We all know that the 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air platform is one of the most iconic cars in history. This car changed the face of the auto industry and started the infamous Tri-Five Chevy years. We started to ask ourselves what features really made the 1955 Bel Air, 210, and 150 so unique?
We found this article from HotCars.com that breaks down a few reasons these cars are so popular.
From its debut as a 1950 model till 1952, the name “Bel Air” was used by Chevrolet only for the 2-door hardwood in its model range. It wasn’t until the 1953 model year that the name was used to represent a particular trim level covering a range of body styles. The 1955 Chevy Bel Air marked the first model year of the second generation of what has become one of the most iconic American cars from the ’50s.
The 1955 model range in general, and the Bel Air in particular, was a game-changer and a huge success for Chevrolet. New for the model year was a new body design, luxury/driver-assist features, and a V8 engine that Chevrolet is still selling today as a replacement engine. Join us on a journey back in time to explore those cool features that have transformed the 1955 Bel Air into a collector’s favorite.
#9 1955 Bel Air Appealing Color Options
Before one can get close enough to a car to appreciate its finer details, it is the colors that’ll first draw their attention. The 1955 Bel Air had no shortage of colors on its palette; it offered a wide spectrum of eye-catching paint colors.
Up to 15 solid paint colors and 24 two-tone color combinations were available for would-be buyers to choose from. With such varieties available, there was a ’55 Bel Air to match everyone’s taste allowing them to express their individuality and stand out from the crowd.
#8 Revolutionary Engine
In the lineup of engines available for the 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air, there was an optional V8 which was better than the inline-6s. Compared to other V8s used in the auto industry, Chevrolet’s new 4.3-liter V8 was smaller and more powerful.
Fed by a double-barrel carburetor, and with its novel overhead valve system and a high compression ratio, it churned out 162 hp. The “Power Pack” version produced 180 hp while the “Super Power Pack” version introduced later the same year, was tuned to produce 195 hp.
#7 Ergonomic Interior
Inside the cabin, the ’55 Bel Air featured leather upholstered seats – albeit without headrests – and full carpeting which helped in deadening outside noises. In terms of space, there was enough for even the largest of drivers to sit in comfort.
Driving the iconic Bel Air was a piece of cake as it offered a high driving position which combined with the curved windshield to deliver excellent visibility. The dashboard featured controls that were easy to use, while the thin-rimmed steering wheel allowed the driver a clear view of the instrument cluster.
#6 Multiple Body Styles
The 1955 Bel Air was offered in six body styles to ensure that everyone’s need was fully met. A sedan with B-pillar could be had either as a 2-door or a 4-door version. Two station wagons were also available—a 4-door version and a 2-door version (Bel Air Nomad)—for those who wanted premium cargo space.
Also, the sports coupe popularly known as “the 2-door hardtop,” had a shorter roof and longer rear deck. Unique to the Bel Air trim, and perhaps the most popular, was the attention-grabbing convertible with a roll-back soft top.
#5 “WonderBar” Radio
One of the options offered on the ’55 Bel Air was a radio that could automatically scan for radio stations. All the driver had to do was to use a knob to set the minimum signal strength he wanted, then press and release the “Wonderbar” to get the radio scanning.
The first radio would stop scanning once it receives the first clear signal above the minimum signal strength that was selected. With the revolutionary “wonderbar” radio, the driver didn’t have to battle with tuning knobs before they could enjoy his favorite radio program.
#4 Three Transmission Options
To transfer power from the engine to the wheels, Chevrolet made three transmission types available in the ’55 Chevy Bel Air. The standard transmission that paired with the standard 6-cylinder engine was a 3-speed synchro-mesh manual transmission that allowed the gears to align faster when you shift.
A second transmission option was the same 3-speed manual, but this time with an optional overdrive unit serving as a fuel-saving measure. Lastly, a reliable 2-speed fully automatic “Powerglide” transmission was available, with all three systems working through a column shifter.
#3 Power Brakes/Air Conditioner
Owners of the 1955 Chevy Bel Air running on the powerful V8 engine had the option of installing an air conditioning unit in their car. Cars fitted with an air conditioner came with a heavy-duty generator and the vents for the refreshing cold air were located on each side of the dashboard.
Although the system only worked with the V8 engine, it worked well with any of the available transmission systems. The ’55 Bel Air could also be equipped with a power brake that used a hydraulics system to reduce braking distance.
#2 12-Volt Electrical System/Power Steering
Chevy changed the 6-volt electrical system used in the first-generation Bel Air to a 12-volt in the 1955 model year. Switching to a higher voltage system meant that thinner wires could be used for connection, and the Bel Air could be started more easily.
More luxury accessories like power seats, heaters, and power windows could be offered in the Bel Air. To help ease maneuvering the vehicle, a power steering that worked on hydraulics was also offered for the 1955 model year.
#1 Bel Air Pocket-Friendly Price
With a long list of desirable features like the game-changing engine, a comfortable and well-equipped interior, the ‘55 Bel Air was worth every penny. However, the relative affordability will ultimately help it find its way from dealerships to homes. Affordability is one thing the 1955 Bel Air had in abundance back then.
A brand new ’55 Bel Air with the V8 engine sold for $2,166, which is slightly over $19,000 in today’s currency. That is why they were snapped up as fast as Chevrolet could build them.
For more information on the 1955 Bel Air, click here!