1953 Oldsmobile Fiesta. Click image to enlarge
Article and photo by Bill Vance
The 1950s were the best of times for General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, but particularly for GM. After taking sales leadership from Ford permanently in 1931, the brilliant leadership of Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., with his hierarchy of cars and annual model changes, enabled GM to become the undisputed king of American car companies.
Its market share averaged 41 per cent in the 1930s, 44 in the 1940s, and 46 per cent in the 1950s. Some years in the ’50s saw that figure rise above 50 per cent.
With such market domination it’s not surprising that GM set the trends in styling and engineering. Its Motorama shows had both current models and “Dream Cars” to test public reaction to new styling and engineering features. Motorama started in 1949 and travelled to major cities showing off the automotive future as envisaged by a highly confident General Motors.
Two early concept Motorama cars were the Buick LeSabre and the Buick XP300 introduced to the public in 1951. They previewed such items as wraparound windshields and aircraft influenced styling. One of the Motorama “dream cars,” the Chevrolet Corvette, actually made it into production in 1953.
Also in 1953 GM’s three senior divisions, Buick, Oldsmobile and Cadillac, wanted to do something special to celebrate their more than 50 years in the automobile business.
As image builders they decided to market what were almost “dream cars for the showroom,” the limited production two-door Cadillac Eldorado, Buick Roadmaster Skylark, and Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Fiesta. All were convertibles, and all were expensive.