CC For Sale: 1958 Buick Limited—Ne Plus Ultra

From reading CC I know that Paul (and some of the commenters) are not fans of this car, and I can understand why.  But I love this car–can anyone understand why?

For sale on eBay, located in Munster, Indiana.  A 1958 Buick Limited 4-door hardtop.  Top-of-the-line.  A one-year-only design proudly bearing the vaunted “Limited” name which goes back to the 1930s.  A delightful shade of green which could be Spray Green, Green Mist, or Gulf Green.  Yes, Buick offered three shades of green in 1958.  There were a total of 24 different colors available in solid-tone or a myriad of two-tone combinations.

Here’s where the limitations of language fail me.  If I were to describe this design to you, I would say that it somehow combines rounded, voluptuous forms with a rakish sharpness.  All the added details:  the jutting Dagmars, the parking lights set in a rocketship, the graceful sweep-spear, the three bands of louvers on the rear fenders, the backslanting “Twin-Tower” taillights ribbed in chrome and so much more–all suggest fleet, forward motion combined with heaviness and solidity.  This design is saying something, and I think we all can sense what it is, but we can’t really put it into words.

When new, this Limited was priced in the low Cadillac range.  I think the rear-end coachwork (if I may use such an archaic term for such a “futuristic” car) features more sparkling chrome and intricately-wrought details than the 1958 Cadillac Series 62 or de Ville.  There’s an element of the grotesque here, but in one of the universe’s odd paradoxes, sometimes things that are grotesque can possess a delectable kind of beauty.

The closer you look, the more you see . . .

Original, light patina.  Just the way I like ’em.  I think Paul and I would agree on that.

This car must have an interesting history.  Purchased new in Oklahoma City . . .

Then wound up in Mexico?  And now located in northern Indiana–I guess this Buick is reliable if it can do all that long-distance traveling.

1958 Buick Limited dashboard, from the website


The instrument panel continues the same themes as the exterior styling.  The impression is that this is not so much a “car” as a jet fighter or an intergalactic spaceship.  In fact, Buick ads state that the B-58 “appoints you chief pilot of the B-12,000 engine, which produces 12,000 pounds of thrust behind every piston stroke.”

“We began with a clean sheet of paper and a dream that burned bright as a flame.”


Which brings me to “What is this Air Born B-58 Buick like to drive?”  I haven’t driven one, but I have owned two 1958 Cadillacs which share the same body structure as the Buick Super, Roadmaster, and Limited series.  Based on that, I would say the Buick is like the Cadillac, only more so.

I consider the Cadillac ride to be a tad over-soft on anything except smooth- or almost-smooth pavement, and the Buick is even softer.  So there will be an incomparable “dream-car” smoothness on good roads, but then it will get rather squishy when the going gets rough.   The Cadillac has Hydra-Matic transmission, where you feel the shifts, but the Limited offered the new “Flight-Pitch” Dynaflow–a super-complex transmission where, like regular “Variable-Pitch” Dynaflow, the driver feels no shifts at all–just “an unbroken surge of smooth, soaring power!”  Both these Dynaflows emphasized smoothness over efficiency.  I remember getting about 8-11 MPG driving around town in the Caddy–I suspect the Limited’s mileage will be even lower than that.

1958 Buick Limited I recently spotted in my own hometown!


I should also mention that the Limited is 10″ longer than a base 1958 Cadillac sedan, and 2″ longer than a Sedan de Ville.  It also has six mufflers (one muffler and two resonators on each side of its dual exhaust system) while Cadillac has only four.  This is designed to give the Limited a truly mellow, quiet exhaust note.  When you add it all up, what this means, kids, is that the LIMITED is longer, smoother, quieter, and chrome-ier than a Cadillac!

The 1958 Buicks are not really about “practicality” or “basic transportation”, but a kind of fantasy.  Travel is now romanticized–you sit on soft, tufted cushions, ensconced behind that enormous ivory and chrome steering wheel.  You start the engine (with your foot!) and it purrs, suggesting great thundering power within.  You select “D” and surge smoothly, powerfully forward.  You look out over that bulging hood, with two Vee’d gunsights guiding your way.  You reach cruising speed effortlessly, without harshness.  Much of the time you’re not pressing the accelerator, because Dynaflow glides with little hold-back.  The car feels solid–like you’re driving a bank vault.  Steering, braking (all power-assisted) contribute to the relaxing feel.  This is advanced, this is the future;  this is America leading the world!

Of course, the fantasy didn’t last very long.

In 1983 LIFE magazine called the ’58 Buick “a thunderous amalgam of outdated ideas.”  The critics can say what they want, and they may have a point, but I still love these bold and dazzling 1958 Buicks, with all their imaginative design elements.  To see one, to drive one, is a rare excursion into automotive dreamland.


Related CC reading:

Curbside Classic: 1958 Buick Special – Anything Worth Doing Is Worth Doing In Excess