By on April 23, 2016

1958 Buick

If 1958 wasn’t the peak of automotive glitz and excess, it was damn close to it.

American automakers, emboldened by a never-ending postwar buying spree, heaped more chrome and new technology onto their models that year than ever before. Uplevel models — Lincoln, Buick and Olds, especially — were the worst offenders, somehow managing to make themselves look 1,000 pounds heavier than their tasteful ’57 predecessors.

Chrysler Corporation vehicles opted for minor updates to their radical 1957 restyle, a status quo that lasted until 1960.

However, lurking underneath some these gleaming behemoths was an Achilles heel that didn’t reveal itself until the going got rough. A lot of new weight rode atop coil springs that year, or in the case of Buick, newfangled airbag cushions.

Tom McCahill, the famed automotive journalist from Mechanix Illustrated, was a big fan of Chrysler’s front torsion bar suspension, and took deep pleasure in calling out other automakers for their weak legs.

Armed with a folksy vocabulary (about 90 percent metaphors and similes), McCahill narrated a 1958 suspension test that may or may not be a legit infomercial for Chrysler Corporation products. McCahill, who looks like he spends half of his life at a racetrack, clearly enjoys the brutal torture test, which leads to catastrophic rear suspension failure on several models.

GM and Ford executives no doubt had a few poison martinis ready for the guy after this film came out.

We apologize for the graininess of the dated clips, but the information in it gets across just fine. Speed and handling tests are in Part 1, with the suspension-snapping action in Part 2. Enjoy watching the trunk and rear doors fly open on the Caddy after both rear shock absorber mounts break loose.

[Image: JOHN LLOYD/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)]

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106 Comments on “Watch (Most of) These 1958 Sedans Destroy Their Suspensions...”


  • avatar
    dwford

    Just imagine testing today’s midsize sedans on some offered course. Even back then were drivers taking regular sedans off road like that?

    • 0 avatar

      Plastic air dams, broken plastic air dams EVERYWHERE!

      I’d love to see any ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ try that last course. Probably have a bent core support and cracked radiator over the first hump.

      • 0 avatar
        John

        A serious problem with modern cars is aluminum oil pans. Hit a rock with a steel pan, if you’re lucky, you get a dented pan. Hit a rock with an aluminum pan – you’ll likely need a new engine due to sudden and catastrophic loss of oil pressure.

        • 0 avatar
          Driver8

          MBQ Golf pans are plastic, or so I’ve heard.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al From 'Murica

            Ford 2.7 has a plastic oil pan. I was surprised when I was under mine.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            Which is why even the most basic offroad 4×4 package on pickups has a skid plate over (under?) the oil pan.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Protecting the oil pan, front differential, transfer case, gas tank and rear differential.

            Every “real” off-roader I owned, new or used, always had skid plates, even our 2012 Grand Cherokee.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          I’ve been in a Lada 2107 when it hit a deep enough pothole for the front end to dip down and the oilpan to kiss the pavement. Sounded truly awful, but further inspection revealed nothing worse than a scuff on the stupid-thick steel oilpan. Ladas, gotta love ’em!

    • 0 avatar
      amca

      Roads back then were often pretty bad – 60 years of paving work has gotten us used to better. People did have to drive roads like that back then, far more often than we do today.

      For this same reason, cars back then also had way more ground clearance. As an illustration, I’ve got a steep driveway. When I bought the house, I thought my lowered, customized ’48 Cadillac would never make it. Even drastically lowered, it has no trouble. But my ’14 Audi A8 scrapes its nose every time. The Audi is a product of our aerodynamic well-paved modern world. The Cadillac, by comparison, is practically an off-roader.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        The Caltrans standard for roads and driveways was based on the clearance needed for a 1959 Pontiac Bonneville coupe. That car had the longest rear overhang of any mass produced American car, and in addition to upper rear fins, it had lower rear fins that made it very difficult to design for.

        I remember one Caltrans engineer wondering why that standard was still used, and in rebuilding a driveway, used a design exception for a steeper design. The property owner couldn’t get his motorhome up or down that driveway without taking off his trailer hitch every time, and complained. Caltrans had to rebuild the driveway to “Bonneville” standard.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      A very good question, and I agree that in general it wouldn’t go well. I think the last generation of regular family sedans with a respectable and practical amount of ground clearance was the 90s: take a look at a 97-01 Camry or 95-99 Maxima, they look to have the same clearance as something like a Rav4 or CRV these days, and in front actually have more curb-clearance than something like a chin-scrapping Equinox/Traverse. My cousin in Siberia basically rally races his beaten up ’92 Toyota Corona to work every day, from his quiet little village across fields on dirt roads to the nearby city of Bisyk. Aside from rattling struts (he says he gave up on replacing them), the car is holding up great suspension and body-integrity wise. We had 6 people in the car to go fishing, even then going through pretty deep mud puddles, we only scraped bottom once.

      An interesting addition/comparison to this late-50s American piece is a factory video from the Gorkovskiy factory in Russia (GAZ), for the then-new Volga GAZ-24. The mud-road testing that starts at 4:08 is pretty extreme. And it’s impressive that they put their Volga toe to toe with a fintail Benz no less.

      linkhttps://youtu.be/g9AqXL8Pg3E?list=LLdniHmzt3RgiCInd0ec9myg&t=248

      Likewise an “AvotExport” video (Soviet vehicle export sales) about the new ZAZ-966 Zaporozhets, with some trail driving and even a river crossing @1:54:

      https://youtu.be/2H4thRFnfdk?t=114

      believe me, for Soviet drivers, this wasn’t just BS salesmanship fluff, people really needed that capability to get around for what passed for “roads” in most of the country.

  • avatar
    True_Blue

    Love the F-104 at the end. One of my favorite Century fighters.

  • avatar
    LIKE TTAC.COM ON FACEBOOK

    “It corners as flat as a bookkeeper’s chest!”

    How did they get that one past the censors in 1958?

    • 0 avatar
      amca

      Everyone back then knew a bookkeeper was a sad excuse for a woman – that’s why she was working. Couldn’t bag a man, not with that bust. That was a simple truth back then. Nothing that would require censoring.

      Imagine Tom McCahill around the office, coming back in after a three martini steak lunch. The girls in the office all knew it was time to make yourself scarce if you didn’t like have your ass patted.

    • 0 avatar
      Slocum

      In 1958 they meant a male bookkeeper who had a desk job and therefore no pecs (and needed the Charles Atlas program):

      http://www.stumptownblogger.com/2009/09/dont-get-sand-kicked-in-your-face-buy-the-charles-atlas-plan.html

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        Nah… this was the era in Sci-Fi movies of the square-shouldered, lab coated male scientist frustratedly asking his unsmitten but buxom female coworker: “Are you a Scientist or a Woman?!”

        So I’m gonna go with amca’s explanation.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    “McCahill narrated a 1958 suspension test that may or may not be a legit infomercial for Chrysler Corporation products.”

    Hard to doubt that.

    The Mopar suspensions were undeniably tough and their cars handled and maneuvered well; GM was going for ride comfort and thus the switch to coil spring suspensions in 1958.

    While this “infomercial” sings Mopar’s praises, the buyers went with GM in 1958 as the General (Oldsmobile, Buick & Cadillac) out sold Chrysler (Chrysler & Imperial) by about 8 to 1. Even Lincoln/Mercury almost doubled the Chrysler & Imperial sales that year.

    Gotta admit I love the Cadillac’s back doors and trunk lid flying open; great way to get ride of unwanted passengers and their luggage!

    • 0 avatar
      Geekcarlover

      Comfort, perceived or real, won. This was the beginning of a generation of cars that made the driver more and more disconnected from the road. Reaching a peak in the ’70s with the overstuffed sofa on a waterbed feeling woozmobiles.

    • 0 avatar
      r plaut

      I was a dumb teenager during those times (late 1950s) and we “tested” acceleration of these (or similar) models on a regular basis. Anything with a torque-flite (push button) transmission and a 4 barrel carburetor was usually the fastest off-the-line and up to the middle of the second gear’s run. That was one fast shifting transmission. However, the GM model’s larger displacement (389 and 394 cu in verses the Desoto Fireflite’s 341 cu in) usually resulted in the GM reeling us back in at speed. A Chrysler New Yorker’s bigger engine would have been even more impressive (as the video seems to show).

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      Did Imperials have the legendarily tough frame at this point (so tough it was banned from demo derbies!) or did that come a bit later?

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        Wiki say:

        “The 1964-1966 Chrysler Imperial achieved near-legendary status for its crashworthiness, and is still banned from most derby events.”

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demolition_derby#Vehicles

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          The 1957-1966 Imperials all had the overbuilt body on frame construction. They’re almost built like a unit-body car sitting on a full frame, leading to double the strength of any other car. The IIHS would not have used a 1958 Imperial to demonstrate the safety of a modern sedan, like they did with a repainted ’59 Chevrolet.

    • 0 avatar

      rpol35,

      ChryCo’s 1958 sales sucked because the 1957 cars sucked. Rushed to market a year early, build quality was poor. They were known to rust on the showroom floor. The ’58s were vastly improved but potential buyers were gunshy.

      http://www.allpar.com/history/chrysler-years/1957.html

      http://www.allpar.com/history/chrysler-years/1958.html

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Torsion bars were pretty advanced for the time, but Chrysler had problems with defects in the earliest bars on ’57 models. They got that straightened out very quickly, and I wouldn’t bet against these films being used to reassure the public.

      Too bad there were no films to reassure the public that their Chryslers weren’t going to rust out in a couple years. There was rust on ’57 models as delivered to dealers. There are very few big Chryslers left from the ’57-’59 era, they rusted out very quickly. That was the beginning of Chrysler’s bad reputation for quality.

      • 0 avatar
        Pig_Iron

        I saw broken ones right through the 80s. While not a common failure, the one’s I observed occurred near the fixed end. The surface of the fracture was curved, like the kind I’ve seen on some snapped glass rods.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    Tom McCahill! I remember reading a 1967 preview test of the 1968 Pontiac Bonneville in a collection of these that my Dad has in the basement.

    Can someone “chime” in and educate the B&B on why, when the Feds mandated locking steering column, the automakers, for an audible key warning, rigged up the ignition relays to vibrate, creating a noise in the car that, to the aforementioned writer, sounded like “a hillside full of nauseous goats?” (And when did they switch to a separate buzzer, and why?)

    I’ve always been sensitive to loud noises, but that sound in my Mom’s 1971 Cutlass scared the absolute freakin’ HELL out of me! Worse, at one point as the car aged, the thing would occasionally go off WITHOUT the key in the ignition, so I never knew if the thing would go off or not; jiggling the switch would silence it (and my screams), and we learned the trick to silence ALL GM key warnings on those switches probably up until the first ones which could be shut off in an accident: make sure that the key was at least partially pulled-out. This unlike Fords or Chryslers, for two, which would alert if just the tip of the key was inserted, AND if the engine was running!

    Finally got over that irrational fear of the buzzers when I was around ten. Of course, my first car, a ’78 Cutlass, had TWO buzzers, a soft one for the seat belts, and one that could wake the dead for the key! BOTH would sound at once if you started the car, unbelted, with the door open!

    (Weird story with my aunt’s 1983 Olds Firenza hatch — tinted glass the only option — with 4-speed stick. The key buzzer, which was the same for the belts, was wired BACKWARDS, so it would drone when the door was CLOSED and the key in the ignition!)

    • 0 avatar
      Lack Thereof

      Probably because for a period of time it was cheaper than an actual purpose-made buzzer. Also typical management style:

      *Mandate is that features X Y and Z must have a buzzer
      *Teams responsible for X, Y and Z are each separately directed to integrate buzzer into their parts
      *They each do so in a way that ignores all other parts of the car, using components already installed if possible.

      Your post reminded me of the warning buzzer gag from Kentucky Fried Movie

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Related question – when did they STOP mandating some sort of lock? Saab did not do locking steering columns back in the day, they locked the gear lever in reverse instead. But my ’11 BMW locks nothing, nor does my ’16 2-series. Earlier e9X 3-series did have an electric column lock, but by ’11 they had done away with it. I think it happened with the LCI refresh in ’09.

      I’m guessing the Feds decided that built in immobilizers were enough?

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        My 2013 Accord with the keyless start has an electronic solenoid that activates when the power is turned on or off, locking the column. A 2015 Accord I had as an overnight loaner (PDR and detailing) didn’t.

        Yet, “Accord”-ing to the 2016 O/M, US Hondas don’t get that lock, but Canada cars do! (Kind of like the “Low Washer Fluid” warning lights that Transport Canada must mandate.)

        So my guess is that it’s not for simple savings, or none of the cars would have the lock, as I assume that there’s more than a handful of specific parts necessary to accommodate the difference.

        (As for the washer fluid lights, does BMW have one on its latest cars in the US? If not, it’s ironic that you have to lift the hood to check that, yet need to rely on a computer to check the oil!)

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Not a light, a graphic depiction of the washer spray with a “washer fluid low” message on the info display. And you can’t check it by opening the hood, because all you can see under the hood is the filler neck. The washer fluid bottle is buried under the fender somewhere.

          I trust the computer to check the oil more than I trust myself.

    • 0 avatar
      cbrworm

      I don’t remember exactly, but I do remember that our cars in the early 70’s had a number of distinct buzzers for each failure or warning condition and with the key on/engine off, or for a few seconds after a start they would all buzz in a horrid ensemble. I also remember that we added an additional, louder oil pressure buzzer and warning light after losing an engine (Olds 455 FWD Unitized powertrain) due to an oil pressure drop that didn’t light the factory idiot light – at about 30K miles and two years old.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    That Caddy would not have made a good mafia car, bodies flying out of the trunk and the Don’s rear door swinging open like that!

  • avatar
    Joss

    Was the Fedora a head airbag?

    Hey me no engineer but I’d guess most of today’s front drive/awd systems would need pricey repairs after these tests.

    • 0 avatar
      Geekcarlover

      I’d be nervous taking a lot of contemporary Jeep vehicles through this test.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      People actually wore hats in the 1950s – even men! Tom McCahill wore one because it covered his large bald spot.

      • 0 avatar
        "scarey"

        “Bald spot” was being very kind. He had fringe around his ears and his collar line in the back.
        I was a Tom McCahill fan, reading his articles religiously along with the NASCAR news in the late 50s on in Mechanix Illustrated, an under appreciated mag.
        BTW, I had never heard his voice before. Thanks for posting this.
        Tom was a hunter, and gave extra credit to cars capable of carrying his shotguns and hunting dogs in style.
        I miss reading his way with words and his humor.

    • 0 avatar
      Geekcarlover

      Hats were mandatory if this was a Chrysler promo film. I believe they were still being designed with the rule that the doors and interior had to be high enough for a man to enter and exit without removing his hat.

      • 0 avatar
        anomaly149

        I wish cars were like this still

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          rust-prone, floaty, unreliable junk?

          • 0 avatar
            anomaly149

            I was referring to hat height interiors, but there’s something inescapably romantic about cars being more Jaguar than Toyota.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Here’s an ’59 DeSoto ad that seems to contradict that hat-height priority. It claims a taller seat cushion so you don’t feel like you’re “sitting in a rowboat”.

            http://tinyurl.com/j6l9wbr

            This would seem to further limit hatroom given a standard roof height. The hatted gent doesn’t appear to have much room to un-slouch even with his small Mediterranean frame.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        “Hat space” is also what led to the Marlin having such a weird roofline. according to legend, the Marlin was supposed to have a similar fastback profile as the Charger, but (CEO) Roy Abernethy insisted that he be able to sit in the back seat with his hat on. He was rather tall.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          Hats – what a worthless accessory. Goodbye and good riddance.

          • 0 avatar
            GS 455

            Tell that to all the hipsters wearing fedoras today.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Must be a coastal phenomenon. Here in Flyover we only see those mooks on airplanes.

            We love our caps, but they’re Carhartt, Cabelas or Browning curve-bills unless one of the big cities barfs out some sojourning flathatters to rob on-highway gas stations.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    So the “air bags” went from the suspension up to the cabin 30 yrs later?

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    It would have been especially enlightening to compare Citroen’s HP suspension of the day against the American Iron on display.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      I doubt the DS had the ground clearance to survive the first bump. Those cars always had dented valence panels, wavy door bottoms, and kinks in the exposed areas that should have been covered by rocker panels. Something about independent Citroen’s design process failed to make their cars suitable for use on this planet.

  • avatar
    ...m...

    …repost?..

    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/10/chrysler-vs-gm-and-ford/

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Even if it is, eight years is more than acceptable IMO. I don’t think I’ve ever looked at an article written before I discovered TTAC, whenever that was.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Chrysler had some quality issues with the torsion bars.

    My uncle was a banker and had a new 57 Chrysler, which was considered a fairly upscale middle management ride back then.

    I remember sitting in his backyard at a barbeque one summer afternoon and there was a “crack” that sounded a bit like a rifle shot as he pulled from the street to the driveway. Turned out to be a fractured torsion bar.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    From what I can find the Continental was between 500 and 900 lbs heavier than the others.

    McCahill also wrote that the ’57 Pontiac rode as “smooth as a prom queen’s thighs” and that the ’54 DeSoto was “as solid as the Rock of Gibralter and just as fast”. So it appears that he wasn’t always a Chrysler shill.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      The 58-60 Continental topped out at a staggering 5700 pounds(!!!). That’s a stunning amount of weight for a car. 80 pounds more than a standard wheelbase Phantom…but 190 pounds less than a long wheelbase Phantom.

      • 0 avatar
        "scarey"

        And these (the Lincolns) were uni-body cars !

        • 0 avatar
          gottacook

          I think they were so heavy BECAUSE they were unibody cars, given how long and wide they were.

          • 0 avatar
            redmondjp

            Not only that, but the front and rear bumper/grille assemblies weighed several hundred pounds each.

            30-35 years ago I remember reading a Hemmings or Old Cars story about the 1958 Lincoln – I think that the front grille and bumper weighed over 300 pounds! Similar story for the other makes in those years.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      I thought DeSoto was a Chrysler make. (Doesn’t take away the fact that he praised other manufacturers.)

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        They were, so McCahill was saying a Chrysler product was as fast as a giant rock. I took that as some pioneering snark.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          There’s a reason why the Hemi was a huge breath of fresh air.

          That 54 DeSoto probably had a flathead six or some ancient straight eight with less power than GM’s hot new OHV V8s.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Hemis were first available in DeSoto Firedome models starting in 1952. Flathead 6s were still available in lesser models though.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Oh yeah, I forgot about the early “mini-Hemi” fitted to Dodges and DeSotos.

            Not a bad little engine, but I can imagine it might have felt a bit sluggish compared to the larger engines fitted to competing Oldsmobiles and Mercurys.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            It was rated at 160 hp, same as the 1952 4-barrel version of the Oldsmobile Rocket V8. The Oldsmobile was bigger at 303 ci to the DeSoto’s 276 ci, but the DeSoto breathed much better at high rpm and had a higher top speed. The 88 did have quicker acceleration than the DeSoto V8 in the days before Torqueflite, but the difference wasn’t drastic and the Oldsmobile was one of the quickest cars on the market during that brief window.

            Mercury still used flathead V8s at the time, which delivered about 2/3rds the power of the DeSoto and Oldsmobile.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    I wonder if any of the proving-grounds have areas like that last bit?

    Wouldn’t surprise me if that fired an airbag or two! (The SRS kind, not the suspension!)

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Good thing they didn’t have passenger airbags – they would definitely deploy with the front bumper shoveling dirt. Seat belts were optional or not available, but those were experienced test drivers who would have insisted on belts.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        +1,000! I wonder if TRW and Continental use “real world” testing like that to make sure that their sensors can differentiate between jolts like these videos show and “real” impacts?

        (Takata probably did, except they were checking for proper pattern and spread! ;-) )

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The 58 GM cars were over wrought with chrome with the exception of the Chevrolets. The 59 models had a little less chrome but still had the tail fins. By MY 1961 the GM cars lost the fins and had a little less chrome. My parents had a 4 door Chrysler Windsor which my father later said he wished he would have bought a 57 Chevy but my mother liked the push button drive and the dual headlights (the 57 Chrysler products had the most advanced styling for their time). The 57 Chevy was considered dated and did not sell as well when new as the 57 Ford and the 57 Chrysler products but it held up much better than either and is considered a classic. The 57 thru 60 Chrysler products had a lot of mechanical problems and rusted worse than many other cars at that time. The Chrysler products prior to 1957 were much better. Also the Chryslers with the exception of the Imperial were unibody without the traditional frame.

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      Chrysler and the junior makes kept body on frame construction through 1959. The big switch to unibody took place for 1960.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Interesting. I remember putting a snap-together ’57 Ford model together, and noting how it looked just like a ’56 Chevy in front. At what point did the “tri-Fives” develop their “cult” status? You can essentially build a “brand new” ’57 from the aftermarket, including a body-in-white” that’s probably better put-together than the original!

      • 0 avatar
        indi500fan

        The Tri-Fives were hot stuff from day 1 and have always been a big deal.
        I think the combination of the styling and the small block engine.

        I remember as a 9 year old seeing a neighbor come home with a new 57 convertible…283 V8…that was the coolest ride in town.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Ok maybe so but it did not have a full frame. My parents traded the 57 Chrysler for a 59 Plymouth Sport Suburban station wagon (new in the Fall of 1958) which 2 years later my middle brother was in an accident and the car was flipped on its top. Very little damage to the body but the railings were twisted and could not be straightened. The Plymouth was totaled by the insurance company because of the twisted railings. The car that hit my brother was a 1960 Ford wagon with little damage. After that my parents had a Buick and a Chevy station wagon. The Chrysler products were lighter except the Imperial because they did not have a full frame.

    A 57 Chevy was a much better car than a 57 Chrysler product .

    • 0 avatar
      roger628

      Of course they had a full frame. Since there is no way to post pics on this site, I can assure you that I’m looking at a brochure of a ’59 Plymouth, and the frame runs from front to back.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Well, just as today, the best performing cars aren’t necessarily the best selling cars.

    And those Chrysler products looked FAR better than the GM or Ford stuff – far cleaner. And I think you could park a Smart car in the rear overhang of those Chrysler coupes.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Performance and exterior styling prizes went to chrysler products for quite a while, but the ride, interior, electronics, and rust prevention kept buyeftrs away.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The 57 Chrysler products were good looking cars and were more advanced for the times but Chrysler hurried them into production with quality and rust issues. They were a sales hit when they first hit the dealers but the quality was abysmal and eventually caught up with Chrysler. My parents bought a new 57 Chrysler Windsor 4 door tutone dark metallic blue with a white top and white trim in the Fall of 1956. I do remember that the blue paint faded badly after 2 years even though it was garaged when not driven and there were some mechanical issues as well. The dual headlights and push button drive along with the styling was a real draw to car buyers. I think the 57 Chrysler products were the first American cars with dual headlights.

    The 57 Chevy was a sales dud and the redesigned 58’s were as well but the 57 Chevy was a much better car and has become a collector’s car. Not too many 57 Chrysler products survived. The Swedes apparently like the late 50’s tail finned Chrysler products and scour US salvage yards for the remains of them to ship back home for parts or restoration.

    My aunt had a 56 Chrysler Windsor that was an excellent car and lasted for years without any major issues. My grandfather had a 56 Dodge Coronet that was excellent as well. The Chrysler products prior to the 1957 were not as stylish but were much better.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      The late 50’s ChryCo cars are still beautiful, but the rust issues are design deep.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      A cab company where I grew up (Mass.) was run by WW2 veterans who made their first big purchase of cars in 1956, buying a fleet of Plymouth Savoy sedans with flathead sixes and 3 on the tree. They breathed a sigh of relief by ’58, since thy almost waited for the ’57 models and all their problems. Those ’56 Plymouths were still in use into the late 1960s, when they were replaced with slant six, torqueflite Valiants.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    My aunt’s pink and white 1956 Chrysler Windsor held up extremely well and had close to 200k miles. In 1966 she bought a new 66 New Yorker and her husband used the 56 Windsor for several years on his night shift job. Someone rear end it and my uncle drove it till he bought a Rambler American. He sold the 56 to a guy at work that fixed the body damage and drove it for several more years. I don’t recall any rust issues with the 56 and this car spent winters in Ohio and several trips to Florida. My aunt’s 66 New Yorker was a good car as well with over 200k miles. The 1957 thru 1959 Chrysler products were rust prone and had mechanical issues. My granddad had a 58 Dodge pickup as a farm truck that the paint came off and had issues as well. His prior Dodge was a 1953 which was an excellent truck (both had the flathead straight 6). My grandad’s last pickup was a 63 IH which was his favorite and it was very reliable.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The Lincolns and Imperials were hand built during this time. Chrysler and Ford were not making money on these cars. The Imperials of this time are among the best built cars with heavy frames and more attention to detail.

    • 0 avatar

      I thought this was a myth. Family lore has it that my grandfather bought his last car, a New Yorker, because “The Imperial was no longer hand made”. That massive tank had a big influence on me, as I was ferried about in it from 0-8 years old, at which point it was stolen, in the Bronx. He had two Imperials, prior to that….

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        @ speedlaw – While likely not strictly true, there are probably some grains of truth to the “hand built” characterization:
        – Apparently 3rd-gen (’58-’60) Lincoln Continentals had sketchy quality, which had the positive effect of Lincoln’s being very diligent with quality control on the 4th-gen cars.
        – After the ’66 model year, the Imperial lost its BOF design and adopted Mopar’s C-body platform. The ’67 bears a much closer resemblance to contemporary New Yorker than does the ’66. (Per Wikipedia, the Imperial still had a longer wheelbase and a unique body shell, so I think at that point it could be categorized as platform sharing rather than badge engineering.) I’m guessing your grandfather’s “hand built” remark was in reference to the unique Imperial frame.

        It’s always interesting to hear opinions from people who experienced these Cadillacs, Lincolns, and Imperials (and, earlier, Packards) new, as the relative merits of the cars probably shifted a bit from year to year.

        One of the better reviews on Jay Leno’s YouTube channel, IMO, is of his ’67 Imperial. It’s a neat car, and he gives a plausible explanation as to why an Imperial loyalist of the time would have considered it the best luxury car on the market.

        • 0 avatar
          BigOldChryslers

          From 1960-63, Imperial’s tagline was, “America’s Most Carefully Built Car” because of all the inspections that were supposedly done on each one as it was assembled. More info here:
          http://www.imperialclub.org/~maevans/imperialBrochure/Imperial1963-9.html

          When Imperial went unibody in 1967, they were based on the C-body platform, but there’s not much interchangeable between them. For example, the 1967-73 Imperial front subframe was longer, using unique 50″ torsion bars. Chrysler and Dodge C-bodies used 47″ T-bars, and Plymouth C-bodies used 44″ T-bars. Imperials also used wheels with a larger 5″ bolt circle, versus the 4.5″ bolt circle used on most other Mopars.

          It irks me that Leno says the Torqueflite 727 transmission in his ’67 Imperial has a cast iron case. Torqueflites were made with aluminum cases starting in 1962.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    This excellent article (recycled or no) caused me to hunt for photos of ’50s street scenes.

    After finding umpty rear-3/4 views of ’57-’59 Chryco (sans Imperials) I now think of them as Fuselage Bodies 1.0, especially the DeSotos with their un-notched upper fins.

    They somehow remind me of the early NASA lifting-body experiments and look so poised, taut and agile compared to the wheeled blockhouses surrounding them. Tragic that such aesthetic masterpieces were ruined by build quality.

    Had I been 23 instead of 3 when they debuted I’d have been a fanboi.

    • 0 avatar

      If you want to see more iron of that era in action, find the old Broderick Crawford “Highway Patrol”. It set the stage for every “reality” cop show for 20 years, and was mostly shot outside. The cars are provided by Chrysler. The cars in the background are from everyone else. They get off road a lot, so you see the cars used hard and pitching around. You had to hang on to that big wheel tight, and no seat belts ! (Crawford had too many DWI, so you never see him drive on a public road)

      It is also a fascinating look at California in the Golden Age, and for bonus points, Leonard Nimoy, in one of his first jobs, playing a Mobster.

      They have about a dozen actors who eventually turn up in every role, and the cars repeat as well, but there is an E type, driven by a rich kid who comes to a bad end, a 300 used for the housewife in one and a mob boss in another. It is worth watching with a finger on the pause button, to look at the backgrounds, signs in the stores (again, this was shot on location), and to see how “it was” back then.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        Thanks for adding to my list of Old Shows I Watch Only for the Cars.

        Car 54 is also a good one, much of the filming (especially rear-window backdrops) having been done on JFK era NYC streets. For ’70s behemoths Hawaii Five-O is excellent. Many of the late ’60s shows were filmed in lavish color and resolution (Mission Impossible), a shocker when viewed today by a boomer whose parents were too frugal to ever buy a color set.

        “worth watching with a finger on the pause button, to look at the backgrounds”

        We apparently are similarly addicted to the “time machine” effect of old film :-)

        • 0 avatar

          Absolutely. Better is the fact that many of these shows were shot on film, so often they look better than “back in the day”.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Completely agree. I think the fastidiousness and money expended by the studios on producing the major TV programs of the late ’60s show an engineered effort to vastly ramp up home viewership in answer to declining movie attendance.

            And their continued use of film for them well after the adoption of videotape for lesser productions makes this even more evident on today’s huge screens.

  • avatar
    ern35

    Applicable to this topic—I still own “Tom McCahill’s Car Owner Handbook”, purchased in 1957—a “Fawcett 75c How To Book” soon after I bought my first used car—a 1954 Monarch V8 auto (Canadian Mercury.
    I was always a fan of ‘Uncle Tom’ whose colourful language and seemingly automotive wisdom peppered every one of his articles in Mechanix Illustrated—starting with these: “Uncle Tom sez—“

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    The “Looney Tunes” soundtrack adds a great deal to these videos. Had a good laugh when the Buick’s suspension failed and they start playing “The Old Gray Mare Just Ain’t What She Used to Be.”

    It looked like both the Cadillac and the Lincoln bodies exhibited a crapton of torsional flex along the longitudinal axis, like the Hand of God was twisting the front bumper clockwise and the rear bumper counterclockwise. I can’t imagine any sedan sold in America since about 1990 doing that.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      “I can’t imagine any sedan sold in America since about 1990 doing that.”

      Among the reasons for that would be their belly-panning to a halt on the first major bump.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I love watching slow-mo suspension travel!

    That Cadillac was just f*cked from the start. It’s funny to think how treating any of these cars from 58 to this sort of driving today would be unthinkable. Back then, they were just “some cars.”

  • avatar
    laserwizard

    Would love to see a Prius and VaporVolt treated to that test.

    Nice Chrysler commercial.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    here are some links to the Imperial
    http://www.hemmings.com/magazine/hcc/2009/03/1960-Chrysler-Imperial/1780035.html

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperial_(automobile)

    http://www.allpar.com/cars/production/imperial.html

    here are the Continentals and Lincolns
    http://www.danjedlicka.com/classic_cars/1956_57_Continental_Mark_II.html

    http://www.1966batmobile.com/

    57 Chrysler products

    http://www.allpar.com/history/chrysler-years/1957.html

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Kenmore–My parents had a black and white RCA Victor 26 inch in a mahogany veneer cabinet for about 16 years until they decided to get a Zenith color TV in 1971. I missed all those vibrant colors but have seen some of the old shows in color on Me TV.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      Mine kept an Admiral B&W with the electromechanical remote till I flew the coop in ’72.

      *ka-chunk!..whirr..whirr..whirr..ka-chunk!*

      Today I’m still floored by watching Beverly Hillbillies or Get Smart in living color!

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Sure, Chrysler products had torsion bars at the front, but they were still leaf sprung in the rear, all the way up to the bitter end of their RWD cars. GM went to full coil suspensions for ’58, and were even using upper and lower control arms in the rear, for better lateral control.

    • 0 avatar
      BigOldChryslers

      There are trade-offs either way. Vehicles with leaf spring suspension use the springs as both suspension and to position the rear axle. Vehicles with coil springs require control arms to position the rear axle, adding to unsprung weight and more failure points.

      Today some critics diss the RAM1500 pickups because they use coil springs out back for a softer ride at the expense of load capacity, while the F and GM competitors still use leaf springs. I guess they just can’t win. :)

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