The story of the `59 Chevy starts in
1957. Harley Earl, who was in charge of styling for General Motors,
got pretty shaken up after viewing the new crop of Chrysler products that
were being released. They were fresh, long, and striking. And
they had fins--fantastic fins of monumental proportions. Upon seeing
these cars, it is said that Harley Earl had all the existing `59 GM
designs scrapped in preparation for all new cars. He wanted to
bring GM to the top with a style that would one up his competitors and
create something that the people would love. These
would be the ones to give them an edge up on Ford and Chrysler.
GM wanted some "Chrysler Killers," and since Fords were selling near or above their own production figures Harley Earl was on a mission to change Chevy's game. The '57 GM line, with the exception on the Chevy, had not been well received by consumers. It was too late to change the '58 line, but the time was right to go in and shake things up for the next year. Which is exactly what Harley Earl did, making a few improvements to the '58 systems, designers used the same drive trains and frames but changed the sheet metal completely. This would be a historic move by Earl, little did he know that the change he was making for Chevy would be history in the making. The '59 Chevy was the last car that Harley Earl designed for GM before retiring, and his flamboyant style was very evident.
The rear fins, rather than sticking straight up, were placed nearly parallel with the road and dropped into a "V" in the center. The taillights were redesigned as a sideways teardrop to flow with the drop of the fins. A complete departure from the individual lights of the year prior, the design would return to individual lights for 1960 and continue on for many years (read more about this in Chevy59 Blog). The headlights were moved to the grill rather than above it, a style queue that was common for the model year that slimmed the look of the front end. The window area of the car was increase greatly. Visibility improved, but with a price; the cars tended to get quite hot inside, because of the glass that went far into the roofline. Spearhead trim was used on the vehicle's sides in varying width, depending on the model. Impalas, naturally, got the widest shiniest Stainless Steel trim while the Biscaynes got skinny anodized spears. Impalas also received a dummy exhaust port above the rear window, one of the few styling queues carried over from 1958.
An addition to the vehicle line-up in 1959 was the El Camino, a stylized light-duty pickup based on the station wagon. Introduced to compete with the Ford Ranchero, over 25,000 El Caminos were built during the model year.
Production numbers the 1959 were impressive and around 1.4 million cars. This was about 200,000 more cars than 1958.