There’s plenty that can be said about the 1958 Buick models. This is a given, given how much actual car each 1958 Buick actually is. The massive visual presence of these cars signify the last hurrah of the visual weight that was common with General Motors styling under the leadership of Harley Earl.
Bemoaned for their bric-a-brac at the time, they serve as perfect portraits into the late 1950’s zeitgeist of flash and flamboyance today. No shrinking violet (and how could they truly be?) for better or worse, they’re perfect totems to rampant corporate confidence and the hubris that often brings.
That hubris extended to some technological overreaching under the skin. With that overzealous expansion in new features came diminished quality control that made the 1958 Buicks the brunt of a bunch of jokes and the beacon of disdain for Buick loyalists. The flaws went far beyond the 160 individual cringe inducing orbs of the “Dynastar Grille” smile and the removal of traditional portholes.
Such half baked ideas such as Air Poise Suspension and the Triple Turbine Dynaflow transmissions typically disappointed owners once the flaws of the not so fully vetted systems dealt with real world conditions. Thankfully, finned aluminum brake drums did become standard across the board to bring these 2+ Ton behemoths down from their rather impressive straight line performance capabilities thanks to rather lively action courtesy of the Nailhead V8, sporting 300 horsepower under the “Banker’s Hot Rod” Century model.
When all was said and done, the bloom started to fall from the rose. Although equally porcine in presentation, Oldsmobile surged ahead of Buick for 4th place in the industry totals as the 1958 Model year drew to a close. These fabulously flamboyant flights of fancy from Flint, Michigan so clearly showed what could happen in the short span between plans and actualization. A sharp recession and more conservation orientated consumer tastes didn’t help the “Airborne” B-58 Buicks either.
It was a decided learning moment for Buick. Although the planned 1959 retaliation to Chrysler’s Forward Look beauties took the Buick line to a ferocious finale of the 1950’s, a lesson of country club conformist conservatism began to creep and settle into Buick’s image as the 1960’s got underway. It’s an image for better or worse that Buick clings to today. Should we blame or bless the 1958 Buick for setting us down that path? Depends on how you handle flamboyance and fanciful details in your motor vehicle choices.