Upcoming Exhibits

Upcoming or rotating exhibits at the California Automobile Museum are one of a kind. Our curator hand picks the cars that are on display which you can see inside the Museum for only a limited time. These are unique exhibits to Sacramento and the only one of their kind in the world. We completely rely on our own resources to coordinate the vehicles on display.


Flash & Flair: The Atomic 50s and 60s

February 14 through June 7, 2015Flash & Flair Atomic 50s & 60s Fins California Automobile Museum Exhibit

Flash & Flair: The Atomic 50s & 60s will show visitor some of the extreme styling and colorful excess of post-war America through automobiles. Combine the early days of NASA exploration with the height of “planned obsolesce” in industrial design, and you get a feast of spectacular fins, chrome, and colors. Adults and kids will enjoy the display of these fin-tastic automobiles.

Exhibit sponsored by John and Nancy Tennyson.

For A Love Of Fins
by Ron Vogel

In the latter part of the 1940s until the early part of the 1960s, the fin became a fixture in automotive styling, but flying high and skimming through the waters was not on the automobile designers’ minds. There is an old adage that states, “an automobile that appears to be in motion while standing still will be a beautifully styled automobile.” For the most part, this adage holds true. In the case of fins there is a certain feeling of thrust and stability, and of course flight, that gives the feeling of motion to these cars. Beyond that, the fin adds elegance and worth, which helps sell the product.

Cadillac under General Motors seems to get the credit for the earliest fin in its 1948 model. Originally, they were referred to as “fishtails,” and remained in the same basic configuration for some models through 1956. Cadillac also had what was considered to be the tallest fin in 1959 at 40 inches tall!

It is always debatable, but Chrysler Corporation probably wins the overall prize for the tallest, stylish, and most exaggerated fins. Exemplified by the 1957 Chrysler, DeSoto and Plymouth models, these were from the brilliance of one Virgil M. Exner. Exner was hired by Chrysler in 1949 to bring the company out of the shadows by producing some unforgettable designs, and that he did.

Upright fins at the Ford Motor Company were a bit more subdued with the likes of the ‘57 and ‘58 Fords and the ‘57 Thunderbird; although, the Lincolns displayed upright fins.Cadillac_fin_California Automobile Museum Exhibits 50s

Any great designer will find a way to modify a popular trend to use to his or her advantage. In the case of a fin, what would be the ways to modify to make it still appear to be a fin, but no longer upright? Well, it appears that there were a million or so ways. How about the flowing French curve of the 1958 Chevrolet, or the batwing curve of the 1959 Chevrolet and the sharper curve of the 1960 Chevrolet horizontal fin? Then there is the 1960 Ford horizontal fin with the swish at the bottom, or the 1959 Pontiac “V” shape, and of course, the 1959 Buick massive 45 degree canted fin.

I could go on and on concerning the fin styles that were designed, but I won’t. What is really important is that era, and what it meant then and even now. It was a time of prosperity, when our world was fresh and new after the war. The Jet Age was upon us, and we were looking well beyond what our eyes could see into space and the future.


Future Museum-Wide Exhibit Transformation

All of us at the California Automobile Museum are excited for the prospect of a complete renovation of our current facilities. A new roof and much improved heating and cooling are just the beginning!

While our plans are not yet final, we have a clear vision of goals to achieve to bring our beloved Museum into the present and future. An expansion to the building moves some of our current services and provides the Museum with almost 50% more square footage for exhibition space!

Below is the conceptual plan for the new layout of exhibits within the Museum. Please note that this is very much a work in progress and may change considerably before the final product is complete. However, we wanted to get you as excited as we are about the amazing possibilities of a redesigned museum!

Enjoy this sneak peak.



Museum members will enjoy free admission throughout the duration of these exhibits along with special discounts applied in the Giftshop and tickets to Museum-sponsored events. To learn more about these exhibits and membership options, please call (916) 442-6802.