Chevrolet Bel Air 1957


Chevrolet Bel Air 1957


Chevrolet Bel Air 1957

  • Origin United States of America
  • Engine 4,343 cc, V8
  • Top speed 106 mph (171 km/h)

Seen as a "baby Cadillac" with its iconic finned styling and hot V8 options, the 1957 Chevrolets are among the marque's most popular classics today. Advertised as a car that "goes 'em all one better-with exciting new looks ... zippy new power ... luxurious new interiors," the 1957 Chevy really did appear to be all-new, but in reality still had a lot in common with its 1955 and 1956 predecessors.

"Zippy new power" included a larger displacement 283 CID V8 engine in six different variations, providing anywhere from 185 to 283 horsepower, and available in any Chevrolet. The variations included traditional 2- and 4-barrel carbureted versions, a dual 4-barrel system available with either hydraulic lifters or solid valve lifters, and a first-ever fuel-injected version. Touted as the "most far-reaching engine improvement in the entire industry," the fuel injection system greatly improved performance in any car, particularly the Corvette. Unfortunately, unless precisely tuned, it was sometimes a burden, but it was definitely an attention-getter. Although it would only be available for a few years in this first generation form, with the aid of electronics time would prove that GM was on the right track, as 35 years later, fuel injection had become the norm, and the carburetor was virtually extinct on new cars.

"Exciting new looks" came in the form of a complete restyling of the front and back of the cars. At the front was an integrated bumper and grille that gave a wide, massive look. A full-width center grille bar held the parking lights at each end, with the Chevrolet bowtie and crest in the center. Headlight surrounds included screen-type trim that actually doubled as the fresh-air intakes. The face of the hood featured the Chevrolet script, with a "V" under it on cars equipped with a V8 engine. Bel Air models featured a gold anodized grille and "Bel Air" bodyside script. Atop the hood were new twin "windsplit" ornaments, instead of the traditional hood ornament. The massive bumper had two round and flat bumper guards set directly under the headlights. Rubber, conical shaped bumper guard tips were available in place of the flat, blunt tip.

Around back were slightly higher rear fenders, which came to a point and angled back downwards to the bumper, with the rearmost portion of the tailfin lined in chrome on all models. This would be the only true vertical tailfin to appear on a Chevrolet, with the 1959 and 1960 models having horizontal style tailfins. Taillights sat at the bottom of the fin, right on top of the small bumper guards, and the optional backup lamps were directly under that. On the bodysides, the One-Fifty line used trim identical to what the 1955 Two-Ten series had used with a rear quarter stainless trim piece, and a louvered vertical strip from the bodyside beltline dip down to the stainless trim. Two-Tens and Bel Air models had a body length side trim piece similar to the 1956 Two-Ten models that curved downward to meet the bumper. A second piece of trim met the lower trim at a point below the bodyside beltline dip and paralleled the rear fender line all the way to the back. Bel Air models had a ribbed two-tone silver anodized aluminum panel between the two rear quarter trim pieces, whereas Two-Ten models were painted in this area. The ribbed two-tone silver anodized aluminum panel on the rear fender was optional at extra cost on Two-Ten models.

The "luxurious new interiors" featured new fabrics, colors and designs. They were complemented with a new instrument panel design, with all gauges centered over the steering column in two small round pods, flanking a larger, round speedometer pod. The lone model change for the year was the Bel Air station wagon reverting from a 9-passenger Beauville model back to a 6-passenger Townsman model. This would also be the last year for the Handyman, Townsman and Beauville station wagon designations, at least until the mid-sixties. The Corvette saw few changes other than the aforementioned performance additions and some minor chassis upgrades to improve handling. The added power and the availability of race-inspired accessories caught the attention of racers everywhere. Most important was that sales were climbing, and the looming threat of Chevrolet canceling the Corvette seemed to wane.