. A large fake air scoop on the rear quarters distinguished the 60 Special from its lesser siblings. The body carried over for 1960 with a cleaner appearance eliminating the fin mounted taillights.
Another new design debuted in 1961. Featuring a sculptured body with two new fins sprouting below the rear quarters, the wheelbase was 129.5-inches. Engine options included either a 390ci or 429ci V8. While the 1962 60 Special looked similar, the 1963 was extensively restyled with cleaner styling and refined fins. A lack of trim found on standard Cadillacs presented a simple, clean design, and helped distinguish the 60 Special from other models.
1965 featured new styling with a longer 133-inch platform featuring a full-perimeter frame eliminating the X-frame. No longer available as a hardtop sedan, the 60 Special featured a pillared roof. A “Brougham” option was available within the 60 Special line, outselling non-Brougham models.
New styling in both 1967 and again in 1969 continued to develop Cadillac design over the years. 1969 60 Specials featured unique tops from other Cadillacs. The Brougham again outsold standard 60 Special models. 1970 saw few changes as Cadillac concentrated on the upcoming federal emissions and safety requirements.
When the redesigned Cadillac debuted for 1971 it combined the Brougham option into the 60 Special to become the Sixty Special Brougham. Sales continued to slide, with Cadillac deciding to kill the line after 1976. Cadillac would revive the name in 1987 for their new front-wheel drive design.