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In pictures: Terrific design blasts from GM's past

Jeremy Cato picks the best designs of the past 85 years

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1948 Cadillac Series 62 Club Coupe: This is where Cadillac’s tailfins began. That styling element was a favourite of then-design boss Harley Earl. When many think Cadillac, this is the car that comes to mind.

General Motors

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1953 Buick Super: Big and bold and beautiful, the convertible version had presence. Note the chrome grille. Massive.

GM/General Motors

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1955 Chevrolet Nomad: A daring two-door station wagon, this Nomad is a gem of balanced proportions and set off by details such as the egg-crate grille and the chrome strips over the tailgate.

General Motors

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1955 Buick Roadmaster Sedan: As Hemmings Classic Car notes, this car had “broad, bright, lower-rear quarter bands, plus a gold-colored Roadmaster deck script and hood ornament. Out front, where it counted, a gold-accented grille set the car apart.” A sweeping chrome strip ran above the front bumper and curved to the base of the rear wheelhouse.

General Motors

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1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Hardtop: Classic tailfins highlight a design of what some might call mid-market elegance. Looks good today with big, chrome wheels.

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1957 Pontiac Star Chief Custom Bonneville: A high-performance model designed to juice the Pontiac lineup. Notable for full-length, stainless steel rockets along each side.

General Motors

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1959 Cadillac Eldorado: The low beltline set this Caddy off. It screamed sex appeal in the otherwise repressed 1950s.

GM/General Motors

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1959 Chevrolet El Camino: Harley Earl reputedly championed this car with a pickup bed. But it was the winged rear fenders and wraparound taillights that were amazing for the time.

General Motors

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1965 Buick Riviera GS: Harley Ear’s successor, Bill Mitchell, is known to have taken a personal interest in the ’65 Riv. Hemmings Musclemania notes: “In 1965, the stylists under the tutelage of Bill Mitchell pulled out all the stops and designed headlamps hidden behind clamshell doors, which covered the headlamps in this one-year-only offering.” Bravo.

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1965 Pontiac GTO Hardtop: A restrained muscle car, the GTO looks serious but the design is not in-your-face.

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1966 Oldsmobile Toronado: The front-wheel-drive technology got most of the press, but it was the design that endures. The headlamps? Hidden. And what about the tapered roofline?

General Motors

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1968 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray: Muscular and aerodynamic, this ’Vette has its roots in the Mako Shark II concept car.

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1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS: A personal favourite of mine. The Chevelle SS was a muscle car with bulging fenders and a massive chrome bumper at the rear.

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1971 Buick Riviera: The original press release discussed “the tapered rear end styling with an expansive rear window that is tailored to the roofline.” And then there are the arching fenders and the plunging beltline. A very sexy car.

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1973 Pontiac Grand Am: Is this a so-called “great” GM design? No, but it had wonderful, enduring elements, most notable of which was the daring nose made of flexible urethane. Here, GM is seen experimenting with lightweight, flexible materials – design innovation.

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1985 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z: Let’s face it, the 1980s were a sad period in design for Detroit’s auto makers. The third-generation Camaro was distinctive and very masculine.

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2011 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon: In the late 1990s, GM began to reinvent Cadillac styling with its “Art and Science” design language. By 2011, Cadillac design found its groove in this wagon.

General Motors

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