posted at the Cohort by William Oliver
Chevrolet’s Department of Names sure was kept busy between 1953 and 1972 coming up with endless changes and reprisals of names for their station wagons. It started off in 1953 with the Handyman and Townsman, and eventually it became a torrent of wagon-specific names, yet in some years the wagons reverted back to sedan trim line names.
But the only one that was a one-year wonder was the 1958 Yeoman. Let’s pay our tributes, which would be even more lavish if this were a 2-door version.
Why Chevrolet ditched the Handyman or Townsman names for its low trim wagons in ’58 is anyone’s guess. But then ’58 was a rather strange year for Chevrolet all-round, given that the non-wagon line also got new names, Del Ray replacing the stripper 150, and Biscayne replacing the 210. The Bel Air was still top dog, as the ’58 Impala coupe was technically a Bel Air. So there it is, Yeoman.
By the way, yeoman has two historic meanings: 1.) a man holding and cultivating a small landed estate; a freeholder. and 2.) a servant in a royal or noble household, ranking between a sergeant and a groom or a squire and a page. I’ll let you decide which one is more applicable. Perhaps if you bought it with cash, it was meaning #1, and if you took out a loan with GMAC, it was #2.
Let’s take a look at that highly desirable Yeoman 2-door (good luck finding one on Google that hasn’t been resto-modded). At first glance, one might be tempted to think that they just eliminated the back door, but kept everything else the same. But no; it’s all different: the front door is a longer and proper 2-door door, and the rear seat side window actually goes further back than in the 4-door, and the rear-most side window is shorter than the one in the 4-door. That’s a lot of unique panels for a car that was built exactly 4,933 times. No wonder they’re so scarce.
That’s not to suggest the 4-door Yeoman was a big seller. All of 5,041 of these were built. Makes this quite the find, and not resto-modded at that. Just some Rally wheels, which I’m more ok with than usual, given that the stock narrow wheels accentuate the ’58 Chevy’s excessive width. As it is, they’re still in desperate need of some Wide-Tracking.
I am not a big fan of the ’58, as it marked the end of the brilliant ’55-’57 formula in terms of size, height, width, handling, weight, performance, etc.. The all-new 1958 Chevrolet Bulge-Mobile.
These felt sloppy and loose and rattly compared their tight and taut predecessors. All things must end, unfortunately.
Enough of the negativity. This is a terrific find, and I’m honored to give it its 15 minutes of fame, just no more than that.
Now let’s rattle off all of the various names Chevy used for its wagons over the years:
Yeoman has a very good connotation, and it would have resonated even more back when people read more. It means hardworking, loyal, tough, and yet not flashy. Down to earth, trustworthy.
Saying something did Yeoman’s work meant you could rely on it. Good name for a station wagon.
Yup. Most folks didn’t know the exact job description, but “doing yeoman work” and “giving yeoman service” were common phrases for loyal and trustworthy employees.
Is it “Wagon Day” here at CC? (Seeing the post below this one.)
During the 50s and 60s – marketing seems like it would have been the most fun work to do for General Motors. Trademark Yeoman and then toss it to the wind in a year. Eventually coming up with names like “Kingswood”. Names aren’t nearly as evocative today.
Kingswood showed up early, in 1959 describing the mid-trim-level 3-row model, and underwent the opposite of name debasement, eventually ending up as the most expensive Chevy wagon (and actually gaining woodgrain trim along the way which none of the ’59s, all of whose names ended in “-wood” except the Nomad, had) by ’72 and the end of separate wagon series names at which point the leftover Kingswood badges were gathered up in the factory and packed off to Holden in Australia (who used the name on a sedan…)
They could’ve replaced “Nomad” with “Madwood”. 🙂
Today’s marketing department would suggest “Umadbro” (You Mad Bro?)
Strange then Chevrolet didn’t revived the Yeoman name later like they did with Nomad, Townsman, Brookwood and Kingswood from 1969 to 1972 to use for their Chevelle and full-size wagons.
Even though I’m all about Tri-Fives, this actually looks attractive to me. Had a chance to buy a ’58 Nomad about 20 years ago. IIRC it was rot free and the price was reasonable, but I just wasn’t interested.
I’m glad you brought up the fact that the ’55-’57s were demonstrably superior cars in just about every way. Besides their recycling the ’57 front suspension to go under a 400-lb heavier car virtually intact, ’58 was arguably the worst year of the Fifties for Chevy build quality.
I remember a “Three’s Company” gag where Mr. Roper was selling what was described as a ’57 Chevy, but the punchline was when Jack got there to look at it, he found it was a ’58. At least the car’s received redemption in Pop Culture since then, it deserves that much even with the foibles it had.
Dad’s first new car was a 58 Brookwood. Really just a few trim pieces above a Yeoman. A real stunner in turquoise and white but a bit of a letdown when it came to quality compared to his 47 Chevy sedan. Engine rebuild at 30k. Never pulled the engine, honed the bores in the Blueflame while still in the car! Floors rotted out before I was born in 63. Quarters, fenders, and headlight eyebrows holed soon after. Became Mom’s car about that time. Held on till 71 when it was replaced with a 62 Buick Special sedan. Dad loved fiberglass, bondo, and aluminum plate.
My dad also bought a Brookwood, 283 w/PG trans. I remember during one period the valves tapping and leaking, burning oil and rough running, until the heads were pulled and overhauled. My mom hated it..without PSteering, she had to battle the beast to park it. The “rusties” also formed around the headlights and rear quarter panels. Despite it all, it hauled us boy scouts to several camping trips in it’s earlier and best years.
Regarding the scarcity of the 2-door wagon and the unique body panels thereof, don’t forget there was still a Sedan Delivery in 1958, which shared most of those unique panels and therefore helped offset the cost.
The sedan delivery version was called a Delray (using the ’58 model name for the base trim level sedans). In fact, there are two kinds of Delrays — one with steel side panels like a “conventional” sedan delivery, and one with windows all around, so it looks at first glance exactly like a two door Yeoman — but it has no rear seats, and also has a one-piece liftgate in back rather than a two-piece wagon tailgate.
I have seen some sellers of the windowed Delrays claim they were mostly made for fleet sales to the military. I don’t know if that is accurate.
No wagon here, but Delray ad from a college newspaper. Fun how it points out you can get any of the engines—even the FI 283:
No wagon here, but Delray ad from a college newspaper. Fun how it points out every engine–even 283 FI–is available:
There was a ’58 Nomad, but it was strictly a four door model. It does have vertical ribs on the tailgate like the 55-57 Nomads.
“Upgrading” a two door Yeoman to a Nomad is a common modification. The simpler version keeps the Yeoman greenhouse, adding the Nomad tailgate and other exterior and interior trim and equipment (and/or using Impala or two door Bel Air bits where necessary). For more “degree of difficulty” points, a few others have gone to varying lengths to replicate the 55-57 Nomad look with frameless front door glass. This is one example.
That reminds of a design I saw at a former site called “What if Cars?” where someone imagine what if the Nomad concept of 1955-57 continued with the 1958 model. Parts of that site is now on the Wayback Machine. https://web.archive.org/web/20151023113040/http://www.whatifcars.com/gallery/What-If-Cars/58_Impala_Nomad
I have never been in a 58 Chevy, but don’t doubt that it was a letdown from the 57 in many ways. 58 Chevy model names have confused me for a long time. And Delray sounds too nice to be a stripper, and it is a name that I am surprised was never re-used.
Nice find! And I have to comment on that lovely copper paint, that was in the middle of a minor fad in 1957-60 for the entire industry.
Delray was originally an upgraded sub model based on the mid-level Two Ten sedan with an upgraded interior, just below the top of the line Belair in ’55 and ’56. By ’58 Impala pushed Belair down one notch, Biscayne mid level replacing 210 and Delray at the bottom replacing the 150. Just one year later, Biscayne was pushed down one level and Belair settled at mid level. At least this stabilized until the 1965 1/2 Caprice came along.
As someone who still vividly remembers dad’s silver blue ’58 Impala 2-door hardtop, I will happily take a ’58 over a ’57 every day. There was just something about those cars that always turned me on.
Having to listen to the son of the Ford dealer in my school after the ’57 model year was over, probably helped. Things like the Ford/Chevy wars were taken real seriously back then. And you can imagine how I rubbed it back in at the end of the ’58 model year.
I don’t care if the ’57 was the better built car. I love the ’55’s, like the ’56’s, and can’t stand the ’57’s. You can put my dislike up there with my equal feeling towards the ’59 Cadillac.
My Uncle Boogie down in Texas actually had one! Metallic blue gray with white trim, 2 doors, no radio, no heater, rubber floor mats, 283 with 3 on the column with overdrive.
I came to visit him when my mom fell Ill while she had driven her car down there..so he gave me the Yeoman to use for the duration of my visit.
It was fine as transportation, but once in awhile the column shifter would end up at the 12:00 position due to a sloppy linkage. Mind you by 1975 the car only had 28,000 miles on it, and my uncle thought it was a classic!
So much so that he talked my other uncle Into using it for my cousin’s senior prom…and she was absolutely livid that she had to show up at the Statler Hilton in Dallas in a ’58 chevy.
Good times. I almost froze driving it (it was wintertime), but it was wheels and the family was spread out in a 30 mile radius at the time.
The second definition of yeoman–a servant in a royal or noble household, ranking between a sergeant and a groom or a squire and a page–reminds me of the many titles for this popular TV show’s servant: Thomas Barrow is the current butler, succeeding Charles Carson at Downton Abbey, having formerly worked there as junior footman, first footman, head valet, and under-butler…
Paul, this is a great essay on these rare wagons. Wrench-55, you got me laughing with your prom ride story. I have a friend who has a beautifully restored (by him) ’58 Pontiac Catalina 4-door hardtop that will be his daughter’s ride to church the day that she finds a guy to wed. Well, at least he will not be footing the bill for a limousine and it is for sure that the father of the bride will be the chauffeur lest anyone ruin his car.
The featured Yeoman shows the basic beauty of the 1958 model without all the gingerbread of the Impala/Nomad and Bel Air models. The rally wheels also nicely complement the look.
Here’s a Brookwood wagon, one trim level up from the Yeoman, which I spotted two years ago.
I was just going to ask “Did they come with backup lights standard?” after a very perfunctory search on the intertubes, and you did me the favor of posting this!
I’ll never forget the excitement of my older brother’s first car – a 1958 Impala convertible, that my dad bought for $10. Salmon pink. Six cylinder. White convertible top. Completely worn out. A beautiful wreck of wheels. My dad bought a Delray as a parts car. When the Impala needed something, we disassembled the Delray and reassembled the Impala. The engine was hoisted out of the Impala with a change pulley and then sent for rebuilding. Every day my brothers and I would sit in that car with the top down and wash and wax and vacuum and clean every inch. So I know these cars like I know anything.
It wasn’t a great handling car. It floated and handled like a boat. Certainly had the benefit of the six cylinder weight over that undersized frame instead of the V8. But it was quite a car to be seen in with the top down. The 1958 was not the classic back then that it is today, so most of the time, few folks look twice at it.
So – I like the 1958 styling. It was overloaded with odd chrome-ish ornamentation, but the smooth rounded fenders were unique and the dashboard was tasteful.
A one year body indeed. High tooling cost for low volume. Fisher probably put their foot down for the ’59, with sedan front doors and common rear quarter glass for two and four door models. And why the clamshell tailgate in the all new ’58? Roll down rear windows were already on Rambler and Plymouth wagons. Ford was a carryover, but Mercury had that feature.
Our first wagon was a ’59 Brookwood, midline in ’58, but poverty spec after one year.
I was also never a fan of the ’58’s, too much detail.
That appears to be an Ontario licence plate. If this car was originally a Canadian unit, does that affect its one-of-4,933ness in one direction or the other?
I’m not a huge fan of the ’58 Chevy, either. But this one proves to me once again that the lower-end models, lacking all the flashy chrome and doodads of the upscale ones, look FAR better than the top of the line models.
I think you’ve discovered where the ’61 Dodges got their taillights!
funny thing is that most consider the 1958 Chevy to be the looker among all the GM divisions because all the others were that bad, laden w/ outrageous features and an overabundance of chrome slathered everywhere
it’s sort of a contest betw/ Olds and Buick for worst of
In direct proof of the fact that anything new that is complained about by an older type only diminishes the complainer, this badge could pass muster today, as the Chev Yo,Man.
And why not name a car after a friendly greeting – the upscsale one could be the Yo,Man Wassup – as it makes more sense than driving about in a Monarch’s Forest, aka kingswood.
After all, there are people out there driving a Quashqai who can’t explain it.
I was surprised to see my car featured in this article! It is a Canadian car that I have owned since 2014. The car is a 6 cylinder automatic with radio and clock delete. It came with factory positraction and has the proper “Positraction” badge on the glove box door.
Thanks for the additional details. Positraction on a six cylinder low trim wagon; I assume they were thinking about traction in the winter in Canada.
Yeoman wagons are way KOOL. I have a 58 Yeoman 2 dr. wagon all stock not hacked up. Only chg are wheels, still has the stock 6 / 3 on tree. NO arm rests on doors, one visor – for driver. Still in it’s original color – Cashmere Blue
I love my 58 yeoman wagon..350 v8nwith 4 spd.overdrive riding on bags
I am reading this site with great interest. When I was a teenager in the late 1960’s my folks owned a ‘58 Yoeman wagon, 2 door, 283 V-8, 3 on the tree, light blue color. What a fun car for a young man to drive. That thing would burn rubber like you wouldn’t believe! Really ran strong. To bad I didn’t realize what a rare classic it really was. Would love to have it today.