1958 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible - A New Shape of Sophistication

The 1958 Corvette Convertible was a radical departure for America's sports car

Paul Zazarine Nov 2, 2006 0 Comment(s)
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The Corvette had been through turbulent times in the first years of its existence. A six-cylinder engine and an automatic transmission were not the powertrain of a sports car, and the Corvette's sales and image suffered. By 1955, with only 700 units sold, it looked as if the car was doomed, but an inspired engineer named Zora Arkus-Duntov and a two-seater from Ford called Thunderbird conspired to ensure the Corvette's continued existence.

Duntov slowly began to wield influence over the Corvette's packaging and options, and by 1957, it was a lithe, agile high-performance sports car offering fuel injection, heavy-duty racing suspensions, and four-speed gearboxes. On the beach at Daytona and at racetracks across the country, the Vette was asserting itself as America's sports car, and as a legitimate contender against the likes of Ferrari, Jaguar, and Maserati.

So when the '58 Corvette debuted, it was greeted with mixed reviews for its styling. Chevrolet called it "a new shape of sports car sophistication." While the basic look was carried over from 1957, the front end was heavier, with dual headlamps and nonfunctional air scoops on either side of the grille, which now had 9 bright teeth instead of 13 as in years past. It was the era of styling excess in Detroit, which in the case of the Corvette meant more chrome and other geegaws such as faux louvers in the hood and twin chrome spears down the decklid. The car also received a new palette of colors, and the paint was now acrylic lacquer, replacing nitrocellulose lacquer.

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Inside, the Corvette was treated to a new instrument panel that placed all gauges in the driver's line of sight. A large upper pod that contained the 160-mph speedometer dominated the gauge cluster. The tachometer sat atop the steering column with twin gauges on each side. Depending on the engine, the tachometer used different redlines. The seat upholstery was new, as were the designs of the center console and door panels. A large passenger grab bar was standard, as were seatbelts.

Under the louvered hood, the Corvette's powertrain was virtually unchanged from 1957. The top performer continued to be the RPO 579D 283ci, fuel-injected V-8, now rated at 290 hp (up 7 from the previous year). The standard powertrain was the 230hp 283 V-8 mated to a three-speed manual transmission. Also part of the $3,591 sticker price was a vinyl interior and a folding soft top. An auxiliary hardtop could be specified in place of the soft top at no extra cost.

Several different road tests of the day showed how well the Corvette performed. They also served to illustrate the surprisingly small performance differences between the RPO 469 245hp engine with dual Carter four-barrels and the RPO 579D 290hp Rochester-fuel-injected engine.

The most popular engine option in 1958 was RPO 469, with 2,436 built. One of the first '58 Corvettes to receive this engine was our feature car. It was built on the first day of production and is the 33rd '58 Corvette assembled. Along with the 245hp engine, it's equipped with RPO 473 Power Operated Folding Top, RPO 678 4.11:1 Posi-traction rear axle, RPO 440 Two-Tone Exterior Paint, and no radio. On taking delivery, the customer had the dealer install the more radical camshaft from the RPO 429 270hp engine. There's no question the customer was looking for total performance, and this decked-out Vette would deliver.

Currently owned by Rick Treworgy, of Punta Gorda, Florida, this numbers-matching '58 is a beautiful example of the second-generation Corvette. The exterior color is Charcoal, which was replaced in midyear by Tuxedo Black, enhancing what is already an unusual and highly desirable '58 Corvette.

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