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Custom Royal: 1958

Custom Royal: 1958

Columbus, Georgia, Dodge dealers in their showroom with one of the last 1958 models, getting ready for the '59s. 4x5 acetate negative. View full size.


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GM Motorama

I remember going to see the GM Motorama in 1955 and 56 in the Waldorf Astoria Ballroom in NYC. I was 13, and totally in love with tailfins, wrap-around windshields, chrome, and two-tone paint jobs. Unfortunately, we had a '52 Ford sedan.

"Full-Time Power Steering" . . .

... as opposed to the part-time version provided by GM which retained more of the 'feel' of the road by not kicking in until some minimal effort was expended.

Re: Chrome Trim

And if you'll look at the gap around the door, you'll see it's hung crookedly. But that is how it was with American carmakers until Japanese competitors started eating their lunch. For all the nostalgia lavished on 'classic' midcentury American cars, they were badly made, lasted maybe 100,000 miles, handled like boats, and got 15 mpg doing it.

Trust me, I was there; we are vastly better served today.

"Get all the car you're paying for"

Bumpers, Tires, Engine, the works.

"Mad Men" have plastered the wall

Note all the 'features' in the row of placards draped above the car. I can just imagine the 'thinking outside the box' going on in a smoke-filled room where the ad copy is brainstormed, composed and approved.

Next door neighbor had a DeSoto two-door hardtop. The make had never registered before that particular car. Back then I used to lurk around the dealers to see the new models before display. Sneaking into a secondary showroom to see the new Corvair was enlightening. No hump, and an automatic shift lever that looked as if it belonged on a Mixmaster.

They sure played around with shift controls. Levers, levers in the dash, pushbuttons, pushbuttons in the center of the wheel, and floor mounted. All that gimmickry took a lot of engineering and dollars, and it seems 99% was pure "Mad Men" sizzle rather than good old steak.

Showroom windows covered

It must be new car introduction time. Back when each year had its own individual styling the new models were kept covered and showroom windows papered so you had to register your name and telephone number with a salesman to get in. I remember as a young lad going with my father to each of the dealerships in the area to see the new lineups. It was a really big deal and the dealers made the most of the hype to get potential customers in. My dad and I would critique the new cars after we left a showroom and pronounce our judgment on the desirability of the new offerings.

My dad traded in our troublesome 1956 Pontiac for a 1958 Dodge Royal black four door hardtop and a few years later it became my first automobile, so I have a soft spot in my heart (and my head) for the '58 Dodge. I managed to blow out the Torqueflite transmission and crumple a fender over time, but I really miss that big beast of a car. Dodge sponsored the Lawrence Welk show at the time and a huge 'Swept Wing' logo was prominently displayed behind the band.

"New Spring Swept-Wing"

But the chrome trim on the door is way out of alignment with the trim on the fender. And the front tyre is flat.

"Luxury Lounge Interiors"

Forget cup holders. Each model comes with a cocktail table, an ice machine, a piano, a torch singer and your choice of a velvet painting featuring either poker playing or pool-shooting dogs.

Great pose.

Except they forgot to have the cleaning lady move her ladder.

Sad Occasion

Perhaps they're mourning the 1958 models?

...and the guy on the right can't put his ciggy down for the photo.

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