Central Oklahoma Classic Chevy Club

(Page 2 of 2)

1959 Chevy cornering tests1959 Chevy cornering tests
As the photographs show, the combination of soft suspension and fast cornering produces a pretty deep roll, but it feels much better than it looks - the low center of gravity and wide tread prevent any feeling of top-heaviness. And there is no tendency of the right front wheel to plow or wallow in cornering. When you swing into a corner, the car just leans as far as it's going to and holds that attitude firmly around the bend. Of course, that same soft suspension soaks up bumps like a blotter - both the little jiggles and the big hard bounces. Driving a six-cylinder Biscayne sedan over the roughest possible road (this was at the GM proving grounds, and its'potholes and broken pavement are far worse than anything you'd be likely to find on a public highway), I couldn't make the springs bottom and none of my three passengers was bounced around too badly.

59 FinsThis is a power-steering car. Manual steering is available, and it handles well enough on the road, but with its added length and weight the '59 Chevy requires 5.8 turns of the wheel, lock to lock (it was 5.2 last year). This is all right until you hit a snaky country lane, where although the excellent ball-joint 'front suspension and recirculating-ball steering give you smooth, accurate steering, it takes a lot of wheel-twisting to bring it around.

That extra weight, incidentally - 150 to 200 lbs. heavier than last year - requires more braking power to handle the increased inertia. It's there - lining area has been boosted by 20% to 199.5 square inches, and new flanged drums dissipate heat more quickly. I tried both standard and power brakes, and both had all the stopping power necessary without requiring heavy muscular effort.

Chevy's new wheels have functional cooling slots for bigger brakes made necessary by 200 lbs. extra weight of '59 model. Wind-tunnel tests proved slot's effectiveness.Cooling slots in wheels
59 Dashboard Dash is clean and functional. Hooded instruments are easy to read and reflection-free. Short horn ring has thumb-buttons recessed into spokes of Impala-style wheel.

There are no new engines or horsepower-increasing gimmicks-the horsepower truce of 1957 has finally taken effect. The great 283-cu. in. V-8, popular among sports-car and hot-rod fans as the Corvette engine, is the standard model, and the big 348-cu. in. mill, developing 250 bhp, that came out last year is the top of the line. (That 250 bhp is in standard tune. With triple-dual carburetion and optional special camshaft, the 348 mill turns out 315 bhp, and with F.I. and special cam, the 283 engine puts out 290 bhp). For the economy-minded, there's the 235.5-cu. in. six, which gives 135 bhp.)

The big 348-cu. in. engine is available in four stages of tune for 1959. With standard 4-barrel carb, the mill produces 250 bhp @ 4400 rpm. With 4-barrel and special cam, bhp goes up to 300 @ 5600 rpm. Three duals produce 280 bhp @ 4800 rpm, and with the special cam, 315 bhp @ 5600 rpm.348 Engine compartment

Transmission options, too, are the same as last year's with one notable exception to gladden the heart of the dedicated shift-for-yourself driver. The Corvette's fabulous four-speed close-ratio stick shift is now available on passenger cars, with either the 348-cu. in. engine or the fuel-injected version of the 283.

Performance is just about the same as that of the '58s. The "mildest" model, a four-door Biscayne six with Powerglide, took 16.4 seconds to reach 60 mph with four of us aboard, but it moved steadily and easily up to 70 and stayed there without effort, up hill and down dale. At the other end of the scale, an Impala coupe with Turboglide and 348-cu. in. engine got us to the 60-mph mark in a shade under 11seconds, with four up. With only a driver, it would easily break the ten-second mark.

All in all, the 1959 Chevrolet is a spectacular car. It's big, clean-lined and radically styled, with all the passenger and luggage space, and performance, that a car owner could want. The day of the "little Chevy" has passed.

Return to "memory lane" index.