Chevrolet Bel-Air

Convertible 1957

  • Chevrolet, finding that its client base has become a little too conservative, decides that it is time to offer something new, to immerse the American public in an world of flamboyant forms, chrome trimmings and colors.
  • The Hot One, The Hotter, Bel Air 57: with this historic automobile triptych, Chevrolet created a car that is as seductive as it is powerful and also triumphant on the race track.
  • Now, more than fifty years after the end of its production, it remains one of the most collectable automobiles in the United States and, in the eyes of the rest of the world, an archetype of the classic American 50s automobile.

As well as being the years of triumphant renewal after the ravages of the Second World War, the fifties represent the golden age of American industry. The winds of change blew at gale-force through the head offices of General Motors when, in the Spring 1952, the decision was taken to rejuvenate Chevrolet - GM's most widely distributed brand - and to put pressure on Ford, their perennial competitor.

Aware that the 6 cylinder Blue Flame faced an uncertain future against an increasingly strong competition, there was no coincidence involved when Tom Keating, the Head of Chevrolet, named Edward N. Cole as the constructor's chief engineer. Cole was responsible for the famous V8 1949 Cadillac with Harry Barr - exactly the kind of engineering that Keating wanted to see. From then on, all resources were put into renewing the brand's image, with research department staffing being tripled and hundreds of millions of dollars being injected… Only in Detroit.

The team was completed in 1952: Cole and his previous chief engineer Edward Kelley worked together to conceive, in less than two months, an all-new 265 ci V8 called the Turbofire. Its 4343 cc capacity engine with overhead valves produced 162 hp, and up to 180 hp with the power pack option. At the same time, Harry Barr took charge of researching the structure of the chassis and the suspension, while the styling designers Clare McKichan, Carl Renner and Charles Stebbins got to work on new bodywork lines under the supervision of Harley Earl, Manager of the Art and Colour Studio and Head of Design since the end of the twenties.

To be continued...