This 1958 Sport Coupe represents Belvedere's last season as Plymouth's top full-line series.

1958 Plymouth Belvedere

Thanks to the start of national economic recession in late 1957, Detroit retrenched much more in 1958 than it had in 1956. Overall industry production was off 31 percent, but Plymouth slumped 44 percent, due partly to deteriorating quality control. Styling changes on the 1958 Plymouth Belvedere were confined to a simpler grille, the expected "four-eye" headlamps, shorter taillamps that didn't completely fill their fin cavities, and the usual trim shuffles.

The six-cylinder stood pat, while the 318-cubic-inch V-8 was up to 225 horsepower standard, 250 horsepower with four-barrel carburetion, and 290 horsepower with dual quads. The last was limited to Fury, but an even bigger V-8 was available across the board. This was the new 350-cubic-inch "Golden Commando" (4.06 × 3.38), packing 305 horsepower with 10.0:1 compression and dual quads or 315 horsepower with Bendix "Electrojector" fuel injection. The latter found few takers at $500, though, and reliability troubles prompted a recall for conversion to 305-horsepower form.

For 1959, Belvedere was relegated to mid-pack status as Fury became Plymouth's top-line series, with a new Sport Fury convertible and hardtop coupe substituting for the previous limited edition. It was, perhaps, a sign of the times. Chevy did likewise with its Bel Air/Impala, Pontiac with its Star Chief/Bonneville.

But the Belvedere name would hang on all the way through 1969. It even enjoyed a brief resurgence when Plymouth badge-engineered its slow-selling 1962-64 standards into a "new" intermediate line for 1965. Most memorable of this generation were the hot, bucket-seat Belvedere GTX of 1967 and the rare, hemi-powered altereds built for drag racing. They were a far cry from that 1951 hardtop. But that, as they say, is another story.

To find out why the Belvedere name may have been chosen, keep reading on the next page.

For more information on cars, see: