Although tooling had been locked up long before the 1958s went on sale, ornamentation could be altered based on immediate past experience -- and it was. Nickles began the 1958 Buick styling by erasing the controversial trisected backlights, as well as the front-fender portholes, a Buick hallmark for a decade. The sweepspear, another tradition, barely survived, trailing back from the most garish Buick face since 1949.
Traditional series names that dated back to the
1930s, like the Roadmaster, were dropped after 1958.
The 1958 grille cavity contained no fewer than 160 beveled, chrome-plated squares that looked like small kitchen-cabinet knobs. Each reflected light from four different angles to create a "dollar grin" that put Cadillac to shame. Flint marketers came up with a perfect name for this dazzle: "Fashion-Aire Dynastar Grille."
All models were advertised under the "Air Born B-58 Buick" banner, but the heavy face-lift on the 1957 bodies brought added "road hugging weight." It showed.
Specials and Centurys tacked on another 3.4 inches in length, most of it in rear overhang, and senior models grew almost four inches longer to 219.1 overall. Most models covered this added real estate with big, bright, bomb-shaped appliques ahead of redone taillamps (still reverse-slanted and chrome-encrusted).
The 1958 Buick Super series was reduced to a pair
of Riviera hardtops for the year.
Slightly higher fender lines imparted a "finnier" look, while front fenders sprouted gun-sight ornaments and "Vista Vision" quad headlamps beneath gullwing-shaped hoods.
Glitziest of all was the successor to the Roadmaster 75, identified by a dozen chrome rear-fender hash marks instead of shiny, ribbed trim. Officially designated Series 700, it revived an old Buick name, Limited.
To understand the 1958 Limited, one has to bear in mind that it was planned three years before it appeared, at high tide in consumer demand for chrome and flash. That brought it onto the market at exactly the wrong time, though for perfectly valid reasons.
The Limited was meant to revive not only the name but the exclusive luxury of the top-line prewar Buicks. And because it was astutely priced a few hundred dollars below comparable Cadillac Series 62 DeVilles, it seemed like a sensible idea at the time.
The new, top-of-the-line Buick Limited series
debuted in 1958.
Today, it is routinely cited as an example of Detroit's worst period excesses. One stylist used to commute to work in a pink Limited convertible, amusing everyone who shared his parking lot at the Ford Design Center where he labored to create slick, aerodynamic shapes for the 1980s.
The 1958 Limited lived up to its name in sales. Available only as a two- or four-door hardtop and that convertible (which ousted the previous ragtop Super), it drew just under 7,500 buyers.
By the peculiar rules that govern car collecting, that makes it intrinsically appealing today, as does its status as a one-year offering, so Limiteds command rather higher prices than lesser 1958 Buicks, Roadmasters included.
For more on the 1958 Buick, continue to the next page.
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