The Chevrolet Bel Air was a full-size car produced by Chevrolet for models from the years 1950-1981. Initially, only two-door hardtops in the Chevrolet model range were given the Bel Air name from 1950 to 1952, distinct from the Styleline and Fleetline models by the rest of the range.

With the 1953 model year, the Bel Air name was changed from a designation for a unique body shape to a superior level of trim applied to various body styles. Bel Air continued with several other trim level designations until US production ceased in 1975. Production continued in Canada, for the domestic market only, during the 1981 model year.

For 1950, Chevrolet came up with a revolutionary styling that would set the standard for decades. The Bel Air Hardtop is designed as a convertible with a solid, non-detachable roof. Models like this have been around since the 1920s, including early Chevrolets, to no avail. But the newly revised idea, sweeping GM's lineup from Chevrolet to Cadillac, has finally found its era. The first year of production reached just 76,662 as buyers cautiously tested the revised concept. The car cost $1,741 and weighed 3,225 lb (1,500 kg). The front suspension was independent, called "knee-action".

The first Bel Airs of this era shared only their former A-pillar front plate with the rest of the range. The windshield, doors, glass and trunk were common with the Styline DeLuxe Declantic Coupe, but the roof, rear housings and rear windows (3) were unique. The chassis and mechanics were common with the rest of the passenger car range, and the overall appearance was the same as the rest of the range, except that the roofline was shorter and the single three-piece rear window gave a bigger and more balanced vision. The first Bel Airs were only available with the trim level and premium "DeLuxe" specification.

Second generation (1955-1957)

Production - 1954-1957

In 1953 Chevrolet renamed its cars and the Bel Air name was given to a higher-level model. There were also two lower series, the 150 and the 210. In 1955, Chevrolets were given the option of a V8 engine.

In 1955, the Chevrolet was re-styled, and earned the nickname "The Hot One". Bel Airs came with accessories found on lower-end models, more carpeted interiors, various chrome, and stylized hubcaps. The model was also distinguished by the name written in gold letters.

The 55, 56, and especially the 57 models are the most remembered American cars; well-maintained examples (especially coupés and convertibles) are highly sought after by enthusiasts. Spacious, efficient, and with beautiful chrome finishes and tail, they are seen as much better looking and superior than the cars that will be frequenting Detroit for years to come.

From 1955–57, production of the Nomad two-door station wagon was attributed to the Bel Air series, even though its shape and trim were unique to the model. Priority to becoming a regular production model, the Nomad first appeared based on the 1954 Corvette design. More recently, two concept cars with the Nomad name were unveiled in 1999.

Third generation (1958)

Production 1957–1958

For 1958, Chevrolet models were redesigned to be wider, longer and heavier than previous 1957 ones. Again, the Bel Air remained a top-of-the-line Chevrolet, followed by the renamed Biscayne (originally the 210) and the Delray ( 150). Chevrolet's design that year was better than that of other GM divisions like Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac, which abused chrome. Complementing the car's front design are a wide grille and square headlights; the tail received aerodynamic sections on both sides, which housed dual tail lamps.

Bel Air also got a new version in 1958 (as a marketing ploy), the Impala, available only as a coupe and convertible at its introduction. The Impala's styling followed the basic lines of other Chevrolets with its own details.

Fourth generation (1959-1960)

Production 1958–1960
In 1959, Chevrolet elevated the Impala to top-of-the-line status, making the Bel Air an average model. The Biscayne replaced the Delray Decline as Chevrolet's latest high-end, high-end model.

From 1960 onwards, Bel Airs and Biscaynes could be easily recognized by the use of double taillights on each side; Impalas had three taillights per side. Also, the Bel Air had more chrome accents on the interior and exterior than the Biscayne. Many of the accessories and options available on the Impala were also found on Bel Air.

 

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