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Flashback Fridays – 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

1957 Chevrolet Bel AirWhy is the ’57 Chevy arguably the most iconic car of the 1950s? What began as a mid-cycle refresh turned into a car that combined the best performance and styling of the era, gaining fans from across the automotive spectrum.

The Bel Air’s platform was introduced in 1955, bringing with it modern styling and the introduction of the legendary Chevy small block V8. Plans for an all-new car in 1957 had to be pushed back, but a crash program to refresh the car’s styling resulted in so many changes that it shed any visual relation to the previous model years.

Overall, the car was slightly longer and wider, but the bucket headlights, pointed tailfins, ribbed aluminum trim, gold accents and oval grill were unlike anything seen from the bowtie brand. Add in two-tone pastel and white paint schemes plus white wall tires, and it brought every ’50s styling cue together into a single body.

 

Check out a recent Featured Member of the Week: HighRev327 – Featuring his 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

 

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air – Interior and Style

Inside, passengers were greeted by a restyled dash and a fully carpeted floor while high-tech features like factory-installed air conditioning and auto-dimming high beams could be added to improve the driving experience. Buyers could pick from sedan, wagon, coupe and convertible bodystyles as well as the two-door Nomad station wagon, two-door sedan and two-seat utility coupe.

That styling was backed by a major leap in performance. The “stovebolt” straight six and 162 horsepower, 265-cubic-inch V8 returned from the previous year, but they were joined by a new motor available in several versions ranging from the basic engine with a two-barrel carburetor producing 185 horsepower to the Corvette’s own top-of-the-line, Ramjet fuel-injected engine good for 283 horsepower. Chevy erroneously claimed the “fuelly” engine was the first American production car to produce 1 horsepower per cubic inch; in reality, Chrysler’s 300 had reached the benchmark a year before. However, unlike the 300, even loaded Bel Airs were priced within the reach of average American buyers.

With over 700,000 built, there’s a surprisingly large supply of these cars around today, but some of the bodystyles are rare: just 6,100 Nomads, around 24,000 wagons, 47,000 convertibles and 166,000 coupes. Compatibility with Chevy’s small block engines combined with a curb weight of around 3,300 pounds made the car popular with drag racers, and its classic looks have made it a staple of cruise nights and custom builders. Even as original versions skyrocket in price, they remain a popular car for across the market.

 

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