1958’s Finest Four
The previous post of 1957’s most successful automotive designs leads me up next to an interesting year of profound styling change- 1958. Some very pretty models got just plain ugly when you slap 4 headlights on them, but it was a case of ‘monkey-see-monkey-do’ in Detroit that year, as all the car companies followed suit with the bedazzling. So what does that leave us with that was new-for-’58? There’s still quite a bit to choose from, but the custom builders gravitated towards a few cars in particular. Again, lower and mid-tier brands come through with ‘less-is-more’ designs, and some all new sheetmetal arrived from Dearborn as well:
1958 Chevrolet: Hands down, this car was the most popular custom material for year. Why? The Chevy offered a clean body design, and straightforward styling that worked. If you take off a little chrome and lower it, this one made a mighty fine mild custom right out of the gate.
1958 Thunderbird: A surprise customizer’s favorite for ’58, the new four-seater Squarebird was already a radical enough design that merely adding a bold paint job was enough to turn heads. The Bird was the choice ride of Larry Watson, who took his new car and really accentuated all the factory lines in paint to create the unique ‘panel’ look (along with Dick Jackson’s ’58 Thunderbird, which is in very similar style).
1958 Pontiac: The Buick, Olds and Cadillac all have a few elements going for them in 1958, but in the end their designs suffered from a little too much bulk and far too busy brightwork. However, besides the Chevrolet there was one other GM offering that year that found it’s way in the little pages. The Pontiac offered the same Chevy advantages of needing only lowering and some chrome removal to look great. This car also lent it’s self to a panel paint job quite well.
1958 Ford: The humble Ford pulls it off again this year, while the Mercury and Lincoln offerings tried a little too hard to offer prestigious styling and ended up feeling busy. While not quite as popular as the Chevy or Thunderbird for customizing, standard models like the Ranchero and 2 door hardtop proved that the Ford’s could be a cool choice too.
(I’m sorry to leave Mopar out this time around, but the ’58 Plymouth was a refresh, and although the Dodge and Chrysler models weren’t all bad looking, they were seldom customized in the late 50s.)