1958 Buick Limited Ends An Era
The 1958 Buick Limited ended an era. Three body styles comprised the line: Riviera sedan, Riviera coupe, and convertible. Of the three models, the four-door version easily outsold the others. Which isn’t saying much.
Even the Imperial, itself encountering heavy weather in 1958, outsold the Limited by a margin of nearly two to one. In a status-conscious society like America in the Fifties, it may simply have been unrealistic to try to sell a car with a medium-priced nameplate -- whatever its merits -- at prices higher than those of the established luxury marquees.
That aside, all Buicks sold poorly in 1958, resulting in a fifth place finish in the model year production race, one notch lower than the year before.
Given all the factors -- the state of the economy, the Limited’s very high price, Buick’s somewhat tarnished reputation, and the styling excesses of the 1958 models -- it hardly comes as a surprise that this big, opulent series lasted for only one season.
Granted, the Electra 225 debuted for 1959 and it was a big car -- five inches longer bumper-to-bumper than the garden variety Electra. But it simply wasn’t in the same league as the Limited, nor in the same price class. Model for model, the “Deuce and a Quarter” cost nearly $800 less than the cheapest Cadillac.
The Limited marked the end of an era at Buick. Harley Earl, GM’s styling director for more than 30 years, retired that year. So did corporate president Harlow Curtice, followed shortly thereafter by Buick chief Ed Ragsdale. A new team, with a new outlook, would be responsible for guiding General Motors’ oldest division successfully into the Sixties.