Four-door formality, crazy-cool fins


Front 'eyebrow' vents are an easy way to tell a '59 Chevrolet from a '60.
   FOR MOST cars offered in a range of body styles, the two-door coupe is the configuration to have. This, you think, is the car the designer first envisioned, clean and simple and meant, above all, to look good. The sedan and wagon versions, grudging concessions to utility, would come later.
   OK, a convertible, if available, can look still sweeter, but what is a convertible but a coupe with a roof that folds for nice days?
   Yet when the car is a 1959 Chevrolet, I'd be as happy with a four-door sedan as a two-door hardtop. Maybe happier.

Cat's eye taillamps were another '59-only cue. The fins were cut back for 1960.
   The sedan just seems to look right – maybe because of the long graceful curve of its roof that begins at the B-pillar, or maybe because of the rear quarter windows that add just enough formality to offset the crazy-cool splayed "batwing" fins that follow.
   And yes, there was an alternate roofline on some '59 Chevrolets and their General Motors sister models – the "flattop" roof on four-door hardtops that seemed to float above a huge wraparound rear window.
   It's spiffy, but I still like the sedan more.
   If 1959 was a monumental year in Cuba, it also represented a revolution of sorts in the GM studios. Design chief Harley Earl's influence was declining as he neared retirement, and a team led by Bill Mitchell took the opportunity to introduce a leaner, streamlined look across the General Motors lines, which for the first time shared a standardized body shell.

The Impala was introduced as a Bel Air trim level in 1958 and became Chevrolet's top-of-the-line model in 1959.

Original wheel and dash, with some add-on gauges.
  Yet 1959 was not without some bold touches that were more in keeping with the Earl era. Think of the canted headlamps of the '59 Buick and the enormous, jet-pod fins of that year's Cadillac.
  The Chevy had its own cues – big eyebrow-shaped openings above the headlamps and broad, cat's eye taillights that gleamed out from below the near-horizontal rear fins.
 
 A year later, these remarkable features would be toned down or eliminated as GM styling, now with Mitchell in firm control, moved closer to the spare, linear look that would dominate in the 1960s.
  To my mind, the '59 Chevrolet has a lot more appeal than its 1960 successor – especially when it's a four-sedan like this well-kept Cuban example.


No junk in this trunk, though the 'new' spare tire seems a tad worn. 

Rare for Cuba, this Impala has hubcaps (quite possibly the originals) and not aftermarket chrome wheels.








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