A Love/Hate Relationship
BY: Bob Kroupa of Vette-N-Vestments
The introduction of the 1958 was met with mixed reviews from the press and public. The clean, simple lines of the previous year model, 1957, were completely changed. It was a sign of the times when chrome was the styling trend of the day. Some people loved the "glitz" while others complained the Corvette body styling was a disaster. However, in today's market, this unique Corvette has become a collectable.
This was the first year the Corvette turned a profit for Chevrolet. This was remarkable when you consider this was at a time when the economy was down and only a few models registered a gain over the previous year. The production of the 1958 Corvette exceeded 9000 units for the first time. This was an increase of approximately 3000 units over the 1957 model.
Major changes were made in the body style, as well as in the interior. The body changes included dual headlights, additional chrome around the headlights, the top of the fenders and two large chrome strips down the trunk. The bumpers were attached to the frame for the first time, which made them more functional. The hood was louvered and simulated air scoops were added to the grill and side fender treatment. The overall body was extended by approximately ten inches mainly in the front end, and the width was increased by two inches.
The interior was completely redesigned and this drew applause from the public and automotive publications. All of the instruments were positioned conveniently in front of the driver. These included a new 160 mph speedometer and a 6000 rpm tachometer. A "grab bar" was added for the passenger and a locking glove box door was positioned between the seats. Seat belts were added as standard equipment for the first time.
The base price was $3,591, which included the three speed manual transmission. The price performance of the 1958 Corvette has been extremely interesting over the years, it is a highly sought after collector car. Few cross the auction block. The average price today is $26,100. Our 2001 database shows a high price of $47,500 and a low price of $18,900. At the Bloomington Gold Auction in June, 2000, we registered two 1958 models that crossed the auction block. Both had the dual carburetor, optional 283-245 motor. One, in good condition with an automatic transmission, sold for $30,500. The other, a 4-speed in street driven condition, sold for $28,100. There were no 1958 Corvettes in the last "Corvettes at Carlisle" auction. From a collectability pricing perspective, our one-year appreciation shows no change from the previous year.
Options were priced right and they included convenience and/or racing oriented equipment. A power-glide option was available for $188, power windows for $59, a power-operated top was priced at $140, and a removable hardtop went for $215. Today, the removable hardtop will command $1200-$1500. Racing oriented options included a 4-speed transmission for $215, heavy duty brakes and suspension for $780, and the 290 hp fuel injected 283 motor for $484. A 250 hp fuel injected version was also available for the same price. Approximately 1000 orders were place for the 290 version and 500 were placed for the 250 hp unit.
Performance was excellent with the 290 hp Corvette turning the ¼ mile in 15.6 seconds, and the 0-60 mph was completed in 6.9 seconds. Top speed was reported to be in excess of 120 mph. The Corvette performance was compared to the Jaguar, Porsche and Ferrari (so what's new?!), which were selling in the $10,000 range, approximately three times that of the Corvette. Magazine test results were excellent, as was the performance record on the racecar circuit.
From an advertising perspective, Chevrolet covered all the bases. Copy from their ads contained the following messages:
A way of life begins at the wheel.
Just to sit in the Corvette's cockpit gives you a young-and-on-the-go feeling. There's a smartness everywhere and deep-cushioned comfort. The floor-mounted gear lever is so close you can shift in the click of a stopwatch. The full instrument complement is grouped to be read at a glance, and includes a tachometer and electric clock. For the navigator there's a vinyl covered assist bar. You'll even find an ashtray and glove case between the contoured bucket seats!
A light, safe, spirited sports car is a breed
apart. Truly a
triumph of handling - roadworthy in the most critical sense.
It must handle
with precision and corner with positive control. It must
withstand long periods
at high rpm, without a whimper. It calls for a superior
suspension, an enviable
ratio of power to weight. Comfortable tourer, rally car,
trials car … it
must be all these, at one and the same time. And this multi-
purpose role is
what so uniquely distinguishes the Corvette as a thoroughbred
sports car. Only
when you lay hand to its helm and toe to its throttle will you
fully learn its
We look for an appreciation factor of 5% for the upcoming year based on few 1958 Corvettes being offered for sale.
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