Watch (Most of) These 1958 Sedans Destroy Their Suspensions

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
watch most of these 1958 sedans destroy their suspensions

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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  • Jeff S Jeff S on Apr 25, 2016

    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.

    • Old Man Pants Old Man Pants on Apr 25, 2016

      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!

  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Apr 26, 2016

    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.

    • BigOldChryslers BigOldChryslers on Apr 27, 2016

      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. :)

  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.
  • Tassos The Euro spec Taurus is the US spec Ford FUSION.Very few buyers care to see it here. FOrd has stopped making the Fusion long agoWake us when you have some interesting news to report.
  • Marvin Im a current owner of a 2012 Golf R 2 Door with 5 grand on the odometer . Fun car to drive ! It's my summer cruiser. 2006 GLI with 33,000 . The R can be money pit if service by the dealership. For both cars I deal with Foreign car specialist , non union shop but they know their stuff !!! From what I gather the newer R's 22,23' too many electronic controls on the screen, plus the 12 is the last of the of the trouble free ones and fun to drive no on screen electronics Maze !
  • VoGhost It's very odd to me to see so many commenters reflexively attack an American company like this. Maybe they will be able to find a job with BYD or Vinfast.