(first posted 6/23/2015) The 1958 Chevrolet Impala has become an icon in its own regard, but when inevitably conjures up an image of the hardtop coupe with its distinctive roof. It’s easy to forget that it came as a convertible too. But this one shot and posted by moethebartender is a vivid reminder otherwise.
It’s also easy to forget that the ’58 Impala was technically part of the Bel Air series. By 1959, the Impala was a full model line of its own.
I have decidedly mixed feelings about the ’58 Chevys. I was impressed by a black ’58 Impala coupe that resided for a while on our block, not long after moving to the states in 1960. Although it was already some three or four years old, I was quite smitten, especially by its interior.
I loved the upholstery colors that came in the Impala; so utterly 1958, and already looking quite dated by 1961 or so. And it just seemed so wrong that the Impala didn’t come with bucket seats; if any car should have had them, this is the one, Chevrolet’s first personal luxury-sports coupe (and convertible; see how easy it is to forget the rag top?)
The steering wheel was quite nice too, for the times. The dashboard was pretty good, but not all that fab. The fact that it had to be used across the whole Chevy line made that inevitable.
In hindsight, I’ve come to feel that the jump to the massive new body in 1958 was less than successful overall. It was leap into a whole new size category after the trim tri-fives, and a lot was lost in the process. These cars were wide, heavy, and sprung too softly, and were anything but nimble handlers. The 283 V8, which acquitted itself so brilliantly in 1957, now struggled with the new excess weight. The 348 V8 was introduced in 1958 for a reason.
But the longer, lower, wider mantra had the Big Three in its thrall, and certainly resulted in some wild and memorable cars, before sanity resumed the the late 70s.
And here’s something else i never saw back in the day: an Impala with a conti spare kit. I’m shocked that there’s no fuzzy dice hanging from the rear view mirror. Those two additions are apparently mandatory these days.
This car brings back so many memories for me. My parents bought one, a convertible in silver blue, with that wonderful Fifties modern upholstery. It was a 283 with Powerglide, but I don’t remember any lack of power. It was my mother’s car, and she drove it with spirit and style, fast and always with the top down. To this day, when someone mentions the Impala, this is what comes to my mind.
Incidentally, was that not the coolest steering wheel ever?
No, but this one may be. (1960 Plymouth Fury)
Amen! Oyez! +1!
Gotta _LOVE_those old MoPar steering wheels ! .
Many had glitter in them too .
I always enjoy looking at the interiors of the 58 Impalas – that seat upholstery with the big colorful stripes is one of the boldest of 1950s interior jobs.
Good point on the dash – I have spent so much time looking at so many features of the 58 that I never noticed how much of a 57 Ford vibe that dash gives off.
I would love to know if Ford’s move up-market with the 118 inch wheelbase 57 Fairlane (as opposed to the 116 inch wheelbase 57 standard Ford) was what drove the 58 Chevy’s bloat. The 57 Plymouth was just as big. GM had to know what the competitors had in the can when these were being planned. And frankly, the smaller 57-58 Ford was not that big of a seller and was gone by 59, so it’s hard to be too hard on Chevy for the size of this car.
I have a book about Chevrolet dealerships in the postwar years, and every dealership owner says the same thing – they weren’t too wild about the 1957 Chevrolet, and thought that the 1958 model was a much easier car to sell, even during the tough recession year of 1958.
If I recall correctly, Chevrolet suffered less of a sales drop than either Ford or Plymouth did in 1958 (and Chevrolet decisively regained the number-one spot in sales).
On the other hand, these bloated “low price three” cars made lots of Rambler dealers happy, too.
I noticed the ’57 got longer, lower and wider for ’58. Perhaps that was exactly what people were looking for at the time.
Dad loved the 58’s, and my love for them is a direct reflection of that. And he was never that impressed with the 57’s – the realization that Bingler Ford outsold him that year (the only year that he ran the dealership) didn’t help his attitude towards the car.
Yes, they’re not as good at the tri-fives. I’ll still take one over any ’57 in existence any day, prefer them over the 56’s by a slight margin, and its a dead heat with the 55’s.
If I recall correctly, Chevrolet suffered less of a sales drop than either Ford or Plymouth did in 1958
Probably because the other GM divisions’ styling was so awful, they got more GM loyalists. This car would be quite attractive with a little less chrome–and no conti kit.
There’s certain advantages to driving a car with the bench seat in the front, which unfortunately can’t be matched by bucket seats, no matter how exciting the car is on the outside.
These advantages usually got exploited fully when driving the car on Saturday nights to the Drive-In theater or to the local burger hop.
Agree. I like a split bench front seat with a folding center armrest. Bucket seats just get tiring and play havoc with my back on a long drive, but today we really have no choice.
I’ll quote the band Cake on that one, from their song “Stick shifts and safety belts”
“But when I’m riding in my Malibu, it’s easy to get right next to you
I say, baby, scoot over please, and then she’s right there next to me
I need you here with me, not way over in a bucket seat”
My parents had a 58 Brookwood and 1 uncle (out of 10) had a 58 Nomad, the rest owning Fords of various vintages….including 1 with a 58 wagon and several with 59s. Unfortunately no one in my extended family in that time period drove a “sporty” car except for my mother’s maiden aunt who owned a 56 Plymouth Savoy 2 door hardtop.
My memories of this car come from a Doris Day-James Garner movie where Mr. Garner drives a black over red Impala convertible into a swimming pool. (Even in the 50s Garner did some “wild” driving.)
As for these Chevys, I wasn’t old enough to know how our 58 wagon was equipped, but suspect whichever engine it had (probably a 283) that it had a manual transmission as my Dad saw no reason to spring for the expense of an automatic. Either way, my Mother quickly grew to hate that 58 and we never owned a brand new Chevy after that.
BTW, both the 58 Chevy and the 58 and 59 Fords look like they could have used a few more inches of wheelbase as all look like they are designs that were shortened….for whatever reason. But when you really look at a 57 Chevy you can see that it also looks too (tall and) short.
Of all the cars of 57 through 59 I’d still take a 57 Ford, any model first, then a 58 Chevy Impala or Bel Air (with a preference for the Bel Air)…be it a 2 or 4 door hardtop (and yes, I know there was only the B-A as a 4 door in 58). Then maybe a 58 Nomad.
My memory from film is “American Graffiti” otherwise I rarely have seen one and would have been old enough to remember back in the early 60’s.
Wow what a stunner! And I love that Pioneer Supertuner under the dash. Gives the car a nice, modern, early 1980’s feel 🙂
I had the Pioneer Supertuner in several cars; was the first thing I noticed in that pic!
It’s outstanding sound quality (for the time period) blew me away.
I carefully exacto-knifed the “radio delete” panel of my ’77 Volare to make this radio an “in dash” installation.
This brings back wonderful memories circa 1968, my friend’s mom drove a beaten to crap salmon colored 58 Impala convertible. Even in the rundown shape that one was in, you could still admire it as a beautiful car. This family always had trashed old Chevys, the dad was a decent mechanic so he kept them on the road as long as he could before getting another old trashed Chevy.
Whenever I see a 58 Chevy, I look for the script on the rear that says “Level Air”, an unpopular and unreliable option. So far in my entire lifetime I have only seen one, back in the mid seventies.
I would take a 58 over a 57 without hesitation. If the one pictured came my way, I’d throw that butt ugly Continental kit in the trash.
I love the centrally mounted rear speaker grilles on these. They used that style for quite a few years. The ’67 Impala I learned to drive in had one similar to it. That was your rear seat entertainment system!
Agreed. The sometimes very decorative rear speaker grill became a symbol of an above average car in the automotive food chain before fading away in the early 1970s. I suppose they were just what seemed a sensible design for a rear speaker in a convertible, but they certainly became popular in a lot of higher end hardtop coupes. Four speaker stereo systems as much as changing style considerations did them in.
The Central Rear Speaker was because the radio was mono (monophonic). There was one in the front for the people in the front seat and one in the back for the people in the back.
Modern cars have speakers on the sides because the radio is stereo so you need at east two speakers.
I never noticed the multi-colored upholstery option on these. That’s pretty fantastic! Reminiscent somehow of the vivid vinyl upholstery of diner furniture…
Having come along in ’80 I don’t have any direct experience with the ’58. However, my mom’s best friend in high school had one, this would be in ’68 or so, and it appears in quite a few of her photos from the era. It started life as a beautiful, if slightly faded, nautical blue Impala hardtop. Didn’t stay that way for long–Lori was quite the flower child, and not long after she got the car, she spray painted it with anti-war slogans, peace signs, flowers, the whole nine yards. Even the wheels and tires got paint, everything except the glass. Went from a presentable car to looking like absolute crap. But, I suppose to someone in ’68, a ten year old Chevy was the antithesis of fashion anyway, so why not?
1958 was almost a design era unto its own, especially at GM and Ford – probably the most “dated” a car ever became in 12 months. I suppose that was part of why 1958 cars seemed forgotten and mostly ignored for 30 years.
Chevy did pull one off with the Impala though. You can make arguments for the 1958 Edsel as the icon of ’58, but the Impala seems to be the car people today actually like looking at, and the nameplate became storied and is still respected today on a modern car. Only the 1980 – 1985 era Impala seemed to suffer debasement – rarely sold as anything but a stripper fleet car.
It was really unbelievable how GM tooled up for the totally new ’58 body style that lasted for just one year. Can you imagine that ever happening today with body change cycles often going for 10 years or more? Read somewhere that the Forward Look Chrysler products panicked GM into scrapping the ’59 Harley Earl designs that were re-hashes of ’58’s. Earl was on vacation at the time and first learned of this upon is return. Defying King Harley would have been unthinkable a few years before, but he was retiring in 1959.
Other than its bulk, the ’58 Impala was attractive and pulled off the re-style far better than its garish GM siblings. TurboGlide and air suspension also appeared. Both were poorly engineered, unreliable and disappeared shortly.
Yes, and I think that GM, realizing that they were going to introduce a whole new line of fat bloated Harley Earl style 1958 cars (the bigger cars were on a second year deep facelift) when Ford and in particularly Chrysler had introduced finned graceful big but low and light looking cars already in 1957 led GM to double down on the number and amount of chromey decoration all over their 1958’s to compensate.
The smaller 1958 GM cars like this Impala were on completely different frames (allowing for footwells), suspensions and bodies in 1958. The 1959’s were on the same frames although probably no one would have guessed since the bodies were completely new. The bigger GM cars got new frames and suspensions in 1959.
A very cool car. An uncle of mine had a black 58 Impala coupe that he bought new and owned for 40 years. It had that same striped upholstery. You’re bringing back some memories for me here!
A nice find, but the rust bug claimed most of these pretty early in the midwest, seemingly earlier than most other cars, except for the 1961 Chevys – they were pretty rust-prone, too – I had one.
I know the 55 through 57 are considered the most desirable of the 50s era chevies but I disagree. The 58 is the most attractive. I like Impala SS 2door hardtops. In 58, the SS had not yet been used…but…they did have a term that was almost the same. I think in 58 they called it the “sport coupe”. I like two tone paint on these with roof painted white.
Make mine a 58 Impala sport coupe, metalic copper with top painted white, and a 3speed manual transmission with manual overdrive and the 348 tri-power engine.
imho continental kits are faux luxury.
there are parts of this car that i find aesthetically pleasing – the front is not one of them.
somehow the individual pieces do not make for a pleasant whole.
You are not convinced by the double turn signal/parking lights that clearly look like miniature B-52 engine nacelles?
Count me as not a fan of these. The rear end was just too pinched looking. Exner must have liked it tho and used it as inspiration for the ’61 Plymouth. Arguably the best looking ’58 GM car however. Even as a kid I thought these were a mistake.
I always liked 58 Chevs firs Chev I ever rode in, a school friends parents had a rusty 283 Bel Air, survivors are about here several are on the road around here including a local assembly completely original daily driver, Get rid of that rear bumper turd and this would be a great looking car.
My father worked nights, so we only saw him on weekends. One day he brought home a pink 1958 Impala convertible that he bought for my older brother. He paid $10. He parked it in the garage and went to bed. When we got home we discovered it and could not have been more excited.
The engine was rebuilt, the rear end was fixed, new exhaust, transmission was repaired and replaced – all by my dad and my 15 year old brother. It needed a new convertible top, which was replaced.
Rust had eaten through both floors in the rear seat, and my father cut out wooden planks that he then treated and fixed into place.
As the car was garaged, my siblings and I studied every inch of that car. The very idea that one of us would actually be the owner of a car made it all more exciting. We waxed every inch of the exterior and studied every glossy inch of chrome. I always loved the hidden gas door above the rear bumper.
The Impala trim differed from that of the Bel Air, Biscayne and Del Ray. The logo of the leaping impala, the faux fender air scoops, the three-tail light design and the rounded turbine rocket side spear wickedly suggested a sporty power, the car never had.
The high-mounted duo headlights were affixed in a stainless steel bezel. The parking lights were also shaped to nicely balance the headlight bezels above. The over all look of the 1958 Impala was that of a full sized sedan with tasteful finned rear fenders and sweeping curves. The Impala had a good shape to it that was very balanced and classy.
The interior was excellent. The steering wheel was very attractive and the horn ring had slick circular cut-outs which made it look special. The dashboard was hard metal, the salmon pink paint looked like new and the white and chrome trim very complimentary. Like all cars of that era, the only thing larger than the glove box was the huge ashtray which dropped open like a nicotine scented trash can.
We had the car long enough so that I was able to drive it. While it needed maintenance on a regular basis, it was a good car. It got attention.
One day, we were followed through town by a young driver who wanted badly for us to stop. It wasn’t uncommon with that car. So, we pulled into a parking lot and he couldn’t have been more excited to see it. He told us that his grandfather had a car that looked identical to it and wanted to see if it was the same car. I wasn’t. However, he wanted the pink Impala convertible enough to offer my brother $3000, which was more money that he every imagined. Not bad for a $10 car just three years earlier!
So, in consideration of it’s future maintenance needs and the dreams of having a better car, my brother sold it. Both guys couldn’t have been happier with the transaction, either.
I wouldn’t want one, but I have the opinion that it is probably the most attractive GM car that year. While not a fan of the salmon pink, the color was very unique and characteristic of that era. I am pretty surprised at how much money they are selling for today. I don’t believe the 1958 Chevrolet Impala convertible to be worth anything over $25,000. I’ve seen them being offered for triple that price. Must be nostalgia!
Big car ! too big for my taste .
If I recall the dual antenna set up that was on a bunch of 1950’s cars was more for show(symmetry) then actually for reception. It seems on some cars one of the antennas were fake.
That car is a beauty
I like these cars in the abstract and even briefly almost owned one – a blue ’58 Bel-Air four-door – for a couple of days (the deal went bad and I returned the car to the seller). I don’t know whether it’s that particular car, which was in pretty good condition otherwise, or all of these, but it drove and handled like a truck. I returned it for reasons that had nothing to do with the car itself, but it sure didn’t help. That convertible is very pretty, but I can just imagine driving it and my enthusiasm fades…
My opinion on these has flip-flopped over the years. As a little tyke, I loved these and had a turquoise promotional model of the sport coupe. Later, I thought they were overstyled and a come-down from the glorious tri-fives. Now, I like them again as cool cars in their own right, though I’d still prefer any tri-five.
The main problem with the Impala is too much chrome. Simplify the side spear, remove the chromed “pitchfork” on the lower quarter panel, and take off the hash marks on the front fender and rear quarter panel just ahead of the bumper, and it would look so much cleaner. (Of course, the continental kit has to go as well.)
I totally agree.
The base model Delray shows that the basic body shape and proportions are pretty good.
The implala like the ’58 Ford just has too much trim that doesn’t work with the body shapes.
I wouldn’t kick her out of my garage for dripping oil, but the conti kit would meet the cutting torch in short order!
I see these come through the car auctions on TV a lot. If that was the only place you ever saw one you would swear that they all came with that fugly Continental kit on the back. Nothing ruins a car’s looks, in my opinion , than one of these tacked on the back. These cars are long enough without adding that wart on the rear. I also see these on Ford Skyliners too. How would you ever fit one in a parking space or garage? I was a young kid in the ’50’s and was into cars from about age 3. I rarely saw these infesting any car. Skirts, yeah, but these abominations, no. Can you tell I don’t like them?
I’m also seeing Kelsey Hayes type chrome wire wheels on a lot of the more glitzy and high priced 1950’s cars for sale all the time now. Even when the original full wheel covers were awesome.
There certainly were some Continental kits added to cars like this in the 1950’s in real life (and on a lot if not all of certain Nashes from the factory) but like the wires it seems like they get added for extra American Graffiti sales appeal on them today.
I haven’t paid close attention to the “classics” for sale today, but the ones in the 1950’s often had the whole bumper extended farther out instead of just the added center section.
I was in HS. I drove my mom’s 55 Bel Air coupe, manual shift 3 speed, white top over black body. One of my two best friends got a black ’58 Impala convertible in 1959 – we were seniors, 59-60. My mom’s was faster and handled better. Ralph’s was an actual chick magnet.
If I remember correctly, the Chevrolet model designations for 1957 were 150, 210, Bel Air. For 1958 they were Del Ray, Biscayne, Bel Air and Impala. Obviously Chevrolet was moving up in the GM pecking order for 1958 and the Sloan ladder was crumbling rapidly. I love that upholstery, I wish todays cars had something like that today.
My parents bought a 58 Chevy, a Biscayne-two tone yellow and white with a green interior; 1958 may have been a recession year, but it seemed like a saw a lot of ’58 Chevys.
Popular Mechanics: some feedback from owners as of spring 1958—I’d forgotten about the X-frame, air-suspension option, etc.:
18% got air suspension! But they’re probably the type to read and respond to Pop Mechanics.