When your fortunes are flagging, you pour on the chrome. As blubbery barges go, the ’58 Limited has to be one of the gaudiest. Spanning 19 ft (5.78 m) and tipping the scales at two tons, the Limited is empirical proof that 1958 was not Buick’s happiest year.
Despite all that twinkling kitsch and the reincarnated Limited badge, the bulbous Buick bombed. For a start, GM’s Dynaflow automatic transmission was not up to Pontiac’s Hydra-Matic standards, and the Limited’s brakes were disinclined to work. Furthermore, in what was a recession year for the industry, the Limited had been priced into Cadillac territory—$33 more than the Series 62. Total production for the Limited in 1958 was a very limited 7,436 units. By the late Fifties, Detroit had lost its way, and the ’58 Limited was on the road to nowhere.
CHILD OF THE FIFTIES
Buick’s answer to an aircraft carrier was a riot of ornamentation that went on for half a block. At rest, the Limited looked like it needed a fifth wheel to support that weighty rear overhang.
As well as this four-door Riviera, the 700 Series also included a two-door version, a stripped chassis model, and a convertible.
First time the Limited badge had been used since 1942.
Unique to the Limited were 15 utterly pointless chrome slashes.
The “Fashion-Aire Dynastar” grille consisted of no fewer than 160 chrome squares, each with four polished facets to give some serious sparkle to the Limited’s front end.
Front suspension was coil springs with A-arms.
The large windshield was served by “wide angle” wipers and an automatic windshield washer.
Fender ornaments may look absurd but were useful in parking the Buick’s huge girth.
The metal with a shiny coating could be found on everything from food mixers to radios in the Fifties.
The Buick’s butt was a confused jumble of bosomy curves, slanting fins, and horizontal flashings. The trunk itself was big enough to house a football team.
The Valve-in-Head B12000 engine kicked out 300 horses, with a 364 cubic inch displacement. These specifications were respectable enough on paper, but on the road the Limited was too heavy to be anything other than sluggish.
Air-Poise suspension was an option that used pressurized air bladders for a supposedly smooth hydraulic ride. The system often failed, however, and literally let itself down.
Producing 13 mpg (4.6 km/l), the Limited was thirsty.
Power steering and brakes were essential and came as standard. Other standard equipment included an electric clock, cigarette lighters, and electric windows.
Horn-pulls were pretty much standard on every US car in the Fifties.
Interiors were trimmed in gray cloth and vinyl or Cordaveen. Seat cushions had Double- Depth foam rubber.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL Buick Limited Riviera Series 700 (1958)
PRODUCTION 7,436 (1958, all Series 700 body styles)
BODY STYLES Two- and four-door, six-seater hardtops, two-door convertible.
CONSTRUCTION Steel monocoque.
ENGINE 364cid V8.
POWER OUTPUT 300 bhp.
TRANSMISSION Flight-Pitch Dynaflow automatic.
SUSPENSION Front: coil springs with A-arms; Rear: live axle with coil springs. Optional air suspension.
BRAKES Front and rear drums.
MAXIMUM SPEED 110 mph (177 km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 9.5 sec
A.F.C. 13 mpg (4.6 km/l)