From 1957 to 1959, General Motors produced a Chevrolet passenger car that was available in three models, and the classiest of these offerings was the Bel Air, which became an instant American classic. The ’57 Bel Air was part of a second generation of Chevys, and the ’59 model was in the fourth generation. How do these two cars compare?
1957 Bel Air
With the first generation Bel Air, Chevrolet introduced an auto icon to the world. In terms of styling, the Bel Air was everything that American car buyers could hope for in a vehicle. This was a full-sized model with clean aerodynamic lines and a few subtle hints, borrowed from high-performance vehicles such as the Ferrari. To this day, the ’57 Sports Coupe and convertible models are lusted after by collectors. Under the hood, car buyers could go as high as the 283 cu in V8, and they even had a Super Turbo Fire V8 option if they really wanted to burn rubber; in fact, an early fuel injection option offered an alternative to carburetion systems.
1959 Bel Air
The fourth generation Bel Air was a sled. It actually was longer than previous models, and it featured tailfins that looked like fighter jet wings. The rear aspect of this vehicle was truly striking, and the added chrome and flash on the Sport Coupe and Sedan trim levels was a bit much for some car buyers. The ’59 Bel Air had competition from the Chevy Impala, which some drivers considered less menacing. In terms of muscle, the ’59 Bel Air could be ordered with the 348 cu in V8, which is a 5.7 L engine. This meant hot rod enthusiasts could get behind the wheel of a special package, featuring three double-barrel carbs and a very impressive compression ratio to squeeze 335 horsepower from their stylish Bel Air.
Based on pure performance, the ’59 Bel Air was far superior to the venerable ’57 models from the first generation. It is important to note that Chevy’s fuel injection technology advanced considerably in those three years, and thus, the ’59 Bel Air was a more efficient machine. In terms of aesthetics, however, the ’57 Bel Air convertible with luxury trim was simply awe-inspiring and one of the most beautiful vehicles designed by General Motors.
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