1958 Cadillac Offered More of Everything
Cadillac relaxed its self-restraint in 1958 as it built on the previous model’s look. The era of extreme tailfins and liberal chrome, though, was brief.
Tailfins by 1958 were an established tradition at Cadillac, according to American Cars of the 1940s, and for their first 10 years starting in 1948 had amounted to raised lenses at the fenders’ trailing edges. Visible from the sides as well as the rear, the gently curved lights had become unmistakable symbols of Cadillac, but that changed in a small way in 1955 with the Eldorado’s restyling.
1955 Eldorado Introduced the Fins of the Future-1958 Cadillac
Cadillac, according to Special Interest American Cars, had introduced its limited-production Eldorado as a 1953 model and used it both as a means to provide customers with exclusivity and as a teaser for future Cadillacs. That first Eldorado carried a wraparound windshield; one year later, it was a standard feature on every Cadillac.
With the rest of the Cadillac line, the Eldorado wore new lines for 1954, but in 1955, it again served as an advance look at what was to come. This time, the difference was in the form of a rear clip that was unlike anything yet seen on a Cadillac.
The high lenses were abandoned in favor of circular taillights sharing fixtures with backup lights. Fins grew narrow and were now high enough that the lights were placed at their mid-levels.
1957 Cadillac Eased the New Look in Gradually
The Eldorado’s distinctive fins were a big jump to make at once and they were still just half of the car. Production Cadillacs through 1956 retained the much tamer fins evolved from the 1948 model and front-end styling that pleasantly updated the 1954 design, according to the Standard Catalog, so the need to avoid an abrupt transition that might put off loyal customers fell to the 1957 Cadillac.
The new car did its job well, striking a balance between carryover styling cues and new features. Lengths, according to the Standard Catalog, were effectively unchanged – a Series 62 sedan, for example, went from 129 inches to 129.5 inches in wheelbase and 214.8 inches to 215.9 inches in wheelbase – but the 1957 Cadillacs seemed longer. The windshield was still a wraparound, but its pillars now angled rearward at bottom. Headlights remained shaded, but the hood was now flatter and no longer towered above the fenders.
The roofline was less formally upright and its rear post angled forward at bottom to mirror the front pillar. Like the hood, the decklid was now flatter, but the real change at rear was in the fins, which True’s Automobile Yearbook called “projectiles” and were related more closely to those of the 1956 Eldorado than to those of production 1956 Cadillacs.
1958 Cadillac Moved Further From the Past
Coming as it did after a completely restyled model, the 1958 Cadillac was heavily updated rather than totally new and to that end, seemingly everything was pushed a big step ahead. Two headlights became four – a design feature introduced on the previous year’s ultra-exclusive Eldorado Brougham – and the bullet-like bumperettes that had appeared in 1942 returned for their final year, again carrying the rubber tips first seen in 1957.
On each side, a rounded bodyline line again trailed from behind the B pillar to the taillight housing as in 1957; the taillights remained at the same level, but seemed lower because of the fins’ added height.
The Series 62 again rode a 129.5-inch wheelbase, according to the Standard Catalog, although a comparison of overall lengths is complicated. As in 1957, various series used different wheelbases and lengths, but 1958 saw Cadillac add what it called the Extended Deck version to the Series 62 line. While the conventional Series 62 four-door sedan measured 216.8 inches, the Extended Deck car reached 225.3 inches.
No 1958 Cadillac was a light car, of course, as the Standard Catalog places every model well above the two-ton mark and several at closer to three tons. Moving that amount of weight required a capable engine and according to Chilton’s Manual, the 1958 Cadillac’s 365-cubic-inch V-8 produced 310 horsepower in single-carburetor form and 335 horsepower when equipped with three carbs; those figures were up slightly from the previous year’s 300 and 325 horsepower. The engine was an overhead-valve design directly descended from the 1949 Cadillac’s landmark V-8, a 331-cubic-inch, 160-horsepower unit that pioneered the oversquare proportions – the cylinder diameter is greater than the piston’s stroke – that became the industry standard.
The engine would continue to grow in displacement and horsepower for several years – the 1962 Cadillac would be the last to use it – and would produce 325 or 345 horsepower from 390 cubic inches in the 1959 Cadillac. That car’s sheer flashines would represent a major break from previous models, but it would retain enough Cadillac styling cues to be instantly identifiable.