Despite the aftereffects of the 1958 recession, visitors turned out in abundance for Chicago's 51st auto show. More than 450 American cars and trucks as well as imported cars and commercial vehicles were displayed at the International Amphitheatre. A number of firsts marked the occasion, including Toyota's inaugural Chicago appearance and introductions of the Rambler American, the Pontiac Wide-Track Bonneville and the Renault Caravelle. While Cadillac reached their zenith of chrome dazzle and soaring tailfins in 1959, Lincoln offered consumers six varieties of their Continental Mark IV, including a convertible and rare formal-roofed Town Car and limousine. In the same year, Studebaker launched the compact Lark, setting the pace for a series of small cars from other American manufacturers. Larks came in a variety of body styles, including a hardtop coupe and a convertible, with either a six-cylinder or V-8 engine.
A rare color photograph from the 51st Chicago Auto Show. captures all eighteen community beauty queens in formal evening gowns while onstage during the "Motorevue of 1959."
The musical stage revue was held twice daily, and was free with the admission price into the International Amphitheatre. Records indicate that each of the queens were presented a bouquet of roses on the final evening of the nine-day auto show, Sunday, Jan. 25, 1959.
In a dramatic pose, a community queen appeared along with a Ford Fairlane 500 hardtop sedan during the "Motorevue of 1959." Substantial reskinning gave the '59 Ford a squared-off shape, with a Thunderbird-like formal roof design, dual headlights, heavily ornamented grille, and large round taillights.
In this long shot taken far back from the stage, a "community queen" stands in front of a Dodge Custom Royal hardtop sedan. Facelifting for 1959 put lids over the headlights and reshaped the fins atop protruding taillights. This would be the last year for the flathead Dodge six-cylinder engine.
A "community queen" stands alongside a Dodge Custom Royal hardtop sedan, during the "Motorevue of 1959" stage show. Facelifting for 1959 put lids over the headlights and reshaped the fins atop protruding taillights. This would be the last year for the flathead Dodge six-cylinder engine.
In this long shot during the "Motorevue of 1959," a community queen stands in front of a Buick Electra 225 hardtop sedan. Buicks took on a completely new personality, with slanted tailfins and angled headlights. The Electra 225 replacing the Roadmaster name as the top model in Buick's new lineup. Other new model names included LaSabre and mid-level Invicta.
A "community queen" leans against a 1959 Continental Mark IV four-door hardtop on stage during the "Motorevue of 1959." Continental was no longer considered a separate make, but a Lincoln sub-series. The Mark IV was basically a facelift of the prior Mark III.
A well-dressed female presenter waving toward the camera is standing next to a 1959 Continental Mark IV convertible on a raised platform. The Mark IV was basically a facelift of the prior Mark III.
A "community queen" leans against a 1959 Cadillac Fleetwood 60 Special four-door hardtop during the "Motorevue of 1959." Wearing an all new body this year, Cadillacs got a vast windshield and taller-than-ever tailfins, incorporating projectile taillights.
Chevrolet promoted the abundant size of its trunk by setting up a display with 15 pieces of luggage, all of which could fit inside. Trunks were claimed to be wider and roomier in the '59 models, all of which were full-size automobiles. Chevrolet fins were horizontal this year, in contrast to the vertical units on the back fenders of most makes.
A rare color photo from the 51st Chicago Auto Show. The front a Ford hardtop (probably a Galaxie) is in the foreground, and cars of other makes are barely visible in the background. Several people are at the exhibit areas.
A community queen" leans against a 1959 Edsel station wagon during the "Motorevue of 1959." Due to poor first-year sales, Edsel dropped from four to two models: Ranger and Corsair, plus the Villager wagon. All were essentially reskinned Fords.
Four women are inside a 1959 Ford Thunderbird convertible, as it slowly rotated on a raised platform at the Ford exhibit. This was the second year of the second generation Thunderbird (1958-60), and affectionately nicknamed,"'Square 'Birds."
Eddie Roberts is speaking into a hand-held microphone, leaning toward the crowd, promoting a Mercury Park Lane four-door hardtop. Roberts had a special show called "The Talking Mercury, which proclaimed that onlookers would be "amazed." A sign indicates that the presentation dealt with "What's On Your Mind." Two female presenters look on. The rear end of a Mercury station wagon can be seen at right. Park Lane was the top-tier Mercury in 1959. Specialty acts often help promote specific models at the 'windy city' annual auto extravaganza.
Several luxurious 1959 Imperial models from Chrysler Corp. are on display during the 51st edition of the Chicago Auto Show. In the center, an Imperial four-door hardtop is facing away from the camera, revealing the simulated spare tire atop its deck lid and the round taillights protruding from the tailfins. Imperials were available in base, Crown and Le Baron trim levels.
Three men are exchanging cash and handshakes at the Rambler exhibit area. The man on the right is Rambler dealer Sam Treeze. They are standing next to a 1959 Ambassador. A Rambler American is at the right, on an elevated platform. "Rambler is the Modern Yardstick of Car Value," proclaims a sign at the rear. Pictured on the rear wall is chairman and president of American Motors Corporation from 1954 to 1962 George Romney, father of 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Is a sale being consummated at the Willys Jeep exhibit space during the 51st Chicago Auto Show? Two Willys representatives are together with an entire family group: father, mother, daughter and son. The young boy is sitting in the cab of a forward-control 1959 Jeep pickup with camper top.
People are seated inside a German-built BMW Isetta 600 minicar, while a man leans into the car from the front--possible because the swing-open door at the front of the vehicle is open. Note how the steering wheel and dashboard move outward along with the front door. A second door on the side gives access to the back seat.
A Ford Ranchero car-pickup is at the left in this close shot at Ford's exhibit area. An F-100 pickup is at right. The base-model Ranchero was dropped this year, leaving only a Custom edition. All F-100 pickups earned a mild facelift.
While in the 'windy city' entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. visited the 51st annual Chicago Auto Show, and took time for a photo behind the wheel of a Renault Caravelle convertible. The stylish French-built Caravelle was based on the subcompact Dauphine and made its American debut at the 1959 Chicago Auto Show. It went on sale late in 1959, as '60 models. The lift-off roof suspended above Mr. Davis and the car was a popular option.
Two "community queens" are waving toward the camera while sitting in a Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster, at the German automaker's exhibit area. Only portions of other models are visible. Introduced in 1954, the 300SL (Super Light) no longer came in gullwing coupe form.
Three German-built Goliath models are visible in this scene in the imported-car area of the auto show. In the foreground is a Tiger coupe, with finned rear end and small quarter windows. A station wagon and sedan are positioned to the right in this photo. Signs promote the Goliath's front-wheel-drive layout, all-aluminum engine, and fully synchronized transmission. Goliaths began to trickle into the U.S. in the mid-1950s, lasting into 1960.
Close-up of a Triumph TR3A roadster, at that British firm's exhibit area, reveals the familiar cut-down doors and wire wheels. This was the third generation of Triumph's TR-series, which had begun with the TR2 in 1954. This version had a much wider grille than its predecessors.
Six winners of the annual safety slogan contest, held in Chicago city public and parochial high schools, posed at the Street Traffic Commission display, flanking four men. They include Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley (fifth from left) and auto-show manager Edward L. Cleary (sixth from left). Separate prizes offered included a $200 U.S. savings bond for first; $100 bond for second; $50 bond for third. The Traffic Safety Slogan contest was conducted jointly by Chicago Street Traffic Commission and by Chicago Auto Show, with show putting up the savings bond awards. Nearly 11,000 students submitted slogans for the '59 contest.
Only a few visitors to the Cadillac exhibit area can be seen in this shot, which is dominated by a rear-end view of a four-door model. Note the tall, pointed tailfins--the pinnacle of Cadillac fins in the Fifties. Other Cadillac models can be seen in the background.
A 1959 Dodge Coronet hardtop is in the foreground of this scene. At the rear, three performers--two tuxedoed men and a woman--are on a raised platform, presumably singing about the Dodge convertible behind them. A fair-sized crowd has gathered around.
Visitors to the 1959 Chicago Auto Show could take the Plymouth Safe Driver Test, to evaluate their skills. In this scene, people are sitting at steering wheels, while a woman advises one of the participants. A man is standing on an elevated platform, facing a scoreboard that consists of silhouetted automobiles. A woman with a microphone is barely visible at far left. Quite a crowd has gathered to watch the contest.
The "Wide-Track" Pontiac exhibit inside the International Amphitheatre are in place, just hours before the opening of the 51st Chicago Auto Show. A Bonneville Vista hardtop sedan is in the foreground, and directly behind it, and as if floating in the air, is triple-white Bonneville convertible.
A scene at the Mercedes-Benz display area. In the foreground is a sports racing car, built in 1955 and capable of 200 mph. A sign declares Daimler-Benz to be the "world's oldest manufacturer of automotive transportation." At right is an antique Benz Velo, built in 1893. Note the sign advising show goers that Mercedes-Benz models are sold and serviced by Studebaker dealers.
Two "community queens" are waving toward the camera while sitting in a Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster, at the German automaker's exhibit area. Only glimpses of other models, and show visitors, are visible. Introduced in 1954, the 300SL (Super Light) no longer came in gullwing coupe form.
One of the 1959 Chicago Auto Show's "community queens" sits behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster, at the German automaker's exhibit area. Only portions of other models are visible. A more modest 190SL roadster also was available, lacking the dramatic air inlets and trim of the 300SL.
One of the auto show's "community queens" sits behind the wheel of an Austin-Healey Sprite sports car, within a fence-like enclosure. Affectionately known as the "bugeye" Sprite, the smaller-sized roadster had debuted in 1958 to join the larger Austin-Healey 100-6 model. Other British cars (Hillman most prominent) can be seen at the rear, and a smiling man is seated at the wheel of a roadster in the lower foreground of this photo.
Toyota Motor Co. made its first appearance at a Chicago Auto Show in 1959. Along with kimono-dressed ladies, just three vehicles filled the small booth, a Toyopet Custom Crown four-door sedan, Toyopet six-passenger station wagon and a Land Cruiser four-wheel drive ultity vehicle. The Toyopet Crown sedan had arrived on the U.S. market in 1958, powered by a 1453-cc four-cylinder engine.
A Model 100 Suburban wagon is in the center at the GMC truck exhibit space during the 1959 Chicago Auto Show. A heavy-duty model 3-70 is at left, and as usual, GMC trucks were similar to Chevrolet models - both divisions of General Motors.
A Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster dominates this close-up shot at the German automaker's exhibit area. Only glimpses of other models are visible. Introduced in 1954 as a production version of a Mercedes racing car, the 300SL (Super Light) no longer came in gullwing coupe form. A more modest 190SL roadster also was available.
Based on the 1959 Buick Invicta four-door station wagon, the 'Texan' show car featured a sliding metal panel over the front passenger seating. Under the hood was a 325 horsepower 401 CID V-8 engine mated to Triple Turbine fully automatic transmission. The Texan featured a tailgate window that raised and lowered by a switch on the instrument panel and a key-activated switch on the tailgate.
Futuristic technology and design was the theme for the AC Spark Plug exhibit during the nine-day run of the 1959 Chicago Auto Show. A lovely space-age flight-attendant is ready to tell you all about the modern engineered spark plugs, and how your own car would perform better with AC installed. Behind her is the four-passenger Firebird II dream car, which was powered by a Whirlfire GT-304 gas turbine engine. As a reminder, AC Spark Plug was a division of GM.