GM’s Class of ’59 Stars in Swedish Auction

Bilweb Auctions

The 1959 model year was a big one—literally—for American automobiles, especially at General Motors. This was the peak of size, flash, excess and tail fins at the General, who toned things down the following year for the more subdued ’60s. A lot of American car folks already know this, but old American cars and their history can be surprisingly popular in countries that didn’t spend the ’50s blinded by fins and chrome.

One of them is Sweden, which has a thriving American car scene. One Swedish collector is auctioning off his collection through the Swedish auction site Bilweb, and although there are some interesting Saabs and Volvos as one would expect, he was also fascinated by GM’s ’59 lineup and snagged one car from each brand—Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac. The auction represents a remarkable snapshot of the height of fins and decadence across the entire spread of GM’s car divisions. Which one is your favorite?

1959 Cadillac Eldorado Seville

Sweden 1959 Cadillac Seville Eldorado
Bilweb Auctions

Of the ’59 cars on offer, this Eldorado Seville is by far the most valuable, with an estimate of 1.1M-1.3M SEK (Swedish Krona), about $103K-$122K. It’s an original California car that made its way to Sweden in the early 1990s, and got a restoration there not long after. The estimate is in the car’s condition #1 (“concours”) range even though it looks more like a decent #3 (“good”) condition car in the photos. There can’t be many ’59 Caddies in Sweden so a premium for one up there makes sense.

1959 Pontiac Bonneville

sweden 1959 pontiac bonneville
Bilweb Auctions

For 1959, Pontiac saw perhaps the most radical year-to-year overhaul of any Detroit automaker in the ’50s. The ’59 Pontiac’s split grille foreshadowed the brand’s future styling, and overall shapes were lower, longer, and more open with an increase in glass area. The track also grew several inches for Pontiac’s signature and much-promoted “Wide-Track” stance. The Bonneville, available as a convertible, two-door hardtop, four-door Vista hardtop and four-door Custom Safari wagon, was Pontiac’s top model and came with a 389-cid V-8. This one made the trip up north to Sweden in 2000 and was restored there the same year, and has been in a museum ever since. It looks like a solid driver that has been sitting for a while. Like the Cadillac, it has an ambitious estimate at 320K-370K SEK ($30K-$35K), which is roughly the car’s #1 (“concours”) value in the States.

1959 Chevrolet Impala

sweden 1959 chevrolet impala sedan
Bilweb Auctions

The 1959 model year was a big one for Chevrolet as well, with numerous model changes as well as the brand taking the number one spot in the sales race ahead of Ford. Although the Impala had been introduced in 1958, the ’58 Impala was really just a top-trim model on the Bel Air. For ’59, Impala became its own separate series for the first time, with a full range of body styles and engines.

This one sold new in Los Angeles, and was in Sweden by the 2000s. It reportedly needs minor mechanical attention after 20 years of museum display, and has an estimate of 400K-450K SEK ($37K-$42K)—way high for a sedan with a middle-range 283 under the hood, but again might be more reasonable in Scandinavia where Impalas don’t roam in high numbers.

1959 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight

Sweden 1959 Oldsmobile 98
Bilweb Auctions

The top of the line Oldsmobile in 1959 was the 98 (Ninety-Eight), offering every standard feature in the Olds lineup, plus a few more like an electric clock, power steering/brakes, and the attractively named Jetaway Hydra Matic Drive. Power came from a 394-cid version of Olds’ Rocket V-8, rated at 315hp and 435 lb-ft. Unlike most of the American cars in the collection, this one has been in Sweden for a few decades already. It has a 320K-370K SEK ($30K-35K) estimate, which is beyond the condition #2 (“excellent”) value for it in the States.

1959 Buick Electra 225

sweden 1959 buick electra sedan
Bilweb Auctions

Buick’s full-size luxury car built for over three decades, the Electra was first introduced in 1959. Named after Electra Waggoner Briggs, a Texas socialite who was also the sister-in-law of GM’s President at the time, the Electra and all other ’59 Buicks featured all-new styling not seen on other ’59 GM cars, including slanted headlights, round taillights, and “Delta-Fins” in the back. This one was an Arizona car before moving to Sweden in 1989 and has been in a museum since 2000. It has a 330K-380K SEK ($31K-$36K) estimate.


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    I am a GM guy but these never moved me much. It was kind of the end of Harley Early and he was losing his touch with the market. More was not better by this point.

    Nice try. ” Which one of these is your favorite?” – ” April Fools! ” – So the question really is ‘ Which one of these cars do you find the least offensive ?’ The Impala… maybe. Still kinda like being forced to kiss that aunt that wears way too much perfume and has the mole. Lipstick on pigs. I can get a giggle from bad taste and wretched excess just as much as the next guy so well played. Still the Howard Roark in me wants to get out the dynamite and leave only a single example to remind people of how bad things can become.-Yikes! These things were fugly.

    There is a well documented history of how GM saw Chryslers cars and tried to change them late. Earl had been out of the country but did not change much on them. Mitchel was coming in and he was more about restraint and shapes. The Riviera was a good predictor of his vision as was the Stingray racer.

    You got fins to the left, fins to the right…

    We had a 59 Special and a 60 Deuce. Loved em both as a kid.

    Hyper- It’s a story I’m sure you’ve heard but. When Mitchel was going to unveil in 61 what would become the new Corvette, it was the Mako Shark concept. He insisted that the car be painted like a Mako shark he’d caught off the Bahamas. It couldn’t be done so instead they underhandedly painted his shark to match what they had sprayed on the car. He never caught on. Likewise Earl was a great trend setter but some of his designs were only that. The WW II fighter look fins on GM cars ( originally taken from the P-38 Lightening if I’m not mistaken, and I love the P-38 ) are an example of that. The 53 Studebaker Commander , a.k.a the (Raymond) Lowey Coupe , was a better looking car than after they tacked on fins in an attempt to make it more current and it became the Hawk. Rule of thumb -less is more.

    “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.” The quote is attributed to Pablo Picasso, This is a line that applies to Earl well. That is not a slight but the trait of a smart designer.

    Yes Schinella was in on painting the Shark. Same on there Trans Am Bird. Mitchell was against it and so they took the 455 SD and painted black and gold to match Mitchells Norton John Player Special motorcycle. Hmmm He then decided it wa good idea and the Bandit found his car.

    With these cars the 59 Pontiac and 60 Shared much but the less of the 60 made it a nicer car. I also was not a fan of the X frames. I hated lifting these cars. By the time I got to them they were getting weak and I hated having that odd frame on the rack.

    My Great uncle worked for GM from the 20’s to the 60’s. He always bought a new Cadillac till 59. It was too much for him and he skipped a couple years till the new Buick Electra came out. He was not a fin man. He was Buick and Chevy the rest of his life buying one of each.

    Are you referring to Larry Shinoda, perhaps? I’m unfamiliar with anyone named Schinella connected with the Mako story.

    Note the 55 Chevy grill came about after Earl saw a Ferrari grill at the Paris auto show. There is a great similarity there and the head lamps.

    Yeah, I’m a guy who first drove in the ’50s, so although I “get” some of the negative comments above, I can’t resist fins. That Eldo takes the prize in this batch, IMO.

    The 59 is the only Chevy that interests me but if I had to pick one it would be the Buick hands down. The Forward Look Mopars put a scare in GM threw out the refresh of the 58 bodies, to rush out a new car for 59 which resulted in tossing out the whole A, B, C body thing to have everyone work off what Buick was working on for future years.

    The Caddy would be my 2nd choice with the Chevy coming in at 3rd. The Poncho isn’t bad but he can keep the Olds the weakest design in my opinion.

    I am an Olds guy but my pick would be the 59 Bonneville. My wife’s folks had a two-tone green one when we got married. They had bought it used but it was a super nice car. It was a great road car. I remember my future father-in-law trying to vacuum the glitter our of the carpet until he realized it was glitter. We had several good laughs about that one. Just thinking about that car brings back some good memories of many years ago since my wife and I are exactly one month away from our 58th anniversary.

    Glenn- Bought a near mint 50 something Electrolux canister vacuum at a garage sale for next to nothing. Green, plenty of chrome, great vacuum too.- ‘ Happy anniversary honey! ‘

    i owned a 1959 chrysler gold crown silverthorn southampton imperial with the extra airconditiong unit in the trunk for 16 years. i did not know that the first owner was president truman until two months after i sold it. i sold it for one thousand dollars through hemmings in 1986. the guy drove it from kansas to s. carolina. he said he had it presold to someone in sweden. he didn’t give me his contact info so i didn’t let him know what the chrysler ervice manager had told me of the cars history. i was tired of looking at it after 16 years, kinda like my ex wife. it had to go.

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