Eye candy: A gallery of tail lights from the 1950s and ’60s

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1958 Chevrolet Impala

Photos by Larry Edsall

They don’t make them like that anymore may be a cliche, but it also rings very true when it comes to the design of automotive tail lamps.

Remember how, if you are of a certain age, back when you were a kid and you could identify every car on the road just by the glowing shape of its tail lights at night?

Try that today as you cruise down the freeway, and it doesn’t really matter if it is day or night, because safety regulations and other factors have pushed the styling of tail lamps from exciting toward generic.

But not back in the day, especially in the later 1950s and early ‘60s when entire auto bodies and seemingly every detail of each visible component was fresh and new — O.K., and sometimes downright bizarre — each year.

Here are just a few from that era that we’ve seen in the past few months as we’ve visited classic car auctions, shows and concours.

 

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.