A Seldom-Seen Buick Light

Do you recognize this interesting and hard-to-find light we picked up the other day?

It is a reverse light for some 1958 Buick models, and it would have been found in the back bumper, directly under the tail light, as seen here on a Roadmaster 75:

Photo credit: Greg Gjerdingen from Willmar, USA, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

My Dad always referred to 1958 Oldsmobiles as “Christmas trees” due to all of the chrome ornamentation, but the Buicks of the same year are similarly bedecked. Just check out this beautiful chromed-up Buick station wagon:

Photo credit: CZmarlin — Christopher Ziemnowicz — photo credit is required if this image is used anywhere other than Wikipedia., CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The ’58 Buicks had dual headlights and an incredibly unique grille:

Photo credit: Lars-Göran Lindgren Sweden, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It was described as consisting of chrome squares, like jewels, set in four rows that extended all the way across the front to the outer extremities of the car, accentuating the lowness and breadth. Each chrome square was composed of four triangular surfaces designed to reflect maximum light. I have heard it called a “drawer pull” grille, but I see what Buick was going for; it does remind me of a diamond tennis bracelet.

Believe it or not, the Roadmaster wasn’t even the Buick with the most sparkle that year; that honor went to the extra-long and luxurious Limited which was adorned with 15 vertical louvers on each rear fender. The Limited was nearly 19 feet long and weighed around 4700 pounds.

All ’58 models, the Roadmaster and Limited (as well as the Century, Special, and Super) were powered by a 364ci V-8. All series except the Special had a Quadrajet carburetor. Powertrain options included the Flight Pitch Dynaflow, standard on both the Roadmaster 75 and the Limited. Marketing focused on flight (it was the rocket age after all) and used phrases like, “It looks and feels like flight on wheels,” and, “The air born B-58 Buick.”

If it seems like something is missing, despite all of the dazzling chrome trim, your mind may be registering the lack of ventiports. That feature, practically synonymous with the Buick, was absent in 1958 and 1959. Ventiports reappeared in 1960, this time with the Electra being the top-of-the-line model and sporting four on each side.

This 1960 Electra was graced with four ventiports to distinguish it from other models.

The First Chevrolet Impalas

This advertisement for the 1958 Chevrolet, made in conjunction with the Kansas City Auto Show, describes the 17 models available in ’58:

Note that the lineup includes Impala models as part of the Bel Air series:

This marked the first opportunity for a member of the car-buying public to purchase a Chevrolet Impala, but it was not the first time General Motors utilized that particular name. A “dream car” presented at GM’s 1956 Motorama car show was a futuristic five passenger sport sedan that was, believe it or not, called a Corvette Impala.

Like the production Corvette, the Corvette Impala had a fiberglass body. It was almost the same width as a Chevrolet sedan, but four and a half inches longer and six inches lower. The power plant was a 225-hp Super Turbo-Fire V8 with 9.25-to-1 compression ratio, high-lift cam shaft and a four-barrel carb. Being a GM product, it naturally had a Powerglide transmission.

In a departure from the typical more-is-more styling of the 1950s, little chrome was used. It did have a toothy, Corvette-like grille, however.

So, would you have been in the market for this Impala concept car, described as having “fleet, buoyant lines that accent motoring adventure with safety and luxury?” Or do your preferences in motoring adventure run more along these lines?

Christmas in July – 1958 Oldsmobile

This tinsel-covered ’58 Olds was my hands-down favorite at the local car show a few weeks ago:

Photo credit: Delaney Tracy

The Oldsmobile was completely re-styled for 1958 and sported loads of chrome. It had a recess-type grille with thin aluminum louvers and a contour bumper with parking lights at each end.

Photo credit: Delaney Tracy

Inside was a yuuuge steering wheel. An option was a “Trans-Portable” radio that could be removed from the car and used elsewhere (running on dry-cell batteries that provided 160 hours of playing time).

Photo credit: Delaney Tracy

It looks like it would be slow, doesn’t it? Not really, since it came equipped with a 371 cubic-inch Rocket engine. The entry level Dynamic 88 featured an Econ-O-Way dual carb and 265 hp, but the Super 88 and 98 came with a quadri-jet carb and 305 hp. Better yet, available as an option was the J-2 Rocket with a six-pack and 312 hp. The gas cap, which you would be accessing often, was found behind the left tail light.

Photo credit: Delaney Tracy

The Jetaway HydraMatic Drive was touted as smoother for ’58, and a true air suspension called New-Matic Ride (I love these names) was another option. It cushioned the car on four chambers of compressed air, one at each wheel. Oldsmobile’s name for this whole beautiful package was “Oldsmobility”, and it is a gorgeous remnant from the rocket age.

Photo credit: Delaney Tracy

A Ford Edsel First

I ran across this old article about the Ford Edsel the other day, dateline September 7, 1957:

Ford Motor Company Chalks Up Another First

     PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Ford Motor Co. can chalk up a first for its new Edsel line. 

     At a North Philadelphia dealer’s place, a new Edsel was parked on the pavement and left unguarded for a moment.  When an employee went back for it, it had been stolen.

     The dealer reported the car valued at $3,800, stolen at 3:20 p.m. to police.  As far as was known it was the first stolen car case involving an Edsel.

So do you think the thief brought it back once he realized what he was driving?  Just kidding,  I actually like the Edsel.  Also, it is at the top of my daughter’s list of all-time favorite automobiles, so I must show the proper respect to this American classic:

1958 Edsel vertical “horse collar” grille

1958 Edsel

1959 Edsel

1959 Edsel (notice the smaller vertical grille)

1960 Edsel (no more vertical grille)

1958 Chevrolet Impala

Everyone loves a ’57 Chevy, but I always preferred the lower and meaner ’58.  The 1958s represented a complete design change featuring dual headlamps, triple tail lamps, flared rear fenders and a wraparound windshield.  The sales brochure called it “Sculpturamic” which must be the Latin term for smoking hot.  These Chevy’s were bigger and lower than the 1957s and sported an X-type frame for support.  The Level Air Suspension System was an option and, best of all, so was the new 348 Turbo-Thrust V8.  Offered in 3 series, the Bel Air, the Biscayne and the Delray, the ’58 Chevy Impalas really were “all-new” for 1958, and they were also first class: