1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Sport Coupe
For 1957, the Chevrolet Bel Air Sport Coupe
wore flashy fins and an updated grille.

The 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air epitomized the newly-facelifted Chevy line and led the way for the '57 Chevy to become one of American's most memorable cars. What's hard to believe is that so many shoppers shunned Chevrolets back then, turning instead to restyled Fords.

Chevy trailed Ford in model-year output by 170,000 cars, as Plymouth rose to number three. Not until years later was the '57 recognized by many as the sharpest Chevy of the decade -- best looking of the 1955-57 "classic" era, if not the make's full life span -- as well as an engineering marvel.

Sure, the basic design was getting a little dated, but masterful reworking cleverly concealed the car's origins, making it look almost brand-new. Riding new 14-inch rubber, Chevrolets stood 2.5 inches longer and 1.5 inches lower. Twin lance-shaped windsplits down the hood substituted for the customary ornament. Modest, if sharp, fins brought up the rear -- a mere hint of things to come.

Bel Airs came in seven models, wearing anodized aluminum trim panels on their rear bodysides. In pastel shades, such as turquoise and white, a '57 convertible or Sport Coupe is enough to send shivers through many an enthusiast today, especially when it's loaded with factory extras.

Nomad again was the costliest Bel Air, with just 6,103 built -- far below the 166,426 Sport Coupes and 47,562 ragtops. For every Nomad, more than four times as many Bel Air Townsman four-door wagons were purchased. The best-selling Bel Air was a practical pillared four-door sedan.

Under the hood, customers could get anything from the long-lived six or 265-cubic-inch V-8, to half a dozen interpretations of the enlarged 283-cubic-inch engine. Some Bel Airs even carried fuel-injected V-8s, on loan from Corvette and whipping up as much as 283 horsepower -- one horse­power per cubic inch -- in an ordinary passenger car from the low-priced three.

It seemed only fitting that Ed Cole, who'd been responsible for the original V-8 and its offshoots, now served as Chevrolet's general manager.

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible
A 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible,
the iconic "'57 Chevy" prized by collectors.

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Facts

Model

Weight range (lbs.)

Price range (new)

Number built

Bel Air

3,232-3,465

$2,238-$2,757

702,220


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