It was pointed out that in posting the picture of the decal featured in yesterday’s Cohort Sighting, I missed the more important subject of KiwiBryce’s photo. So here is the car it was attached to–a 1958 Buick Special–in its full glory.
In 1958, the Special nameplate was living out its final year attached to the lowest-trim level of the standard (full) size Buick. As most of us know, it reappeared three years later on a radically different car.
I must confess that the reason I didn’t even notice the actual car in yesterday’s photo was because the popular designs of the era have rarely interested me. As an enthusiast, it’s almost embarrassing to admit, but my usual thoughts upon seeing such a car are, “Big 1950s car, nothing to see here.”
For people similarly unfamiliar with ’50s GM, the various restyling and re-engineering efforts are difficult to fully pin-down, especially with drastic yearly styling changes and substantial differences between each division’s interpretation of a platform. The standard sized Buicks, however, have been covered here and here, with the latter example doing much to expand my understanding of good taste.
Great find! Interesting thoughts about cars of the 50s. Most people feel very strongly about car styles of that era, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered ambivalence about the period. Like the ’50s cars or hate them it was an important period in automotive design. Without excess how could we recognize restraint?
Definitely agree with you there. Given the choice between a ’59 Ranchero and a ’60 Ranchero, I’d take the ’60.
Didn’t think a 58 Buick was your cup of tea Bryce.Great photos thanks.By 1958 American cars were getting over the top with fins & chrome soon the only way to go would be less chrome,fins would shrink before vanishing altogether and cars would become smaller
I believe Buick, and perhaps, Oldsmobile, both boasted of there being 80 lbs of chrome on each car. Had it not been for GM stylists spying Chryslers offerings for 1957, the 59s from GM, as wild as some would beleve, would have been even more bloated excess.
I would tend to think there is more than 80 pounds of chrome on these cars. For one thing the bumpers probably weighed close to that much each. That was about the time anodized aluminum was coming in as trim. But there still was a lot of heavy cast and pot metal. And the interior and dashboard trim usually had plenty of chrome.
I think it was 80lbs of chromed zinc castings, not counting the steel bumpers and polished stainless window moldings, etc. In metallurgy class (four decades ago), 1958 was cited as the peak year for decorative zinc castings, by tonnage, made in the USA. Just look at that grille.
1958 was not my favorite year for US car styling. The Chrysler 300 is the only one I remotely like.
“Big 1950s car, nothing to see here.” Oh, Perry, Perry. So much to see, and more. I guess you had to grow up in a specific era to appreciate the styling and yearly changes. I couldn’t tell you much about ’40’s cars, they seemed so ancient by the time I came of age, but I can still spot the makes and models and differences in ’50’s and 60’s cars with ease, it’s the 80’s and 90’s and beyond that leave me scratching my head. My annual new car introduction outings with my dad back then when I was 8 or 9 or 10 years old cemented all of these cars into my memory banks. When these ’58 Buicks came out, I could not get my mind to accept the changes from the so-much-more stylish ’57’s, but they have grown on me through the years. I love these big old boats, and all their chrome-bedecked finery. They were just ordinary cars back then, they were everywhere on the road, but then they were used up and traded in a couple of years later. Today they are reminiscent of a fabulous bygone automotive era.
That’s how it mostly works for all of us. And Perry can do the 80s and 90s justice, and then some. It’s one of the reasons I wanted him aboard instead of another old fart like me: balance.
Yeah, but we can still poke fun at Perry for having such a non-opinion about 50s cars though, right? 🙂
Also, IMO if you were looking through the cohort for something to feature and the choice was between a pre-1980 car and a 1980+ car, I would say pick the earlier one.
“My annual new car introduction outings with my dad back then when I was 8 or 9 or 10 years old cemented all of these cars into my memory banks.”
The Sept/Oct new car introductions were like Christmas to me culminating with the Chicago Auto Show in Jan. I would go nuts looking for new cars one by one as they slowly appeared on the street. I can probably identify every American car built from 1955 until about 1976. After that with the onslaught of foreign cars and the beginning of the malaise era it gets kind of murky
I’m well-aware that it’s hard to understand my opinion of cars from before the ’60s. A lot of people love the cars of this era, so they clearly know something I don’t.
Then again, there’s a lack of appreciation, in some quarters, for the styling of the ’70s/’80s/’90s I love so much.
It really depends on context. I would add that I’m becoming an old soul much sooner than is healthy; I really can’t stand the looks of anything made in the past 10 years.
I think it is easy to understand. We tend to have nostalgia for what existed within our own lifetimes. All 1930’s cars pretty much look alike to me, but not to my father.
I have to disagree with recent metal not being attractive. The 90’s were a write-off regarding much of anything style wise. A few here and there, but overall a dismal decade.
There are some very well designed modern cars, highly attractive. The Mini, the Golf, the Fusion….many out there, really. And while midsized sedans have all become bland copies of each other, I think this decade will be remembered for the styling of crossovers.
BTW I’m more Paul’s age…
As a kid, I did not like the early 50’s Buicks – just too toothy, almost clownlike in appearance. Same for the bloated Cadillacs. Then the 55-57 models came around and my opinion changed. Unfortunately they were followed by this thing – ouch. The trouble with generalizing about the 50’s for those of us who remember the era well is that there are big and small differences. The Loewy Starliner was a beauty and had little to do with what was around it. For a small difference, I think the 58 Chevrolet is better looking than the 57 and by far the cleanest design of the big GM 58’s. A salmon pink Impala coupe first seen at a county fair exhibition sent this nine-year old into a swoon. And of course I loved my paternal grandpa’s 58 Belair.
American cars really caught fire for me in the 60’s. I went to my first car show featuring the 61’s and will never forget first sight of the new Continentals and Thunderbirds, and the 61 GM bubble tops. From then into the early 70’s it was pretty good.
I have to admit that the majority of the mid 70’s through early 90’s cars (especially US models) discussed here don’t ring my bell but the enthusiasm of the OP is catching and I think they’re more fun to read about today than they were to drive then…
I’m a 58 model Gem and yeah I like em, There are a couple of Buick coup’es around here this one and a 56/7 at a used car yard and being summer this one is out regularly as are the 30s models of the local hire company. Glad you noticed the main reason for the stick figure shot Perry I nearly didnt upload that one, be warned theres a Holden show on locally soon so the cohort could be inundated with alternate universe cars.
I’m a 57 model and saw a lot of 50s Yanks in good condition from the USAF base near my Grandparents and holidays in America and Canada in the early to late 60s.
I would imagine that beyond a certain age bracket, every car starts to look the same, I was observing this while looking at a photo of Biscayne Blvd in Miami from around 1923, there were hundred of cars in the photo, couldn’t tell what a single one was, they all just looked like “generic 20’s cars”, and I though of the line, and everyone says about cars today…”they all look the same…”
Many of my coworkers seem to think my Chryslers are from the 70s, which irks me, but they just aren’t familiar with cars from the 60s (and prior). They know my cars are newer than finned cars, but maybe they think fins were a 60s design fad and not 50s?
30 years ago I was a regular customer at a wrecking yard that had been established sometime in the early ’60s, and cars like this were still abundant at the back of the yard. A surprising number of them were pretty much intact and hadn’t been wrecked or badly damaged. The original owner of the yard said that by the late ’60s they were pretty much worthless even in running condition so people just sold them for scrap value. No one wanted the parts from them anymore, but he had lots of room so hadn’t got around to having them crushed. Except of course for the Chevy’s, which had been picked clean regardless of vintage, most of them were still there when the yard was sold and closed down. I’ve often wondered if any were saved, or at least became donor cars for projects like the car pictured. I couldn’t have cared less at the time ( who wants a nailhead?), but I wish I’d paid a little more attention now.
Big 50s car Perry its parked between a Corolla and a Suzuki Swift and hardly overshadows either, I’d swear it has shrunk over time like the 74 Eldorado I saw recently I coulda sworn those were huge back in the day, but it fitted into modern traffic with ease
Yep, blends right in…
Where is it? I can’t even tell it’s there.
I know what he means though. It’s wider but lower and that kind of makes it feel smaller
There are a few models from the 50s that get my attention, like this 56 Packard…not my video…not my car either, sadly
I could grove on one of these too.
+1 the 56 Mopars were a high spot in Detroit’s style wars.The 57 and later cars were a bit too flashy for me.
the 56 Mopars were a high spot in Detroit’s style wars.
Dig deep Gem. I saw an ad on line for a 56 DeSoto that looked like that one except for painted headlight bezels rather than chrome. Supposedly 54,000 original miles. $180,000
Better start doing the lottery Steve!They are beautiful cars though
It all depends on when one’s “car awareness” took shape. Mine was in the mid to late ’60s, so ’58 through about ’61 were the lowest of the low for me. They were still plentiful, but generally run down, rusty, dented, and faded. The people who drove them were not the people that adults wanted me, a child, to have anything to do with, or they were driven by really old people. They were painted salmon colored, or pale chalky green, when bold colors and metallics were coming out on new cars. They were second cars, or third cars, or the ones simply parked and semi-abandoned. It started to change for me when the movie “American Graffiti” came out in the early ’70s, and the cars of that era were shown as shiny and new and desirable.
American Graffiti changed me too,I saw a lot of 50’s cars in good condition in the early 60s.By the early 70s I wanted a lime green ‘Cuda. When I saw American Graffiti it awoke my interest in 50s cars and music.A red 59 Buick Electra coupe driven by an Airman(or more likely an Officer) from the USAF base near my Grandparents was the car that got my brother and myself interested in American cars in the early 60s.
Biggest styling changes in the lifetime of the auto industry in the ’50s and he knows nothing about them. Begone, Varlot!!
Saw a 58 Cadillac in a used car lot today it stands out rather well Do i go back and shoot it when the lot is open or is this all we can cope with for 50s cars now
Shoot it please,it’s a whole lot better looking than the Lincolns and Imperials from 58.
Get pics because it’s a whole lot better looking than Cadillacs from 1978. 🙂
No the new guy banned 50’s cars. This is how rumors start.
Is there a digital camera made today that can stand up to the chrome (oops, I mean CHROME!!!!!) on this car on a sunny day? Simply overpowering.
If there is one car that proves that it was time for Harley Earl to retire, this one was it. Other than the beltline dip, there is almost no sculpting on this body – instead, it is a highly decorated box. The 57-58 Chrysler was almost the opposite – its styling was found in its shape, and the trim only dressed it up a bit, like a necklace on an attractive lady in a black dress.
Even more amazing, this was the cheap-o Buick! Quite a difference from a base 1961 model. Imagine how much more shiny stuff the Roadmaster had stuck on it.
“Imagine how much more shiny stuff the Roadmaster had stuck on it.” Even moreso the ’58 Limited. There’s enough chrome on the dashboard to permanently blind you. It was the “chrome goddess of the ’50s.” Check out the website for a guy named Kris Trexler in L.A. http://www.kingoftheroad.net. Fascinating read and photos of his acquisition and restoration of a Limited Riviera coupe. It’s a window into another automotive world.
Actually, as you went up the Buick food chain in ’58 the models got bigger (the Special was 8″ shorter then the upper models), but the chrome became less garish. The top of the line Limited cost twice what the Special did.
Did we forget the Wells Fargo Edition?
No Hollywood cowboy would ride the range in anything but a Buick Wells Fargo
That grill is full of shiny ice cubes and it kind of looks like the car is scowling.
it kind of looks like the car is scowling.
Many cars look like they are scowling these days. Look at a Charger, for instance. Even the Gen 7 VW Golf looks like it has an attitude problem.
Check out a 59 Buick,that’s scowling! The Dodge cars of the late 50s have a pissed off angry look to equal a Buick.They got the angry look back with the 70 Coronet/Superbee
As a child, I have been told, that I thought the way a car looked was a reflection of the owners personality. Cars like the ’59 Dodge and Buick were “mean people cars”, but the ’49-’51 Mercury was a “grandpa car” because the chrome grill looked like the silver mustache that older men at the time wore