1958 Chevy Impala Convertible

When you view a 1958 Chevrolet Impala, the first thing you recognize is how much the design changed compared to the 1955 to 1957 Chevy models. The 1958 models were longer, wider lower and heavier than the 1955-57 models.

1958 chevy impala

1958 Chevy Bel Air Impala rear sculpted fins

The 1958 Chevys used an all new one year only body shell with General Motors Pontiac Division. The overall design of the 58's were rounded as opposed to the straight lines of the 1957 models. The year 1958 was a model year where automobile tail fins were in vogue. In the case of the 1958 Impala, the tail fins were actually quite understated compared to what was being offered by several competitors. The tail fins were designed to be sculpted into the rear fenders.

The Chevy Impala

The Impala name came from the antelope of southern Africa. The very first Impala that was introduced in 1958 was meant to be a full size car of "prestige" that was affordable for the average American car buyer. It was part of the top of the line Bel Air coupes and convertibles. The model of course was a great success since the nameplate has been around ever since and is one the most recognized automobile brands.

1958 Chevy Bel Air Impala

1958 Chevy Impala Convertible

From 1958 until 1965, the Impala was Chevrolet's most expensive car model. In 1966 the Chevy Caprice took over that title. The popularity of this Chevrolet model is emphasized by the fact that the 2013 model year cars are among the ninth generation of Impalas.

1958 Chevy Bel Air Impala Specs

One major change in 1958 had to do with the cars suspension. In place of the rear leaf springs were full coil or air ride suspension.

Engine options included a 235.5 cid V-6 delivering 185 HP. Two V-8's were offered, one a 283 cid and a 348 cid. The 348 cid was a new option in 1958 and was inspired from a truck engine. These two V-8 engines delivered between 185 to 315 horsepower.

1958 chevy

1958 Chevy Impala dash and front passenger area

The 1958 wheelbase was 117.5 inches, a weight of between 3,458 and 3, 523 pounds, a length of 209.1 inches, an overall width of 77.7 inches and a price tag that ranged between $2,580 and $2,840.

The 1958 Bel Air Impala came with a new chassis. The chassis was no longer the perimeter type frame. The new frame had rails laid out in the form of an elongated "X." The new frame allowed for a lower passenger compartment and while lowering the compartment the elongated X frame did not diminish head room.  Chevrolet also claimed that the new frame increased torsional rigidity.

The Car came with Impala script, insignia and crossed flag emblems on the front of the hood. Ribbed body sill panels, large chrome air scoops ahead of rear wheels on the fenders made the 1958 Impala quite sporty looking.

1958 chevy impala convertible

Chevy Impala three taillight design

Impala's first year also introduced the dual headlamp on each side of the cars front and three taillights on each rear fender. The three taillight design was only seen on the Impala models.

Exterior color combinations were offered in fifteen different two color combinations.

The gear shift lever was mounted on the steering column.

Options included air conditioning, power seats, a Turbo Glide transmission, a four barrel carburetor, a triple two barrel carburetor, dual exhausts and power windows.

Impala production figures during the 1958 introductory year were 55,989 convertibles and 125,480 Sport Coupes.

See our AutoMuseumOnline photo articles on the 1957 Chevy Bel Air and the 1955-57 Ford Thunderbirds.

1958 chevrolet

Low riding 1958 Chevy Impala

Interior

The 1958 Bel Air Impalas came with a two spoke steering wheel and color-keyed door panels with brushed aluminum trim. The sunshades were of leather grain vinyl. As mentioned above, interior options included air conditioning, power seats and power windows. Interior trim color combination was gunmetal and silver.

(Photos from author's collection)

 

1935 Ford 5 Window Coupe

The 1935 Ford Coupe is one of the most popular hot rod cars that came out of the 1930's. The car shown in this article is a reproduction 35 Ford 5 Window Coupe. The design of the 35 coupes speak of speed. Design for the 1935 models had a more rounded look than the 34's.When you look back over the Ford models of 1933 and 1934 you can see that the design became progressively smoother and sleeker.

1935 ford coupe

1935 Ford 5 Window Coupe

1935 Ford Advertising 

Ford advertising for the 1935 models spoke of their cars having a "personality". They implied that every new design put into the new 1935 look was part of the overall cars personality. Ford felt that the 1935 designs carried a very well groomed look. One example pointed out was the new curve designed into the cars "bullet headlamps." Much was also touted regarding the newly designed bumper guards and grille. The said that their new 1935 models were "sturdy fine cars". Ford advertising pointed out that design of the vehicles rear end is as pleasing as that of the front end. Every line of the car has been designed to carry to a logically designed conclusion all the way to the sloping rear end and the baked enamel finish was made even better than that of 1934.

ford 5 window coupe

35 Ford Coupe sloped rear end

Engine and Improvements

Ford's 1935 models all had an improved engine with a better built crankshaft and an efficient crankcase ventilation system which Ford named "direct flow".  In 1935 Ford moved the engine forward on the chassis 8 1/2 inches. Ford touted that the move forward distributed the weight much better front to back. With the engine moved further forward the frames were redesigned as well. The new frame design also moved the passenger seating forward which centered passenger weight more toward the cars midpoint. Because of these weight distribution changes, the 1935 Fords were built with longer chassis springs. The spring base was increased 6 1/2 inches.

1935 ford 5 window coupe

Classy designed grille

The V-8 Ford engine in the 1935 models 221.0 cid putting out a top range of 85 horsepower. The wheelbase was 112.0 inches and the car's weight varied between 2,400 and 3,000 pounds.The new car price at the time was anywhere from $500 to $900 depending on accessories and add ons.

Suspension in both the front and rear stayed the same from 1934 with a single transverse leaf spring both front and rear. The 1935 Fords were the last with wire wheels.

Running boards were specially designed to drain water. To help with ventilation, rear windows were made to easily open and close. The gas cap was recessed in the rear lamp bracket.

1935 ford coupe grille

1935 Ford Coupe sleek front end design

In 1935 Ford made big strides with their all aluminum cylinder heads. One advantage Ford pointed out was that the aluminum cylinder heads meant better engine power efficiency and as a result better fuel efficiency.

Interiors

Regarding the interior of Ford's 1935 models, Ford suggested that the new Fords were in every way a man's car but it took a woman to appreciate the finish and detail. Ford would advertise that their upholstery was of the finest quality available and that the car's dashboard was as practical as a "ships control room."

Also included were neatly tailored imitation leather sun visors, a rear window shade, a revolving ash tray on the dashboard, a roomy hand glove compartment and an electrically operated oil gauge. Behind the rear seat was a baggage compartment. Ford claimed that the hardware used for interior door handles were of the quality found in much pricier cars.

Also, see our AutoMuseumOnline photo articles on the 1931 Ford Model A Roadster ......the 1931 Chevy Coupe...and a Restored 1937 Ford Club Coupe

1935 ford coupe interior

Beautifully restored interior

Hot Rods

The 1935 Ford Coupe is one of the best hot rod models of that decade. In fact, the very design of the 1935 model suits itself well as a hot rod. On the street and at car shows today you'll see many of the 1935 to 1937 models modified as hot rods or street rods. They make great hot rod projects. Interestingly enough, some restorers are still lucky enough to find and old 1935-1937 model sitting an old barn somewhere and if and when they're found they usually are snapped up pretty fast. Street rod kits are easily found to start a project. Many are available for the Ford 1935's through 37's.

(Photos from author's collection)

Chevy Bel Air

 

1955 chevy

1955 Chevy

The 1950's were a defining decade for Chevrolet. In particular, the years 1955 to 1957 were significant for Chevrolet in terms of design. From these years, the 1955 was a pure design overhaul. The 1956 Chevys were not much changed. The 1957 Chevy represented probably the boldest design change. The best sales years during this period were both 1955 and 1957. Consequently, those two best selling years are also the most sought after models by collectors.

The decade of the 1950's was a big one for Chevrolet. "See the USA in Your Chevrolet" was the Dinah Shore theme song for her popular television variety show which first came on the air in 1956. Chevrolet remained a sponsor of Dinah Shore into the early 1960's.

The 1955 Chevy Bel Air

They say that the top of the line 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air was a new car from the ground up. The 55 Chevy was introduced with the word "Motoramic" styling. This was a term coined by General Motors. It was meant to portray a truly modern styled car. In addition to a powerful V-8 engine, the 1955 Chevy showed the first idea of a tail fin. The overall design could be called subtle. The engine itself came with many new features including lightweight aluminum pistons and a tougher forged steel crankshaft. Total production of six and eight cylinder models combined was about 801,000 units.

1956 chevrolet

1956 Chevrolet Bel Air

The cars were available in both two and four door models, convertibles and in a station wagon. Interestingly enough, the term "Motoramic" was dropped just after the first year. Because of that, many people outside of avid collectors never heard of it.

The 1956 Chevy Bel Air

Compared to the 1955 Chevy, the 56 model year Chevrolet Bel Air had a wider grille, a heavier designed front bumper and headlights lids that stood out a bit more. The 56 Chevy was light because of it's small block V-8. The 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air came with a "Powerglide" two speed automatic transmission. Improved suspension on both the front and rear ends made for improved handling. Other changes in 1956 included a slightly different dashboard, a hidden gas filler cap in the rear fin, and more colors, trim and fabrics to choose from. There were seven different 56 Bel Air models available including a new Sport Sedan.

1956 chevy interior

56 Chevy interior and dash

The Chevrolet slogan for the 56 model Bel Air was "The Hot One is Even Hotter". This obviously referred to the great acceptance and solid sales with the 55 Chevy.

Total 1956 Bel Air production totals were about 693,000 units.

See our photo articles on the 1955-57 Ford Thunderbirds and the 1954 Chevy Advance Design Truck.

The 1957 Chevy Bel Air

Here was the Chevrolet model that made a big statement. The 1957 Chevy Bel Air hit the showrooms with a new bold look. The most significant change at first glance were the prominent new tail fins. This appears to be the first thing many think of when referring to the 57 Chevy. The engine was a 283 cubic inch compared to the former 265 cid V-8. Chevrolet touted it's new engine as the only production car engine putting out one horsepower for every cubic inch displacement.

1957 chevy bel air

1957 Chevy Bel Air Convertible

An interesting note about the 57 Chevy was that, despite strong sales, Ford did outsell Bel Air in that model year. Most attribute this to Chevy's new tubeless tires that year which hit a confused public. Many questioned the safety of the tubeless tire while at the same time not really understanding the concept. As a result Ford took some sales away. Ford had also come out with a new design in 1957 and this too eroded some of Chevy's sales. In retrospect, the sales figures back in 1957 where Ford won fail to reflect today's high collector popularity of the 57 Bel Airs. Although all mid 1950's Chevy Bel Airs are popular collector cars, the 57 Chevy is the most popular collector model during the years of the "Hot Ones" from 1955 to 1957. Many have said that the 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air is the most popular used car in history. As the old Chevy ad of 1957 stated, the car was "sweet, smooth and sassy".

1957 chevrolet bel air tail fin

1957 Chevy Bel Air tail fin

Total 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air production totals were about 720,000 units. Included in this total are 264,000 four door sedans and about 48,000 two door convertibles.

The best selling Chevrolets during the 1950's were the sedans. The sedans that came with six cylinder engines, particularly the four door sedans, were the largest sellers overall. The 1955 model year represented the biggest design change in post World War Two styling.

(Photos from author's private collection)