While the 1957 Fords are considered by many to be among the sharpest lookers to have ever come out of Dearborn, lots of the same critics feel that everything went wrong with the following year's products.
For 1958, a simulated scoop was inset into the hood. Quad headlights sprouted over a garish, protruding, open-mouth grille/bumper assembly. At the rear was a departure from what had, in a few short years, become a traditional Ford look: Four oval taillights -- two to a side within large, bright moldings -- took the place of two red circles.
However, Ford's big news for 1958 was the introduction of a new family of V-8 engines. While a 145-horsepower Mileage Maker Six again appeared in all models as the base engine, V-8 wagons bypassed the 292 Y-block and went directly to this new generation of show-stealing engines.
Developed jointly between the Ford and Edsel divisions, it was known to both mechanics and future engine builders as the "FE." The "baby bear" of the family displaced 332 cubic inches and used a two-barrel intake to produce 240 horsepower. Its use was restricted to wagons. A generally available four-barrel version made 265 horsepower. (In a Motor Life test, a nearly 4,000-pound Country Squire with this engine, automatic transmission, and 2.91:1 axle did the 0-60-mph run in 12.7 seconds.)
However, the big gun was the "Interceptor 352 Special," advertised as belting out a rather healthy 300 horsepower from its 352 cubic inches, four-pot carb, and high 10.2:1 compression ratio.
The transmission roster grew, too, with the addition of Cruise-O-Matic, a more flexible three-speed matched to a numerically lower axle ratio for the sake of fuel economy. Its use was limited to the two most-powerful V-8s. The three-speed stick, overdrive, and Fordomatic all remained available.
If that wasn't enough new engineering for one year, there was this: Ford-Aire, a very complicated air-suspension setup that was Ford's attempt to join the industrywide fascination with such systems that reached its peak in 1958. Much of the testing and marketing of this factory-supplied "load-leveler" had been for the station wagon market, with projections that up to 10 percent of Country Squire owners would opt for it. The marketers were wrong.
In addition to the new basic styling cues, station wagons featured their own version of the "Slipstream" roof that appeared on all fixed-top Fords. The longitudinal "ribs" impressed into the top weren't just decorative; they added strength to the roof stamping.
Another subtle change was a switch to ratchet-style liftgate supports in lieu of the screw-lock system used in 1957. Squires displayed a slight alteration in their side trim, with a dip in the maple-grain framing carried into the rear doors. In back, the simulated wood sat lower but stretched out beyond the tailgate.
Unfortunately, all those new selling points ran up against a recession that hit America in the pocketbook in 1958. Car sales were off by as much as 60 percent for some brands. Ford was down by 40 percent, which meant that all models, except the newly launched four-passenger Thunderbird suffered declines.
A total of 184,613 station wagons, including 15,020 Country Squires, rolled off the Ford assembly lines. The retreat was sufficient to let Chevrolet pass Ford in wagon production for the model year, albeit by only 2,450 cars.
Learn about the 1959 Ford Country Squire on the next page.
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