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The Fiftes truly are the Motor City’s chrome period. Two of our candidates for the chromiest of the era are a pair of 1958 General Motors products, Buick and Oldsmobile.

In talking with our fellow fans of ’50s cars, we often hear them remark that the most extensively decorated, chrome-laden automobile of the period must be the 1958 Buick. And that’s interesting, because we often hear the very same thing said about its GM stablemate, the ’58 Oldsmobile. Hmm. Looking over the square acreage of shiny trim on both cars, maybe we should call it a tossup.
Both the Olds and the Buick sport collosal chromium-plated bumpers and heavy-handed bright metal treatments around the headlamps and rear fender caps. Both feature emblems and badging galore, and both carry enough stainless trim molding that if you laid it all out end to end, it might stretch a good part of a city block. GM styling chief Harley Earl retired in 1958, but not before he established an all-time Motor City record for bright metal decoration. It seems that after three decades as head of design at GM, chrome was now his favorite color.

Here’s another tough call: Which ’58 Buick is more elaborately decorated? Is it the almost-top-of-the-line Roadmaster (above) or is it the absolute pinnacle (below) that year, the Limited? The Roadmaster listed for $4,667 while the Limited came in at $5.112, but either way, buyers got plenty of flashy metal trim for their money.
On the Roadmaster, a textured metal insert and a die-cast frying-pan gadget filled the quarter-panel cove, while the Limited adopted a hashmark theme with 15 (count them, 15) diagonal trim pieces. Both looks are remarkably busy, which was the objective, it’s fair to guess. By the way, both the Roadmaster and Limited names were dropped for 1959 as Buick debuted all new model designations.

We tend to think of base-model Detroit automobiles of the ’50s as bare and unadorned, but that sure wasn’t the case at Oldsmobile in 1958. The lowest-price Dynamic 88 (above) employed the same general trim theme as the flagship 98 (below). Yes, that’s singer Patti Page with the Dynamic 88 convertible. As host of The Patti Page Oldsmobile Show, she was the face and voice of the Olds division on TV, much like Dinah Shore for Chevrolet.
It’s difficult not to notice that the ’58 Olds uses two remarkably different chrome trim schemes on the front fenders versus the rear quarters, and they don’t really flatter or complement each other. Not that they should have to, as each of the elaborate trim layouts seems to be there for its own sake. By 1958, GM had taken chrome trim about as far as it could go as a styling tool, and for ’59, the automaker would strike out in a different direction.

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