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.
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.
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.