Curbside Classic New Year's Greetings From San Francisco Edition: 1958 Plymouth

Paul Niedermeyer
by Paul Niedermeyer

I could spend three life-times finding Curbside Classics on the streets of San Francisco. Last time here, before I started this series, I found a running Fiat 600 Multipla parked on the street. Does that give you a fair idea of the potential? On the other hand, I get annoyed by the city’s traffic and parking, so I don’t spend anymore time then necessary there. But on New Year’s Eve morning, we bopped into an almost dead town for some time at Fort Mason and the waterfront. I wasn’t really looking to shoot anything, but then there it was, sitting in front of a purple building. For a moment, I thought I might have found a very elusive ’57 model, but until that appears somewhere, this ’58 will do, quite well.

I’ll be honest: I don’t have the time to do a proper write-up on the groundbreaking ’57 predecessor to this car right now, while my hosts sit in the other room and dinner is almost ready. So it’s just as well that its a ’58; we’ll save it for later, and just dig this bat-winged wonder.

The basic story is pretty well known: Chrysler was getting hurt in the early fifties for its stodgy, boxy styling. They hired the flamboyant Virgil Exner to turn things around, which started to come to fruition with the ’55 models and, and hit its zenith with the “Suddenly It’s 1960” models for ’57. These were radically low, long and wide for their time, and caught GM with their pants down. The illustrious ’59 GM models are a direct response to Exner’s ’57s.

Chrysler suffered the same fate in ’57 that Studebaker did in 1953 with its radical new cars: abysmal build quality. The ’57s were notorious leakers, from all quarters. Rust followed in short order. Chrysler’s long-cultivated rep for superior build quality was washed away.

The ’58s were a distinct improvement, but sales took a huge hit, a combination of the problematic ’57s and the recession of 1958. Chrysler suffered for years, until its (short lived) renaissance in the mid-late sixties.

Dinner is almost ready, and I need to load up these pictures; so maybe some of you will fill in any details I left out. But I needed to share this bitching Plymouth stat; so here it is, and a Happy New Year of Curbside Classicking with you all! Your comments and support are my inspiration; thank you for helping me to have the funnest year in a long time. I’m the luckiest guy around: I get to live out my childhood fantasy of gazing at old cars and ruminating on them. Thank you all, and I’ve got even more goodies in store for 2010!

Paul Niedermeyer
Paul Niedermeyer

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  • Mdh5169 Mdh5169 on Apr 11, 2011

    It has since been painted. It ia all original with only 85K original miles. It is a numbers matching car. How do I know all this...I just bought this car over the weekend. I am planning to clean up and redo the interior as well as some minor mechanical. Long term who knows.... I think these cars are either "love it or hate it". Personally ever since I watched "Christine" I can't get enough of them and am happy to own this one.

  • Mdh5169 Mdh5169 on Mar 26, 2012

    Well its been about a year so I thought I would update. Still have the car. It's had the bumpers straightened and rechromed. The interior has been completely done. New cocker wide white walls and suspension work. Everything on the car works and its nice driver/weekend show quality. Out of all my toys this one seems to get the most attention and compliments... If I could download some pics I would but don't see any option too. I absolutely love this car and could never see selling it! Gotta love the classics!!

    • Jim Sutherland Jim Sutherland on Mar 26, 2012

      If you are interested,we would like to do a story on your car. We can be reached at The Exner fin cars are not plentiful and are always interesting stories.

  • Tsarcasm No, Japan only. Life costs by Rank:#1 - House (150k+)#2 - Education (30k+)#3 - Automobile (30k+) why waste hard earned money in inferior crap => Korean, Chinese, and American cars are trash. a toyota or honda will last twice as long.
  • Tassos In the 90s we hired a former PhD student and friend of mine, who 'worked' at GM "Research" labs, to come work for us as a 'temp' lecturer and get paid extra. He had no objection from GM, came during the day (around 2 PM), two hours drive round trip, plus the 1.5 hour lecture, twice weekly. (basically he goofed off two entire afternoons out of the five) He told me they gave him a different model new car every month, everything (even gas) paid. Instead of him paying parking, I told him to give me the cars and I drove them for those 90 mins, did my shopping etc. Almost ALL sucked, except the Eldo coupe with the Northstar. That was a nice engine with plenty of power (by 90s standards). One time they gave him the accursed Caddy Catera, which was as fun driving as having sex with a fish, AND to make it worse, the driver's door handle broke and my friend told me GM had to pay an arm and a leg to fix it, needed to replace almost the whole damned door!
  • 3-On-The-Tree I only buy Toyota cars. But if the Chinese cars are cheap people will buy them. They don’t care about the above issues that were stated in this forum.
  • Tassos Ford models are like dumb Hollywood movies. The original is far better than their god damned sequels. This was true of the Mustang vs the II, AND the Capri vs its second gen, and their BEV PORKER atrocities many decades later
  • Jeff I would not buy a Chinese car with the current global situation with Taiwan and Ukraine but I believe eventually China will become the number 1 producer of vehicles globally. Lou brought up a valid point that much of the content of new vehicles has components made in China. Even many of the tires that are sold are made in China. Try buying a small appliance or electronics that are not made in China. Many of the electric motors that go in power reclining furniture are made in China. Many auto parts especially replacement parts are made in China.