(Found In) Tresle Glen (Oakland, California): 1959 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight Holiday Hardtop Sedan

img_2284 Although the tidal change that the 1959 General Motors Full Sized line was, perhaps no marque needed that change more than Oldsmobile. The brand had gone from offering the most conservative offerings in 1957 to the most derided offerings for 1958.

Mocking came in the form of musical notes written on the chrome trim in comics of the period, mocking the excessive levels of trim of the loving motorboats on offer from Lansing that year. Fortelling a renewed appreciation for simplicity and decorum, the 1959 Oldsmobile line pointed in the direction of a series of ever increasingly elegant offerings for middle class buyers for the next decade.
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(Found In) The Tenderloin (San Francisco, California): 1959 Cadillac Series 62 4 Window Hardtop Sedan

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Whether you consider the 1959 Cadillac a zeitgeist or stereotype on wheels; you’re right. No other car sums up the last theatrical breath of the middle decade of the last century to so many eyes like the cream crop cars from General Motors that paraded their proud feathers worldwide starting in the fall of 1958.

What they held, what they hid, was confidence and charisma in the absolutely ordinary. Beyond the wildness that might have been expected, they didn’t take as much of a risk as rivals that survived the decade did.

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(Found In) Lone Mountain (San Francisco, California): 1959 Mercury Park Lane Cruiser 4 Door Hardtop Sedan

image (11).jpegWe’ve discussed before how choosing the name Mercury for its middle class brand might have been FordMoCo’s biggest mistake. Selecting the celestial body known to astrologically put the most mix-ups in our lives was just right for conjuring up a make full of surprises and shadows.

This Mercury Retrograde we once again trace back to the heady times of 1959, from the alternate perspective of a top of the line Park Lane, all dressed in Black. Different in mission and purpose than the bare bones Monterey, we’ll see how it was supposed to be a giant killer and a bridge to bigger things, but had to retrace its steps under the age of McNamara.

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(Found In) Lone Mountain (San Francisco, California): 1959 Mercury Monterey 2 Door Hardtop Coupe

photo-2The superstitions around “Mercury Retrograde” are perceived as explanations for communication and travel gone awry. Maybe that was the first mistake Ford made; naming their middle brand Mercury in the first place. For every two steps forward the brand made, it seemingly made two steps back.

They always ended up in the same place: being a Fancy Ford. Before it gave up the ghost and entered another period of review, the 1959 Mercury models tried to right any wrongs that prevented its individualized success on the medium car market.
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(Found In) Fair Oaks (San Mateo County, California): 1959 Edsel Corsair 4 Door Sedan

24018417839_021f4fb5a0_kSo much of the narrative attention given to the Edsel brand is given to the first year cars. With high expectations and projections of greatness, the ultimate failure to meet the mark sours the story of the whole brand.

It decidedly makes the 1959 versions a case of “why bother?” Indeed, the Edsel was a Ford in a gaudier suit when Ford could ill afford the expense of tailoring a new set of clothes for an old body. One would also have to look at the case of saving face and not throwing in the towel as well. The 1959 Edsel in Ranger and Corsair guise were the inevitable placeholders before the eventual march off into oblivion.

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(Found In) St. Johns (Portland, Oregon): 1959 Buick LeSabre 4 Door Sedan

12357975_10153180938342201_1941896055_n“Challenge Accepted” was the vow taken on by General Motors stylists. They made that commitment when they saw the newly wedge shaped and befinned second wave of Forward Look Chryslers starting to trickle out of Highland Park factories in September of 1956. The #1 manufacturer of motor vehicles in the world was not about to willingly surrender the design leadership crown to a competitor.

In a stroke of circumstance and marketplace upheaval, Buick, of all brands, became the purest expression of what General Motors stylists desired to do. Ready to leave the bulging behemoth persona behind, Buick shed as many ties to their recent past with their 1959 models. Rivaling the 1959 Cadillac for zeitgeist car of the year, the Buick’s influence on the full GM line truly makes it the leader in all the fresh efforts from GM that year.

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(Found In) Lower Bottoms (West Oakland) – 1959 Ford Fairlane 500 Club Victoria 2 Door Hardtop

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Only in 1959 would this be considered the most conservative mainstream automotive choice. But in a field that offered the last of the Suddenly, It’s 1960! Plymouths and the Batwing Chevrolet, the Full sized Fords found themselves in a similar position to the 1957 Chevrolet.

They came to the market upright, with most of the teething problems from previous seasons mostly filtered out. In the year reeling from a decade of even more debaucherous vehicular access (some of them still in the Ford Extended Family showrooms), the 1959 Ford was an automotive Alka-seltzer that would wind up walking away with the ultimate sales prize by the end of the year.

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