General Motors was the first U.S auto manufacturer to mass produce the pillar-less hardtop body style. GM applied the moniker “Convertible Hardtop” to the 1949; Buick Roadmaster Riviera, Cadillac Coupe de Ville, Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Holiday. The term “Convertible Hardtop” was derived from the concept that they would build a convertible and add a permanent hardtop that resembled a convertible with the top up. The doors would dispense with the fixed metal framing around the door window glass. This concept was first applied to two door cars and spread to four doors cars and some station wagons. The style became very popular and even struggling Independents had produced their own Hardtop models. Almost all U.S. Auto Makers had a Hardtop available by the mid-1950s.
The pillar-less hardtop was significant enough for most car brands to attach a corresponding name (in parenthesis in the image descriptions above) specifically for that body style or top tier model or trim level that was only available as a hardtop body. Models that were aimed at the economy conscious often did not offer hardtop variants. Conversely, upper market models would sometimes eliminate sedan versions from the line up.
Hardtop Brand Monikers:
Chevrolet –> Sport Coupe (2 door) Sport Sedan (4 door) confusing the issue since the term sedan was relegated mainly for traditional framed door glass cars.
Pontiac —-> Catalina
—-> de Ville & Seville
Chrysler (& 1955 Imperial)
—-> Country Club
Notice that some of the names would be used again, becoming separate models of their own. (i.e. Catalina, Riviera, Lancer, Newport) or trim packages (i.e. Holiday, Landau)
Visual example of Sedan vs. Hardtop
1956 Chevrolet 210 Two Door Sedan
1956 Chevrolet Bel Air Four Door Sedan
1956 Chevrolet Hardtops; Bel Air Sport Coupe & 210 Sport Sedan
After WWII auto manufacturers were scrambling to fill the demand for new cars, since auto production had stopped early in 1942. Early in the 1950’s a price war between Chevrolet and Ford started to squeeze out the independent car companies. Nash & Hudson merged to form American Motors Corporation and Studebaker & Packard merged into one company.
The sellers market had dried up by the mid-fifties and an economic downturn in 1958, that became known as the Eisenhower Recession, hit the automotive market hard. The recently expanding middle price car territory took the biggest hit, effecting Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, Dodge, Chrysler, Mercury. It was a fatal blow for DeSoto and Ford’s new entry into the field the Edsel.
The period did produce some of the most extravagant and glitzy cars ever produced. If you want to see more cars from 1958, click the link below: