One of the fundamental principles of a bygone automotive era was annual change.
This time of year (autumn) was an exciting time at car dealerships because they were able to unveil the next year’s car lineup months before a New Year’s Day hangover was even upon them.
The annual style changes for the Big Three was a huge event and this occasion was abundantly evident when automotive heavyweights Ford and General Motors debuted their new car lineups in the fall.
The late Fifties was an era when Ford and Chevy made big style changes that intentionally made last year’s models look like yesterday’s news. MyStarCollectorCar concentrated on two consecutive years of major body style changes that took place in 1958 and 1959 at Ford and the General.
The 1958 Ford was a major style departure from the 1957 Ford, but it was completely unlike the 1959 Ford. The 1958 and ’59 Fords may have shared the newly-introduced concept of 4 headlights but even the extra headlights were wrapped in a different skin because the bright work around the 1959 Ford’s headlights had more of a straight edge design to it- plus the ’59 Ford’s deeper headlight housing hooked the wind more than the ’58.
The front grille on both Fords was completely different from each other wherein the ’58 had more grille and less bumper than a 1959 Ford. The result was more front air access to the radiator on the ’58 Ford because of its grille design.
However, the rear end of the 1958 and ’59 Fords were the source of the greatest style differences between the two cars. Even a modestly gifted car guy afflicted with a sad case of blowhard know-it-all-itis (we all know these clowns) would be able to distinguish the radical changes made by Ford in 1958-59 to the rear ends of their flagship models.
The tail lights are completely different on a 1958 Ford for many reasons because a ’58 Ford has four separate tail lights while the 1959 Ford has two large tail lights. The shape of the taillights was also changed from the 1958 Ford’s elliptical shape to a giant circle on the ’59 Ford over the two years.
The distinctly different styles of the 1958 and ‘59 Fords made them an easy answer in young car guys’ name-that-make-and year contest from this bygone era. The same conclusion is obvious when MyStarCollectorCar takes a look at the 1958 and ’59 Chevys.
The late 50s Chevys are another good example of a time when GM decided to give their most popular model a major sheet metal makeover for two consecutive years (1958-59). The 1958 Chevy was a complete departure from the famous 1955-57 Tri-Five Chevys.
The Tri-Fives were similar in style in many ways to each other, but the 1958 Chevy did not resemble any of its predecessors. The ’58 Chevy had small, subtle fins that were more horizontal than vertical-unlike the large upright fins on the ’57.
The tail lights were circular and owners were judged by the number of tail lights on the back end of the ’58 Chevy. Three tail lights meant owners liked to spend money on their upscale Chevys, while one tail light meant they were likely station wagon owners in a different income bracket-or cheap tightwads with two tail lights.
The 1959 Chevy was a wild-looking car that shared virtually no body style with the ’58 Chevy. Even the 1959 Chevy’s more pronounced horizontal rear fins were unlike the more conservative fins on the ’58 Chevy.
The 1959 Chevy’s body lines made the car look like it was ready for takeoff: a style that GM adopted because of the jet age and space race go-fast vibe of the Fifties.
The 1959 Chevy was not like the ’58 Chevy. The ’59 Chevy looked like a custom ride straight out of the factory. It was a car that would likely have challenged George Barris because the famous builder would be scratching his creative head about how to customize a ’59 Chevy.
When all was said and done, the 1958 Chevy was a good fit for George Barris because of its conventional 1950s style and would have allowed him to flex his creative muscles. The 1959 Chevy was a good fit for George Jetson because of its unconventional 1950s style.
There was one major point of similarity MyStarCollectorCar found in all four cars: these rides were very cool-then and now.
BY: Jim Sutherland
Jim Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer whose work has been published by many major print and online publications. The list includes Calgary Herald, The Truth About Cars, Red Deer Advocate, RPM Magazine, Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, Windsor Star, Vancouver Province, and Post Media Wheels Section.
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