Throwback Thursday 40

While it is true that on this day in 1895 Charles Duryea was issued the first US patent for a gasoline-powered automobile, I wanted to write something more personal for this edition of Throwback Thursday.

At this time 50 years ago, I was in the last days as a fourth-grade student at Public School #241 in Baltimore. Our teacher was Mrs. S and both Dr. Zal and I had a crush on her. She lived in the same apartment complex as Dr. Zal and one day during the summer between fourth and fifth grade, after screwing up our courage, we decided to pay her a visit. She could not have been more gracious and friendly. I think we spent a half hour in her apartment talking about school.

Could something like that even happen today? (I’m not talking about the virus restrictions getting in the way.) One reason I remember that afternoon fondly is that it seems like a relic from a simpler time. As I have written before, I often pine for my childhood because it was a time when almost anything seemed possible. It also seems, from this distance, as if those were much simpler and more pleasant days.

Of course, my memory could be faulty. In his great book about Vince Lombardi, When Pride Still Mattered, David Maraniss writes about “the fallacy of the innocent past.” I simply could have been unaware of life’s travails at that age.

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As I have previously revealed my birthday is in late March. While my annual physical was originally scheduled for early April, in deference to current circumstances I pushed it out until June 12, which is tomorrow, of course. Yesterday, I received a call from my doctor’s office basically begging me not to have the physical as scheduled, but to reschedule or to have a phone visit, instead. When I reminded the representative that I needed blood work, she said if I had signed up for the “Patient Portal” the doctor could have given me a slip to get the lab work done somewhere else. When I replied that still would require a visit to a lab outside my house and that I might as well see the doctor, after confirming I had a mask and gloves, she relented and confirmed my appointment.

I have to say that, while I realize her intentions were honorable, the call was most disturbing. Yes, the doctor’s office is in a building attached to this area’s primary hospital, but haven’t they established procedures to mitigate risk by now? Her call has also made me question whether or not I want to have the physical exam tomorrow.

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All of the In Or Out? cars have been voted In except for the first one, the Maserati 3200 GT. I have tried to choose cars that are not obviously In or Out for you, the readers. I have also tried to choose cars that are not obviously In or Out for me, but think that almost all of the cars have been candidates, at least, to make my vaguely defined Automobile Top 100.

While this is not an In Or Out? post, I want to show a car that might be a subject for the series at some later date. From Classic Cars, a picture of a 1958 Chevrolet Impala:

 

See the source image

 

I am 95% certain that for this first year, the Impala was actually a sub-model of the Bel Air. In standard catalog of® American Cars, 1946-1975 by John Gunnell the Impala is listed under the Bel Air series for 1958, but then listed separately from 1959 on.

This was a one-year only body style. It’s hard to imagine something like that happening today, even though modern design systems actually make it easier to make changes.

Although now discontinued for the third and almost certainly final time, the Impala is one of the most significant models in US automotive history. At its introduction, one of its most distinctive features was the symmetrical triple taillights. From Fine Art America, a picture showing those lights:

 

See the source image

 

I have seen this taillight treatment on several modified Corvettes, especially C2 models (1963-1967). The 1958 model year was also significant as it marked the introduction of the first version of the Chevrolet big-block engine, the W-Series. Originally displacing “just” 348 cubic inches, this engine family would be produced until 2009. (Please see the comments for clarification. Technically, the W-Block was not the same as the famous 396/427 big block of the 1960s. Still, this began Chevrolet’s production of big-block V8s that continued until 2009.) My sources are not in agreement on the highest output for this engine in its intro year. Using the more conservative source, for 1958 the 348 cubic-inch engine maxed out at 280 HP/355 LB-FT of torque.

Any thoughts on the 1958 Impala?

 

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17 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday 40

  1. I’ve long been a fan of the 58. My first car, at age 13, was a 58 Del Ray wagon. 6 cylinder, 3 on the tree, rusty, ragged, but the radio worked. Car was beaten mercilessly in various fields and trails around the neighborhood until the rusty frame finally broke and was no longer repairable.This was pre American Graffiti so needless to say I really liked that Impala in the movie.

    As for the 348 horsepower; I had heard, and the link below says there was a mid year 315 horsepower version.

    https://58classicchevy.com/1958-chevrolet-engines

    One thing NOT mentioned is that mid year they also offered a 4 speed. Many years ago I saw in person a “unicorn” 58 Impalla needing restoration; convertible, 4 speed, 348 with 3 deuces. Owner wanted serious money, far more than I cared, or was able at the time, to spend. I hope someone was able to buy and save it Given the current values of 58’s, that particular car is most likely a 6 figure car today.

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    1. Thanks, sir.

      One source did list a 315 HP version of the 348 engine in 1958. (Enough numbers!)

      I tried to compile a list of American auto engines/displacement/output from 1920 on. I am among the lucky 15% of people with OCD who also have some degree of ADD. How far do you think I got? Not very…

      I wanted to unearth the identity of the first US car engine to offer 100+ HP.

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  2. As a young man, I owned a 1957 Bel Air and a 1959 Impala. Both four-door cars that would have been less valuable as collectors. I shunned the 58, not appreciating its styling for some reason, probably just personal. In my advanced years, however, I have seen the light and have come to appreciate the beauty of all those later year 1950s models.

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    1. The market for those late 50s cars has waxed and waned over the years. I would not be surprised if the current conditions have sent a chill through the collector car market.

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  3. Reading Mr. McGee’s comment, I was 69 years old when I first learned of the Del Rey when I actually saw one on display in Bismarck, North Dakota. And I thought I knew Chevrolet products. 🙂

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  4. Reading further down in Wiki – it states the W-family of engines
    were available until mid 1965, when GM changed to the 396 type
    of engines.

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      1. The 348/409/427 W-series block is not the same as the 396/427 big block. The W-series engine had the combustion chamber in the block not the head and the cylinder head mounting surface was not perpendicular to the cylinder bore. The big block 396/427 was a conventional design with the combustion chamber in the head and the deck perpendicular to the cylinder bore. All of the manufacturers vary their engine displacements all over the map. For instance the Ford Windsor small block V-8 had displacements of 221/260/289/302 and others which I cannot remember. To make the 351 Windsor Ford raised the cylinder head deck in order to get a longer stroke. Then they could get displacements from 351 through 460 cubes. Sorry for the correction, it is just the engineer in me.

        The 1958 Impala was only a single year design but it has sweet lines. I liked them even before the American Graffiti movie. Those iconic tail light lenses served Chevrolet well coming back after the 1959 whale tail and appeared on the 1960’s bubble top Impalas.

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  5. So you had a habit of visiting your teachers, did you? Do you remember the time we visited our Spanish teacher, and he was fixing a watch in his “wife beater”? He was also gracious if not a bit surprised! 🤣 Those were the days!

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  6. Great minds think alike. I had a follow up appointment today, but since I can monitor my own conditions except my cholesterol, I rescheduled. Wouldn’t you know, I got a text asking me to bring in my insurance card and co payment YESTERDAY. My doc is part of a large office which is part of a health system. Which is to say that health in the time of COVID is a 💩 storm. I was told that Hopkins is projecting tens of millions in lost revenue. Four months later, no one has a clue what to do.

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  7. My taste favours the 1958s when it comes to GMs offerings, from Chevy to Caddy. I realize they are heavier looking and overwrought when compared to the 57s, and just heavy compared to the 59s. For whatever reason they do appeal to me.

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    1. Different strokes for different folks (usually abbreviated here as DSFDF) or beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

      I like 2-door 1958-60 Rambler Americans. I think idiosyncrasies, not variety, are the spice of life.

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