Against that dazzling array Ford counters with, first of all, a surprisingly revamped Ford car that has a more massive front, a multigrooved roof and a pair of jutting twin taillights which replace the familiar round lenses. Ford had just had a sweeping revision for 1957; the look of the 1958 is an unmistakable signal that hotter styling wars lie ahead. A bit wider than before but otherwise little changed in basic dimensions, the Fords boast hotter engines. The old 292-cu.-in. model now is the smallest of three V-8s; the new ones of 352 and 332 cu. in. develop 300 and 265 hp, respectively, with four-barrel carburetion. The 223-cu.-in. six produces 145 hp, a modest increase. Like GM, the Ford Company offers ride-leveling air suspension on all makes. The Thunderbird soon becomes a four-seater, further evidence of Ford's insistence that it is not a sports car but an elegant "personal" car.
Now that the Edsel has arrived (SI, Sept. 2), Ford has upgraded Mercury with the luxurious Park Lane, seven inches longer than the standard 213-inch-long Mercurys. Mercury looks much the same for 1958 but is considerably less loud. The biggest stock engine in the U.S., an extra-cost 430-cu.-in. unit developing 400 hp, heads an engine line of exceptional oomph. Lincoln blossoms out with the longest stock model in America (19 feet 1 inch) and one-unit construction in an all-out bid to catch the elusive Caddy.
CHRYSLER: MORE FINS
Unlike GM and Ford, Chrysler Corporation enters the 1958 race without major styling change. The wedge-shaped, fin-tailed look has been a smashing success so far; it boosted Chrysler's share of the market for the 1957 model year 3.56% (to 19.54%) and returned Plymouth to third place in the standings, behind Ford and Chevvy, and ahead of Buick. Chief Stylist Virgil Exner, has become a prophet with lustrous honor.
The scope of Chrysler's 1957 styling adventure—spectacular models in each of the five lines—represented a colossal, if shrewdly calculated, risk, and it dramatized Tex Colbert's determination to revitalize the Chrysler operation. For 1958 the risk taken is hardly less great: that of seeing whether the cars are still visually exciting enough to be vigorously competitive with the bold new models from GM and Ford.
Some face lifting has been done, to be sure: revision of grille designs, rearrangement of body ornamentation, enlargement of windshields. Beneath the skin the news is in engines. Two new engines of 350 and 360 cu. in., developing 280 to 333 hp depending on carburetion and accessories, appear throughout the line under a variety of names (offering fuel injection for the first time). These are engines with deeper blocks and less weight than previous comparable models. All Chrysler Corporation V-8s are fitted with a new fuel-rationing choke system to improve operating economy. As in the past each make offers a high-performance engine package; the most powerful models again are in the Chrysler 300 series, now called the 300-D, equipped with a 392-cu.-in. engine.
One of 1957's major engineering accomplishments was the Chrysler torsion springing. Its contribution to handling and performance impressed many U.S. motor sportsmen and astonished Paul Frère, the fine Belgian Grand Prix driver, in an all-out race course test of the Plymouth. It will, of course, be continued on the 1958. Chrysler is so pleased with the system that it is not now introducing air suspension.
Behind heavier Plymouth bumpers are hotter engines ranging from 132 hp for the 230-cu.-in. six to 315 for a special 350-cu.-in. V-8. Dodge's cluttered 1957 grille is now no less massive but considerably cleaner. De Soto also has a noticeably new and chrome-laden front end, as does Chrysler, which adds a shorter (by four inches) model in its Windsor line. The Imperial made a flying start in the luxury market this year and should again be a keen contender.
AMERICAN MOTORS: ECONOMY
American motors, with a successful bread-and-butter car in the 1957 Rambler, pursues the theme of compactness and economical operation still more aggressively in the new entries. The larger Nash and Hudson lines have been discontinued, and the company now offers only one "big" car, the Ambassador. Before the year is out AM will explore the small-car market further (it currently imports the tiny Metropolitan from England) by reviving a short-wheelbase Rambler (100 inches).