A Look at the 1958 Oldsmobile 98 Convertible

The Last Chapter of Harley Earl’s Design Legacy: A Look at the 1958 Oldsmobile 98 Convertible

The 1958 Oldsmobile 98 convertible is a true American classic, representing the last model year designed under the exclusive control of Harley Earl, the most powerful styling authority in the history of the American automobile. This specific model, one of only 5,605 produced in that year, is a multiple-award winner, having earned the Antique Automobile Club of America’s Senior National First Prize in 1988 and the AACA Grand National First prize in 1990.

Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell’s Contributions

In 1957, Earl left on a European summer vacation, leaving assistant and design director Bill Mitchell at the helm. Under Mitchell’s guidance, the divisional studios soon developed an entirely new body architecture for 1959 models. Earl returned from Europe to find the new models already designed, marking the end of his reign as the most powerful styling authority in the history of the American automobile.

Design Features of the 1958 Oldsmobile 98 Convertible

This 1958 Oldsmobile 98 convertible is a stunning example of Earl’s increasingly bold design philosophy. Its bold styling, expansive proportions, and dazzling sculpted chrome and brightwork are all signature aspects of Earl’s design, all of which come together beautifully in this irresistible late-‘50s automotive icon.

The exterior presentation is classic period fare, with black paint complemented by a matching power-operated black convertible top, fender skirts, bright spinner wheel covers over red-painted steel wheels and wide whitewall tires, and chrome—perhaps the most of any GM model that year. The visual exclamation point is the dramatic Continental kit covering the vast expanse between the “rocket-engine” tail light housings, the perfect finish to a visual feast of ‘50s automobilia.

Features and Equipment

The famous 371 CI Rocket V-8 engine and 4-speed Hydra-Matic transmission were standard equipment in the flagship 98, which also featured a generous array of luxury and convenience appointments. This award-winning example features a sharp red and white interior with a padded dash, power windows, power split folding bench seat, power steering and brakes, heater and defrost, an in-dash clock, and the Autronic Eye headlight dimmer, all contributing to an evocative driving experience from a bygone era.

Conclusion

The 1958 Oldsmobile 98 convertible represents the last chapter in Harley Earl’s reign as the most powerful styling authority in the history of the American automobile. Its bold styling, impressive proportions, and striking details make it a true icon of the late-‘50s automotive era, and its multiple awards speak to its exceptional quality and design.

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