As they reached the end of the line, for a few decades at least, the 1957 and 1958 Buick Roadmasters made several changes in the hopes of reviving market interest.
A complete redesign once again took place for 1957, and the Roadmaster boasted a new 363.5-cubic-inch engine, rated at an even 300 horsepower. But the styling, as Dunham and Gustin have commented in their excellent Buick history, was "disastrous."
Paraphrasing a Plymouth ad, one Buick executive commented wryly, "Suddenly, it's 1949!" Oddly enough, Harlow Curtice -- usually an excellent judge in such matters -- reportedly "loved" the '57 Buicks.
On the plus side, a new ball-joint suspension system improved handling somewhat, but the big Buicks still wallowed through the turns. And Ed Ragsdale, general manager since 1956, didn't help matters any. Asked at a news conference about the big Buick's excessive fuel consumption, he innocently replied, "Well, we have to keep the gas companies happy."
Buick slipped back to fourth place that year -- with worse news yet to come.
There were several mechanical changes for 1958. New brakes, cast iron liners in aluminum drums, proved to be the best in the industry. The optional air suspension, however, was a nightmare (as it was for everyone else), and by 1964 the highly touted new "Flight Pitch" Dynaflow transmission would be abandoned as too complicated.
In developing a "face-lift" for 1958 an attempt was made to disguise 1957's unpopular styling by larding on the chrome, thus creating a sort of jukebox effect. The Limited series was revived, taking the form this time of a Roadmaster with its rear deck extended eight inches, its long fenders adorned with three sets of gaudy chrome-plated chevrons.
Ragsdale called the 1958 Buicks "Dazzling." The public, however, wasn't dazzled. With an extra downward shove from that year's recession, sales fell by 37 percent, and Buick found itself this time in fifth place.
Once again there would be a complete restyling for 1959, and this time even the names of the various series would be changed. No longer would there be a big Buick known as the Roadmaster.
Not, that is, until 1991. Continue to the next page to learn more about the 1991 Roadmaster.
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