Chevrolet dealer showrooms were buzzing with the unveiling of a completely new car for 1958. Revamped from the ground up, highlights included a low-slung X-member Safety Girder chassis with coil spring suspension on all four corners, which replaced the old rear leaf springs from the previous model.
Wheelbase increased by 2.5 inches to 117.5 inches, and the overall length grew by a whopping nine inches, with the whole package sitting five inches lower than the 1957 model. Styling cues borrowed from past General Motors show cars appeared, including dual headlamps and sculptured gull wing rear fenders sporting bullet taillamps, furthering the dream car look.
Sales literature boasted that the new 1958 Chevrolet with its low thrusting silhouette was beautifully moving. New model names Delray and Biscayne replaced the familiar 150 and 210 series, with the popular Bel Air returning, yet slipping from its top billing spot, now occupied by the posh new Impala.
An exclusive model marked by a distinctive badge, the Impala was more than a trim option, and it differed structurally from other garden variety Chevys. Available in only two body styles, convertible and sport coupe, the coupe had a slightly shorter roof and longer rear deck than the Bel Air hardtops. Chrome rocker mouldings were added and dummy rear fender scoops gave the quarter panels a unique look.
Longer, lower and wider, the new Chevy was also 200 to 300 pounds heavier, but with a look that was downright luxurious for a car in the low-price field. Inside the passenger compartment, there was room for six with tri-tone fabric and vinyl upholstery, with rich carpeting and a full-function instrument panel with easy reach controls.
More good news could be found under the 58’s long, flat hood. The 145-horsepower, 235.5-cubic-inch, six-cylinder was available as the base engine with the venerable 283 V-8 two-barrel and four-barrel coming in with 185 and 230 horsepower respectively. For those with a desire for even more performance, Chevrolet’s new optional W head 348 cubic-inch Turbo-Thrust V-8 was available in 250, 280 and 315 horsepower states of tune. Borrowed from the Chevrolet truck division, it had the added torque to move the larger and heavier cars.
The Impala featured here was purchased at an auction last year in the Toronto area. It had just been treated to a recent frame-off restoration and is on immaculate condition. It is now now owned by Winnipeg car collector Ed Danylchuk.
The car is a true jewel and has a huge complement of optional and aftermarket equipment, including power steering, a power front disc brake conversion, dual exterior mirrors, windshield washers, deluxe AM radio with rear seat speaker and rear-mount antenna. There’s also tinted glass, dual exhaust with chrome tips, Continental spare tire kit, fender skirts and wide whitewall radial tires, turning on aftermarket aluminum wheels. Billed as the new Luxury Lounge interior, this Impala features light grey/black/red deluxe upholstery fabric with red imitation leather.
Powering the Impala is a new big-block 348-cubic-inch, Turbo Thrust V-8. Equipped with a Rochester four-barrel carburetor and dual exhaust system, it produces 250 horsepower at 4,400 r.p.m. and 355 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,800 r.p.m. Transferring the power to the pavement is accomplished with an optional Powerglide automatic transmission leading to a 3.36:1 final drive ratio posi-traction rear axle.
The Rio Red beauty is finished to an exceptionally high standard and is a true representation of the later ’50s fin and chrome era. Another detail shared by the entire ’58 genre, is the single year styling. Generally cars from the 1950s followed a two- or three-year styling cycle with modest updates in subsequent years, yet Chevrolet switched to a somewhat radical bat-wing finned model for 1959, leaving the 1958 as a stand-alone classic.
Impala production for 1958 was 125,480 Sport Coupe models and 55,989 convertibles. Impressive numbers for a model in its first year and amid an economic recession. The Impala name would become synonymous with performance appeal and go on to serve Chevrolet as a marketing success for many years.