By Vern Parker
Back in the mid-1950s getting a different
car every other year or so was a common practice. Young Stan Fetter lived with
his parents in Arlington, Va., and he clearly remembers them bringing home a
different Dodge almost every other year.
His parents preferred slightly used cars for a better value. In 1958 the family
car was a 1957 Dodge. That car was replaced in 1960 by a 1959 Dodge. Both cars
had rear fenders capped with the outrageous fins favored by Chrysler designers
in those days. "I thought those Dodges were the prettiest things in the world,”
Fetter now says.
Decades passed but Fetter never got over his infatuation with the finny
mid-1950s Dodges. The Dodges of that era were plagued with rust problems which
meant that only a few survived.
Nonetheless, for Fetter, the search for one of those Dodges never ended. As the
years passed Fetter would track down any 1950s-era Dodge he saw advertised for
sale. "I looked,” he says, "but they all had rust all over the place.”
In the spring of 2008 he saw an ad offering a 1958 Dodge Coronet Lancer
four-door hardtop. Surprisingly it was located in Arlington, not far from his
Fetter found it was a rust-free Wedgewood Blue and Eggshell White car that had
already received a lot of restoration work. The body work was complete on the
3,605-pound Dodge as was the upholstery.
Records indicate that the car likely was sold new in Ohio. The base price
Fetter liked what he saw and was not about to let this unusual car get away. He
purchased the Dodge in May 2008 and drove it to his Accokeek, Md., home. The
odometer had just rolled over 98,000 miles.
Under the expansive engine hood, which is crowned by a pair of chrome
ornaments, is a powerful 325-cubic-inch V-8 that develops 252 horsepower. All
of that power is transferred to the rear drive wheels via a two-speed
Powerflite automatic push button transmission. The top row of the push button
controls at the left end of the dashboard are from the left:
Reverse-Neutral-Drive. The single push button on the bottom row activates the
The blue dashboard is painted although a pad was an optional extra. The dashboard
and the steering wheel both share the same blue as that on the outside of the
Two contrasting white panels give the
dashboard some visual depth. The glove compartment door is white as is the
panel below the 120 mph speedometer. The instruments in that panel are from the
left: Amperes-Fuel-Clock-Oil Pressure-Temperature.
In the center of the dashboard is a panel that can be swiveled 180 degrees to
expose an ashtray.
The factory-installed air conditioner needed Fetter's attention. The repaired
unit now can easily cool the cabin. Fetter admires the functionality of the two
air conditioning vents on top of the dashboard. Additionally, a third vent
directs cool air at the ankle level. When the air conditioner is not in use the
cabin occupants are kept comfortable by fresh air directed by the wing vent
windows in the front doors.
To the left of the air vents is the dash-mounted mirror. The AM radio occupies
the traditional position.
"Torsion-Aire Ride” suspension is supported by 8.00x14-inch tires on a 122-inch
wheelbase. The 17-foot, 10-inch-long Dodge provides a true "big car” ride. The
spacious cabin is 78.3-inches wide with a panoramic view through the wraparound
When Fetter first got his Dodge he noted that the car was equipped with a
two-barrel Stromberg carburetor. "It had an automatic choke,” Fetter remembers,
"which was a pretty big deal at the time.” Fetter adds, "It was a big deal to
keep it working right too.” The engine drinks from a 20-gallon gasoline tank.
The relatively new – in 1958 – 12-volt electrical system is efficient in
spinning the starter motor.
The 1958 Dodges were the first Dodges to have four headlights. The odometer on
Fetter's Coronet Lancer has now reached 100,534 miles. The car has not gone on
any lengthy trips. Fetter, instead, enjoys fair weather jaunts close to home
and weekend cruise-in events.