- A 1948 Cadillac Convertible. Photo Courtesy of: Hagerty

Spotting Guide: Cadillac '48 to '59

The easy to notice differences between each year.

GM's top brand produced some truly inspired designs in the 1950s. The groundwork for those designs were laid in 1948 when Cadillac jumped everyone by releasing their post WW2 design a year ahead of everyone else. What would the world have been without tailfins? Thankfully that's a question we don't really have to ponder. Let's take a look at each individual year and keep the differences to the major, spotter friendly things!

Above: (left) a black 1948 four door sedan. (right) a blue 1948 Convertible

The new 1948 Cadillac was larger and more luxurious than any previous model. '48s are easy to recognize by their single center bar grilles and small Dagmar type bumpers.


Above: (left) a black 1949 two door sedan. (right) a red 1949 two door sedan

1949 would see a continuation of the same grille, but the Dagmar bumpers would be changed to a more flowing type with normal looking bumper guards.


Above (left) a green 1950 four door. (right) a white 1950 Convertible

1950 would see round turn signal / parking lights added to the outward edges of the grille. The bumper would not be a shapely as the '49.


Above: (left) a yellow 1951 Coupe DeVille (right) a blue 1951 Coupe Deville

The round parking lights / turn signals would return in '51. So would much larger Dagmar bumpers.


Above: (left) a black 1952 Coupe Deville. (right) a green 1952 Coupe DeVille

The differences between the '51 and '52 are very hard to notice. If you look at the piece of chrome trim that is below the headlight on the green car above and compare it to the same area on the blue '51 in the previous gallery you will notice the '51 has a grid pattern between the two grille pieces. On the '52 that piece is smooth. Very difficult to notice when out spotting!


Above: (left) a green 1953 Coupe DeVille. (right) a white 1953 Coupe DeVille

The '53 version can be noted for their even larger Dagmar bumpers. Harder to spot are rectangular parking lights / turn signals below the headlights.


Above: (left) a cream colored 1954 Coupe DeVille (right) a blue 1954 Coupe DeVille

The '54 model year would see a drastic change in the grille work. A grid pattern now dominates the whole grille and we see the return of smaller Dagmars.


Above: (left) a pink 1955 Coupe DeVille (right) a tan 1955 Coupe DeVille

The '55 would look much like the '54. The same grid pattern is seen, but larger Dagmars return this year.


Above: (left) a light green 1956 Coupe DeVille (right) a two toned 1956 Coupe DeVille

1956 would see the grid pattern be confined to the center portion of the grille. The grille would also have a horizontal dividing bar. Dagmars would be raised up to the top of the grille.


Above: (left) a red 1957 Convertible (right) a pink 1957 Coupe DeVille

The 1957 grille is a continued refinement on the grid pattern. Here we see the Dagmars become the top of the grille. Parking lights / turn signals are set into the lower part of the bumper and the bumper includes a horizontal part at the very bottom. At the other end of the car we see the beginnings of the larger tailfins.


Above: (left) a black 1958 Coupe DeVille. (right) a purple 1958 Coupe DeVille

1958 would introduce quad headlights along with rubber tipped bumperettes. The parking lights / turn signals would be placed right below the rubber inserts.


Above: (left) a blue 1959 Coupe DeVille. (center) a black 1959 Coupe DeVille (right) a red 1959 Coupe DeVille

1959 would see the most iconic of Cadillac designs. The quad headlight and parking lights / turn signals would be overshadowed by the opposite end of the car. The large tail fins with quad bullet like tail lights would become one of the most recognizable rear ends in automotive history!

One beautiful Automotive Line Up!

A well driven 1959 Coupe DeVille at the RedNeck Rumble. Photo By: Chris Breeden

A well driven 1959 Coupe DeVille at the RedNeck Rumble. Photo By: Chris Breeden

Cadillac was on fire with their designs in the 1950s. They would continue to introduce more amazing designs in the 1960s. Their main competitor, Lincoln, would put up a fierce fight in the 1960s, but Cadillac would stand strong in both looks and sales. The differences between individual years of Cadillacs can be very difficult to master. This is mainly due to them being a car you rarely see out on the road anymore. They are also very uncommon at smaller shows. To see examples of Caddys you have to attend some pretty large shows.

GM Luxury

So what do you all think about GM's top level division? Do you think these are cars so beautiful, everything Caddy made after was doomed? Maybe you think there was an even better era of Cadillacs? Have a particular era of cars you think I should talk about next? Tell me about it in the comments! Even with their relative rarity, you can still see one out on the road every now and then. So hit the road yourself and keep an eye out for these beautiful GM cars. Keep on Cruisin'

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Comments (4)

  • Great guide, you really see how the tailfins evolved in this piece!

    Shared to the D_TRB USA facebook page!

      2 years ago
  • Wrong on the blue convertible, it is in fact a 53

      1 year ago
  • The Blue is a 53

      1 year ago