In the 1950s we looked forward, each year, to the unveiling of the new car styles. Unlike today, when you can’t tell a 2010 from a 2015, the new car reveals in the fall of each year were a really big deal. My favorite year was 1957. The stylish fins on the ’57 Chevy were perfect. Ford put understated fins on the Thunderbird and the 1957 ‘Bird became a classic. The following year Ford’s big brother, Mercury, went berserk. In the fall of 1958 we almost fainted when the boxy, drawn-out double fins appeared on the Mercury. My stepfather, Frank, who had always been a conservative Buick man, decided to get one of these outlandish behemoths.
I was a junior in high school, and asked Frank if I could borrow the Mercury to go to the Prom. The night of the dance I drove the Mercury to pick up my date. We then went to the home of a friend to pick up a couple with whom we were double-dating. As we backed out of the driveway, we felt a thump and discovered I’d backed into the side of the friend’s father’s car. Guess what. It also was a brand new 1958 Mercury. Huge double fins had met huge double fins in an ugly double crunch that left them both bent hugely out of shape. I do not remember how the dance went. I do remember that my life as a Mercury driver was way shorter than the length of the fins on that car.