1958 was the pinnacle of 50s style and the taillights are the best example of how cool the space race era was in Detroit.
The first one has to be an Exner car. Virgil Exner was the creative genius behind the ‘Forward Look’–that was when Chrysler left the stodgy, practical world of automotive style and entered the Space Age.
The 1958 DeSoto is the best example of the Mopar fin era and Exner agreed, because he thought the ’57-8 DeSotos were the top of his game and one of the reasons was the taillight treatments. No argument here–those fins and those lights were the ultimate expression of 50s cool.
The second car from ’58 with incredible taillights was the 1958 Buick. Buicks were near the top of the food chain at GM, so they had to reflect 50s style over every inch of the car and one of the highlights came at the back end.
The canted taillights were fitted at the bottom of the fin, so they were prominent but functional at the same time–it was the perfect combination on an over-the-top Buick.
The third taillight champ from 1958 was the Mercury Parklane. Mercury didn’t settle with one taillight per side–they had a 3-piece light on top as part of the fin, plus they fitted another horizontal light on the massive bumper.
You could spot 1958 Mercury Parklane taillights at night from the newly-launched Sputnik satellite–except Sputnik burned up on reentry in January 1958–but the ’58 Merc taillights will shine on forever.
The fourth taillight champ from 1958 was the Packard Starlight The higher-end 1958 Packards didn’t earn much praise for their styling–neither did its cousin the Studebaker Commander–but the taillights were outstanding.
One fin wasn’t enough for the ’58 Packard Starlight, so they opted for a double-edged sword with two fins. The large vertical taillight was placed at the lower end of the lower fin. The Starlights exited 50s history as the last upscale car of the Packard era because Packard was done in ‘58.
The fifth outstanding taillight in 1958 came from an unlikely source–the Edsel. Edsels were known more for their horse collar grilles, sketchy electronics, and their uncanny ability to give would-be comedians a target in 1958.
The 1958 Edsel Bermuda station wagon was a rare bird in ’58 because most people opted for the four-door sedans, but those who did buy an Edsel long roof were treated to one of the most interesting taillights ever placed on a kiddie-hauler.
The Bermuda’s taillights were massive arrows–the ultimate directional signal lights except for one thing–they pointed in the wrong direction. Nevertheless, the 1958 Edsel Bermuda wagon taillights were the top of the heap that year.
By: Jerry Sutherland
Jerry Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer with a primary focus on the collector car hobby. His work has been published in many outlets and publications, including the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Regina Leader-Post, Vancouver Sun and The Truth About Cars. He is also a regular contributor to Auto Roundup Publications.
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