The Chevrolet Bel Air was introduced in 1950 as the name applied to the two-door hardtop model of their top-of-the-line Deluxe Styleline model series. The pillarless two-door design was not new, having been around since the 1920s, but it took General Motors to introduce the concept in all of their divisions in the early fifties, beginning with the Chevrolet Division, to make it popular. The sporty looking Bel Air was powered by the venerable inline, overhead valve six cylinder engine and backed by either a three-speed manual or their new PowerGlide automatic transmission.
The Bel Air concept proved to be very popular and it became a complete model line in 1953, incorporating a deluxe appointed two-door hardtop sedan, four-door sedan, convertible and a station wagon. Also, with the totally redesigned 1953 models, Chevrolet introduced the 150 Series as their entry level vehicle line-up and the 210 as the mid-range vehicles in appointments and accessories. All the exterior sheet metal was new and the interiors were larger and much more attractive. There were two engine choices; a 115 horsepower Blue Flame" six cylinder with the manual transmission and a 125 horsepower version for the automatic.
The 150 and 210 Series featured the same body panels as the Bel Air, but with less exterior trim, fewer standard accessories and no hardtop models in either series. The running gear was the same. The body design was continued for 1954, but Chevrolet introduced another redesign in all models in 1955. 1955 also marked the introduction of the first Chevrolet V-8, the small-block 265 CID engine that has been the basis for Chevy small-blocks for 56 years. Three versions of the V-8 were available: a 162 horsepower model with a two-barrel carburetor, a "power-pack" version with a four-barrel and 180 horses and a "super power-pack" with 195 horse power.
The V-8 engine was enlarged to 283 CID in 1957 and was produced in that iteration until 1962. The Bel Air, along with the 150 and 210 of 1955-57, were the best looking and best executed Chevrolets ever produced at that point in time. They are widely sought by collectors and Chevy purists to this date.
In 1958, the model designations 150 and 210 were dropped in favor of Delray (150) and Biscayne (210). The Bel Air nameplate continued as a Chevrolet model until 1975. The 1958 Impala then became the top Chevrolet model, moving the Bel Air to a middle-of-the-line position.
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