Different taillights are the crowning touch to the back of any traditional custom. Since the earliest days of the lead sled, ’39 Ford, ’41 Studebaker and ’40 Chevrolet lights were showing up everywhere. Even if he stuck with the stock units, a guy was likely to french them in, or at least add a glass blue dot! By the 1950s, manufacturers were making the tail lamps larger and more integrated with the lines of the car body, and thus we ended up with some of the most beautiful and intricate jewels to come out of Detroit. Amazingly, most of these lights only appeared for one or two years, as many vehicle models were totally redesigned on a yearly basis. Below I’ve listed my top five 50s taillight picks, in no certain order. Keep in mind these are lights that work best in custom applications. There are so many more great ones I’m leaving out, so please chime in.
1. 1956 Packard: A one-year-only lamp that was destined to be an icon. Smooth, convex lens with a wicked, sharp peak. Often found in the back of ’54 Chevys looking for some fin.
2. 1949-1953 Pontiac: The longest running lamp of my list, with some slight changes along the way. This little round unit was simple, clean, and to the point. Poncho lights found their way on early customs and hot rods alike.
3. 1955 Lincoln: This one doesn’t get used as often, but she looks right at home in the back of a ’51 Merc. What other cars have used this one?
4. 1959 Buick: A simple rocket-shaped bullet that fits on the back of many finned cars.
5. 1959 Cadillac: Who could leave off the most copied taillight of the 1950s? The crazy red cones of the ’59 Caddy lights found there way on everything from shop trucks to motorcycles. The beautiful finned chrome bezels often get left off, but they are works of art in themselves.