1958 Chrysler Saratoga

Summary:

A very large, fast car with lots of style and goodies, but with an attitude

Faults:

The generator needed brushes at about 65,000.

The radio (a tube type) quit working at about 70,000.

It developed an overheating problem at about 71,000.

The rear-left freeze plug popped out of the engine block constantly, usually when accelerating. Finally I fixed it permanently by machining a nylon plug with a type of toggle bolt through it.

The rear leaf springs were in a constant state of sagging. I really should have had a shop re-arc them, but never got around to it.

The lift-out style outside door handles were made of heavy chromed metal, but they didn't hold up on the front doors, and needed repair frequently.

The engine block developed a crack at about 80,000 and coolant got into the oil, ruining the engine. I got another one from a wrecking yard and rebuilt it.

At about 85,000 miles I went outside to get into my car and noticed it was sitting very low to the ground. I drove it to the local garage where they put it on a lift. The problem was one of the torsion bars in the front suspension had rusted in two. It was a fairly simple matter to replace, and I discovered I could raise or lower the front end of the car by turning the adjusting bolts on both of the torsion bars. Very cool.

General Comments:

My Chrysler Saratoga came with a 354 cubic-inch "Semi-Hemi", and it had so much low-end torque, that the car would tip to one side when I would "rev" up the engine. It didn't know what a hill was. I never owned another car as powerful since then. The amazing thing was it weighed 4,300 lbs!

I loved the push-button Torqueflite transmission. It really was a good idea, and I don't know why they didn't keep using the concept.

It was a very comfortable car, and cornered very nicely, due to the front torsion-bar suspension. It really leveled the road out.

It was a beautiful car in its day. Nice dash layout and front-end styling. It was built when huge tail fins were in style. I would have enjoyed it more if it had been more trouble-free.

The back seat was fabulous! Almost enough room for a coffee table in front of the sofa!

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 4th May, 2005

4th May 2005, 12:01

Worn motor mounts would cause any car to tip to one side when the engine is revved...

4th May 2005, 15:08

The writer of the comment about "politicians" making push-button transmissions illegal does not know what he is talking about.

Ford and Rambler had also used pushbutton transmission controls on some of their models, but by 1964 Chrysler was the only American automaker still doing so, and the reason they stopped using them after that year was for the same reason that a lot of other features are dropped after being introduced: the sales benefit was not justified by the greater cost of the pushbutton controls, so in 1965 they went back to the conventional, and less expensive lever shift.

5th May 2005, 00:36

In response to the worn motor mounts comment: Yes, what you say is certainly true, that any car will tip to one side slightly when the engine is revved if the motor mounts are worn. But in this case I bought new motor mounts when I swapped engines. There was no difference with the new mounts. Believe me, anyone who has ever experienced a Hemi or a Semi-Hemi, can attest to the fact that its low-end torque is nothing like that of a conventional inline cylinder V-8. I cannot imagine having a hemispherical-head engine in a car with a soft, full coil spring suspension. At least Chrysler's torsion bar suspension kept it well stabilized. The twisting motion to one side when revving it up was really the nature of the beast, and tended to raise the pulse rate, too. I just loved the feel of it.

13th Dec 2010, 14:55

The writer who "corrected" a post that politicians forced the end of push button transmissions was himself wrong. While the feds did not mandate a return to column-mounted shifts, they let automakers know that they had uniform specifications for federal fleet orders, which included column-mounted shifts. So the feds did have influence here.