1959 marked the year that legendary General Motors design guru Harley Earl retired. The year also saw the introduction of the Daytona 500. What more auspicious occasion for GM and Earl to reveal the 1959 Cadillac Cyclone XP-74?
The visionary XP-74 featured sweeping fenders, amazing fins, a futuristic bubble top, and taillight housings that reminded observers of afterburners. In fact, each side of the car looked like one long jet, demonstrating Earl’s and America’s ongoing love affair with aircraft styling, as evidenced in Chrysler’s Streamline X and GM’s own XP-8.
The Cyclone XP-74 featured proximity sensors. These were radar units embedded in the Dagmars on each side to scan the road for objects in the car’s path, they would then emit a visual and audible warning to the driver. This innovation of a proximity sensing system did not reappear again for nearly five decades. Another innovative aspect of the Cyclone’s design was the bubble top that fully retracted each time the doors were opened then fit back into place when the doors closed. Additionally, the Cyclone XP-74 boosted an intercom system that allowed passengers to interact with those outside of the canopy without having to retract it.
Earl retired before the Cadillac Cyclone XP-74 was finished. New design chief Bill Mitchell drastically reduced the size and scope of the tailfins and either refined or eliminated other Earl-inspired features.
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