What Is It?

Last week’s photo showed a 1958 Ford that was the worse for wear, with some chrome missing from the grille and a drooping bumper.


You couldn’t tell it from the photo we gave, but the car was a midlevel wagon. We asked for no more than the year and make, however, so all you had to tell us was “1958 Ford.”

That year’s Ford was in the middle of a three-year design cycle that began with the popular 1957 model (which outsold Chevy ) and ended with the heavy-looking 1959 models that included the first Galaxies.

Interestingly, a number of readers guessed other makes – Chevrolet, Chrysler, Edsel, Buick – but always the 1958 model.

Chosen randomly from the correct entries was the name of Ann Willbrand, of Aiken, who wrote:

“This week is a 1958 Ford Fairlane. My dad had a white ’58 station wagon. Shortly after he got it, the engine block cracked and the car was in the shop for most of that summer. As someone who took very good care of his cars, he was not happy about the situation.”

Here are the other readers who wrote or called in. Unless otherwise noted, they also guessed the 1958 Ford:

AIKEN: Bob Ennis said: “The dual headlights say 1958, the grille and parking light say ’58 Ford. However, this is not a Fairlane convertible or hardtop sedan. This is probably a cheaper family economy car.”

Also of Aiken, Raymond Richards

AUGUSTA: Gerald Byrd said 1958 Ford. “That one year only body style. Good-looking old car, though. The one I remember most was the one my dad’s friends built into a dirt track racer … I was just a little fellow but that was the prettiest dirt track racer I ever saw in my life.

“I always thought they were pretty cars. You don’t see too many on the road. 1957 was more popular, and 1959 was an ugly stepchild.”

Walker Mobley Jr. wrote: “This week’s What Is It? appears to be a 1958 Ford. However, the horizontal grille bar and top fender ornament seem to have been removed. This is a long shot, but this could be a 1958 Canadian Ford (Meteor) photo. As I said, long shot. I believe this was the first year for side-by-side dual headlights, since I recall the ‘57 Ford had single units.

“These are a lot of fun; keep them coming.”

Steve McDade had the right year but thought it might be the Buick.

Dalton Brannen guessed the 1958 Ford and added: “The center bar of the grill is missing. It was common for customizers to remove this to provide a different look which was popular in later years with some.”

Gary Engen said: “Ford revised the Fairlane in 1958 with an all new face lift, including quad head lamps. My next-door neighbor, during my high school days, drove a 1958 Fairlane with the 352 big-block V-8 engine.”

Sammy Whitfield also guessed the correct model year but said Chevrolet.

Willie Thomas said 1958 was the “only year they used this body style.”

Jerry DeLaigle said it looked like a 1958 Chrysler 300.

Joyce Anderson said: “I had a ’59 but never a ’58.”

Also, John Hayes

CANTON, GA.: David Anderson said: “Giving us the pleasure and the fun of picking out the cars of our misspent youth only makes me long for the days when you could walk into a dealership and see, buy or order, if necessary, from virtually a rainbow color palette for the car of your dreams.

“Depending on the car, those exterior colors may extend into the interior of the car on the doors and instrument panel to be complemented by an equally amazing color and texture choice of fabrics. Today we have varying degrees of black, white, silver and gray from which to choose for the outside, and then you can mix it with either a gray, black or if you are lucky, a beige interior.

“Some of the color choices available on the 1958 Fords were Azure Blue, Powder Blue, Sun Gold, Torch Red, Jonquil Yellow and Chalk Pink. This represents but a small number of the choices available, because I stopped counting at 51 different colors across the whole Ford product line, including Edsel, Lincoln, Mercury and even the truck division.

“An almost equal number of color and fabric choices was available, and very few are shown as not being available with any particular exterior colors. As if the single color choice was not enough, nearly every exterior color could be combined with any other color in a variety of two-tone shades.

“The first car of which I have memories is my parents’ 1959 Ford Galaxie 500 Club Sedan – two-door. It was either Powder Blue or Azure Blue, and I seem to recall that with two small kids in the family (I was 5 and my sister was 7) and more in their future (I wonder whether they knew that at the time?) the seats were immediately covered in the clear plastic that would scorch you in the summertime heat and with no seat belts to strap us in, send your sweaty behind flying from one side of the car to the other from time to time.

“This plethora of color choices continued well into the ’60s, but the styling of the cars slowly gave up the natural style lines upon which those gorgeous two-tone and sometimes three-tone color schemes were based. Even in 1966, for instance, the color of my 1966 Cadillac convertible is Flamenco Red – and it is as red as you would imagine a matador’s cape to be.

“The story is, that the original owner’s family ordered it for him because he had always wanted a fire engine red Cadillac convertible with white top and white interior. I can just imagine how loud the guffaw would be from any dealer today, but especially a Cadillac dealer, if you walked in asking for that today.”

EVANS: Larry Heath said: “The car was available in various trim levels, including hardtop and convertible. Engines ranged from in-line six-cylinder to 352-cubic-inch V-8. Options were selected individually in those days, as compared to today’s selection of a “package” of options.

“I recall in 1960 when I started high school in a small Georgia town there was a young male teacher who had a 1958 Ford two-door hardtop, black with white top and red interior. It also had a V-8 engine and three-speed transmission with the shift on the column. Added were fender skirts, spinner hubcaps on the front and dual glass-pack mufflers. I remember all this because it was such a great car for that time period.

“When the time finally came where I could purchase a car it was the era of muscle cars, floor shifts, and mag wheels. Fender skirts and spinners had faded from popularity.

“The old cars help keep the memories alive.”

James Williamson said the 1958 Ford was missing a grille cross member and appeared to be a cheaper model than the Fairlane.

Brenda Newman said it might be the 1959 Fairlane 500.

Also, Paul Perdue, Jerry Paul and Glenn Frostholm

Wayne Wilke wrote of the 1958 Ford: “My older brother had a Fairlane two-door hardtop that I borrowed one night to use on a double date. The only problem was that at 17, I was not old enough to legally drive it.

“Although I had a valid ‘Junior’ license, New York law at the time stated that a Junior license could be used to drive only in counties with a population less than 1 million. Where I lived, I was at least 75 miles from a county that had a small enough population. But that didn’t stop me that night.

“On the way to taking the girls home, the car stalled as I started to cross a six-lane boulevard (three lanes in each direction). It would not restart, and the battery was dead. With no headlights and my buddy pushing the Ford, we crossed the boulevard with oncoming cars beeping, dodging, with drivers cursing, and safely made it across – no accidents, no police.

“A good Samaritan gave us a jump start, and the night ended, luckily, with no further drama.”

Bill Harding said: “Ford’s front styling for 1958 resembled the Thunderbird’s, but the overall look was not as attractive as the previous year’s. The big news was the 352-cubic-inch V-8 producing an alleged 300 horsepower. However, the 352s were regularly trounced by Chevy’s new 348 and Plymouth’s new 350.

“Engine availability included a 223-cubic-inch in-line six, and 292- and 332-cubic-inch V-8s. You had a choice of a three-speed manual transmission (overdrive optional) plus two-speed Ford-O-Matic or three-speed Cruise-O-Matic automatic transmissions, depending upon your engine choice.

“By the way, the Ford-O-Matic actually did have three forward gear ratios, but Ford set it up so that if you kept the selector in ‘drive’ the car started out in second gear. Only if you selected ‘low’ and then manually shifted to ‘drive’ would you actually have access to all three gear ratios.”

GROVETOWN: Jack Williams said: “It was the first year that had dual headlights. The way it looks, two-tone paint job, I’d say it’s a police car.”

Sandra Sheppard said 1958 Chevrolet Impala.

HARLEM: Brian Jewell

HEPHZIBAH: Leo Bennett said: “It was one of the cars I bought when I first got out of high school, for $75 in 1969. It was available in V-8 and six-cylinder. They were some good little vehicles.”

Also, Ralph Whitton

JOHNSTON, S.C.: Robert Butler

KEYSVILLE, GA.: Glenn Widner said: “This is much more recognizable to me than a Duesenberg. Four headlights were new for 1958. Engines were a six-cylinder standard, and ‘Y’ blocks of 292 and 312 cubic inches. New for 1958 Fords were an FE 332 and 352 cubic inch displacement; ‘FE’ stood for Ford-Edsel. The 352 Thunderbird Special made 300 horsepower.”

MCBEAN: Robert Lamb

MARTINEZ: Lloyd Schnuck said: “Freshened from 1957, models had a new hood scoop and the first year for quad headlights. Engines were straight six and V-8s: 292, 332 and 352 cubic inches; 205-300 horsepower with the top a 352-cubic-inch four-barrel carb ‘Interceptor.’ Transmission choices a three-speed manual, two automatics, the two-speed Ford-O-Matic and the new three-speed Cruise-O-Matic.

“Our family had every Ford sedan from 1949-1960 except the ’58, so I well remember what we didn’t have.”

Jeff Keevil said: “Back in those days the cars changed every year. The cross mesh grille, stepped bumper, and turn signal integrated with the grille is unique for that year.”

Cheryl Cook said: “My parents had a baby-blue Fairlane in the ’50s. At least that’s what my faded memory is telling me.”

NORTH AUGUSTA: Robert Blake said: “The 1958 year was one where the headlight area was not very stylish as the carmakers were dealing with when dual headlights on each side would be made legal in all states. Some car makers solved the issue by installing four headlights in states that allowed it and two headlights and two auxiliary lights in cars destined for states that did not allow the four head lamps.

“Some factories alternated production of the quad lamp cars two days a week and with the two-headlight cars on other days of the week.”

Also, Roy Clark and Wayne Leslie

PERRY, FLA.: Larry Anderson wrote: “Easy one this week. I remember one thing I noticed about the ‘58 Ford, in the early ‘60s when the car was about 3 or 4 years old. I always noticed when I saw one that all the taillights never seemed to work; there was always one or more burned out.

“All in all, I think that when you remember some of the great cars of 1950s, the 1958 Ford was a forgettable one. Just my opinion.”

THOMSON: William (Bill) McCord

TIGNALL, GA.: Gene Wilson said: “That year they came out with the 332-cubic-inch. It wasn’t that good an engine and gave a lot of trouble, but it was a nice looking car, especially the Fairlane 500.”


NO CITY LISTED: Roger King said the car “could be a 300, a Custom 300, a Fairlane or a Fairlane 500. The grille, bumper and side trim are all 1958 Ford. However, all ’58s had gun-sight ornaments on top of the fender, which does not show up in the picture.”

Marshall Banks guessed 1987 Ford.

Jim Rodgers said: “Got to be a 1958 Edsel.”


Have you seen this taillight before? If you know the year and make of this car, e-mail glynn.moore@augustachronicle.com or leave a message at (706) 823-3419.

Please tell us your name, telephone number and city, and this is very important: Spell your name if you call. We had to leave out some entries this week because we couldn’t make out what the callers said.

You have until midnight Tuesday to respond. We will highlight a winner chosen randomly. Thank you.

– Glynn Moore, staff writer