Chevrolet called their ’57 line “sweet, smooth, and sassy,” and the Bel Air was exactly what America wanted—a junior Cadillac. Finny, trim, and handsome, and with Ed Cole’s Super Turbo-Fire V8, it boasted one of the first production engines to pump out one horsepower per cubic inch, and was the first mass-market “fuelie” sedan with Ramjet injection.
Chevy copywriters screamed “the Hot One’s even hotter,” and Bel Airs became kings of the street. Production that year broke the 11⁄2 million barrier and gave Ford the fright of its life. The trouble was that the “Hot One” was forced to cool it when the Automobile Manufacturers’ Association urged carmakers to put an end to their performance hysteria.
Today, the Bel Air is one of the most widely coveted US collector’s cars and the perfect embodiment of young mid-Fifties America. In the words of the Billie Jo Spears song, “Wish we still had her today; the good love we’re living, we owe it to that ’57 Chevrolet.”
POPULAR AND STYLISH
At $2,511, the Bel Air Convertible was the epitome of budget-priced good taste, finding 47,562 eager buyers. Low, sleek, and flashy, it could almost out-glam the contemporary Caddy ragtop.
The Bel Air’s Ventiports only lasted a couple of years.
Only 1,503 fuel-injected Bel Airs were sold.
Other body styles available included a two-door hardtop.
Seat belts and shoulder straps were available on the lengthy options list.
The ’57 Bel Air was 21⁄2 in (6.3 cm) longer than the ’56 model.
Immediately after it was introduced, it was rightly hailed as a design classic. Elegant, sophisticated, and perfectly proportioned, the ’57 Bel Air is one of the finest postwar American autos of all.
Chevrolet’s fleur-de-lis, a reminder of their French roots.
The rather clumsy bomb-sight hood ornament could be fairly described as the ’57 Bel Air’s only minor stylistic blemish. The public liked it, though.
The distinctive two-tone interiors were a delight. Buyers could opt for a custom color interior, power convertible top, tinted glass, vanity mirror, ventilated seat pads, power windows, and even a tissue dispenser.
Speedo read to 120, and larger-engined models nearly broke through the dial.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
The small-block Turbo-Fire V8 packed 185 bhp in base two-barrel trim and 270 bhp with the optional Rochester four barrel. Ramjet injection added a hefty $500 to the sticker price.
A TRUE CLASSIC
The ’57 Bel Air sums up America’s most prosperous decade better than any other car of the time. Along with hula-hoops, drive-in movies, and rock ’n’ roll, it has become a Fifties icon. It was loved then because it was stylish, solid, sporty, and affordable, and it’s loved now for more or less the same reasons; plus it simply drips with nostalgia.
The Bel Air Convertible could be equipped with an optional power-operated top.
Subtle rear fins are almost demure compared with other contemporary efforts.
Chevrolet, like every other US car manufacturer at the time, was eager to cash in on the jet age, but in reality this ’55 Bel Air four-door sedan looks positively dumpy next to the fighter plane.
In common with Lincoln and Cadillac, Chevrolet incorporated the fuel caps into the chrome molding at the rear edge of the left tail fin.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible (1957)
PRODUCTION 47,562 (1957)
BODY STYLE Two-door convertible.
CONSTRUCTION Steel body and boxsection chassis.
ENGINES 265cid, 283cid V8s.
POWER OUTPUT 162–283 bhp (283cid V8 fuel injected).
TRANSMISSION Three-speed manual with optional overdrive, optional two-speed Powerglide automatic, and Turboglide.
SUSPENSION Front: independent coil springs; Rear: leaf springs with live axle.
BRAKES Front and rear drums.
MAXIMUM SPEED 90–120 mph (145–193 km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 8–12 sec
A.F.C. 14 mpg (5 km/l)