If the Flight Pitch transmission proved to be less than an unqualified success, Buick's other engineering tour de force for 1958 rated as a total disaster. This was the optional Air Poise suspension, actually a Cadillac development, which all General Motors divisions offered that year.
The system consisted of individual air bellows, replacing the conventional coil springs at all four corners. Air was fed to the bellows from a supply tank that maintained sufficient pressure by means of a small, engine-driven compressor.
In theory, Air Poise was supposed to provide a softer and quieter ride than the coil springs, though the claim is questionable. It did, however, keep the car at a constant level stance regardless of load and operating conditions. At least, that's what it did when it worked properly.
Owners soon discovered, however, that Air Poise often developed leaks that sometimes left the car sitting on its axles. Motor Trend complained about excessive wheel-hop, bottoming out on sharp dips, and too much heeling-over in turns -- though the latter applied to conventionally sprung Buicks as well.
At $188, Air Poise never became a particularly popular option, which is just as well, since many buyers found it necessary to convert their cars to coil springs later.
People who road test new cars on behalf of the press tend to be circumspect in their observations, since their access to each year's new models is dependent upon the good will of the manufacturer.
But Don Francisco, writing in Motor Trend, pulled no punches in offering his assessment of the 1958 Buicks: "In 1957, Buick lost their third place sales position to Plymouth," he recalled, adding prophetically that "if the performance of the 1958 Buicks I tested can be used as a yardstick, they are apt to lose another position or two this year."
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