Chevy Bel Air Review—Classic Muscle Car Review - Muscle Car

Chevy Bel Air Review—Classic Muscle Car Review

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Written by Elise

15th March 2021

Chevy Bel Air Review—Classic Muscle Car Review
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Chevy Bel Air Review—Classic Muscle Car Review

By Owen Pham

It was in the 1950s that Chevrolet released a brand new model that would be considered a classic for generations to come. The model was initially called Deluxe Styline. At first, Chevrolet had some difficulty getting traction with this model. So, in 1953, they changed the name, and Bel Air was born.

It is hard to remember a car in American history as iconic as the Bel Air. It is a true symbol of the American middle-class showcasing the fashion and the design of those days. The Chevy Bel Air’s style was a masterpiece of an artistic car designer who considered design above all else. The model was introduced in several series or generations, but it was in 1955 that the second generation Bel Air became a game-changer. The arrival of the 1955-1957 Chevy Bel Air- turned this sensation into an all-time icon.

Chevy Bel Air Specs

There are a few cars as unique in the style as the second generation Bel Air: the Tri-5 was the combination of post-war society, the 50’s, and Rock and Roll. Chevrolet revamped their design for the second generation, starting with the 1955 Chevy Bel Air. The ideal power to weight ratio in tri-five gave customers a chance to get a lighter, faster car at virtually half the price.

Chevrolet Bel Air 4 door sedan (1957)

The most distinctive features of the 55-57 are the grille and the tail-fins. The 56 and 57 had grilles that covered the entire front end, unlike the 55 which had an egg-crate grille. Also, the 57 had the longest tail-fins among the three models. You could say Chevy Bel Air second generation created the feel and style of a Cadillac for the common man.

The Bel Air tri-five was offered in six main body styles: the 2-door hardtop, the 2-door convertible, and the 4 door sedan (top seller out of all body types available). The second generation Bel Air model was the first time Chevrolet put a V8 engine in its cars

The 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air was the first successful model to have an optional V-8 along with the basic I-6 engine. The V-8 engine played an even bigger part in the 1957 Chevy Bel Air. It was so popular and fierce it even helped Chevrolet thrash its opponents in NASCAR.

1955 Chevy Bel Air, “The Hot One”

Unlike its competitors, Chevrolet used a crisp and sharp design for the 55 Bel Air that earned it the “Hot One” title among the Chevrolet classic muscle cars. This model featured panoramic windshields, carpeted interior, chrome trim, and skewer spears, and a rich color palette that appealed to all tastes. The name Bel Air was scripted in gold letters on the car. This imagination and ingenuity in design helped the 55 capture 44 per cent of the low-end market.

The 265 cubic-inch 4.3-Liter V-8 engine would serve as the basis for newer versions. This was a major selling point for the second generation. Chevrolet had used the V-8 engine in the 1918 Corvette but didn’t have much luck with it. The all-new 4.3-liter V-8 engine helped the 55 Bel Air accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 12.5 seconds.

This engine initially came with a two-barrel carburettor and an output of 162 horsepower. With a four-barrel carburettor, power could be increased to 180 hp. The 55 Chevy Bel Air also gave the driver a choice of a standard 3-speed manual transmission or a 2-speed Powerglide auto transmission. 

One of the new features of the 55 Bel Air was air conditioning that came with a heavy-duty generator (it became mandatory in 1957). The success of Chevrolet with the 55 Bel Air set the stage for the next timeless classic: The 1957 Chevy Bel Air.

The 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, the Hit Becomes an Icon

In October of 1956, Chevrolet rolled out a brand new model with a few tweaks. The 1957 Chevy Bel Air had longer tail-fins, a V-shaped hood, a newly designed dashboard, a roomy interior, and a wider grille with gold trim. Headlights with wraparound grills around them and rear fenders shaped like long tail-fins gave the newer model a hip, modern look.

Compared to previous models, Chevrolet used a 283 cubic-inch V-8 (4.60-liter) engine equipped with a four-barrel carburettor and increased power to 283 bhp. The new model made the quarter-mile in about 17 seconds.

In addition to the 3-speed standard manual and the 2-speed Powerglide auto transmission, the 57 had a 3-speed turbo glide automatic transmission option. The shift pattern of the turbo glide was a typical “P R N D Gear”.

The 1957 Chevy Bel Air was an icon among classic cars and is still sought after today by car enthusiasts.

Chevy Bel Air in Pop Culture

The Chevrolet Bel Air second generation was used in many different movies. But one of its most famous appearances on the silver screen dates back to Francis Ford Coppola’s creation, the American Graffiti. This movie featured a black 55 Chevy Bel Air. Bob Falfa, the San Francisco drag racer and police officer, rode this car and raced against John Milner, who was riding a yellow Deuce Coupe.

Another iconic appearance for the Chevy Bel Air was a yellow 1957 Chevy Bel Air in the movie Hollywood Knights. Tony Danza, a member of a drag-racing group known as the Hollywood Knights, drove it in the movie. The car was nicknamed “Project X”.

Besides Hollywood, Chevy Bel Air has appeared in the world of TV and anime as well. A notable example was “M.A.S.K”. This animated series ran for 75 episodes. One of the main cars used in this cartoon was a 1957 Chevy Bel Air that inspired many young children to love and form a bond with the 57 Chevy.

Views of Owners

Many car collectors and enthusiasts still talk about Bel Air. The Bel Air series was a landmark in the history of Chevrolet and a symbol of the spirit and culture of that era. John Kraman, the director of consignments for Mecum Auctions in Marengo, Illinois, says: “There was a youthful spirit in the country. American culture started to shift, and the styling and performance of the cars that were starting to blossom in the mid-1950s reflected that”.

Earl Swift told the story of America through a 57 Chevy in his book, Auto Biography. He stated: “Driving is a nearly universal experience, a big part of what it means to be American, so a car — particularly an iconic car like the ’57 Chevy — makes for a good narrative centerpiece”.

Bottom Line

Rock and Roll, drive-in restaurants, and the Chevy Bel Air reflect the United States in the ’50s. With its sleek design, gold trim, long tail-fins, and a brand new V-8, it gave the common man a chance to feel the luxury of a custom car. It became so popular that it captured almost half of the low-range market in a couple of years.

Many car lovers still describe their experience with the Bel Air as magical, although finding a pristine example is difficult and expensive these days, but hey, all magic comes at a price.

Author: Owen Pham

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