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Chevrolet Bel Air







CHEVROLET BEL AIR 



The Chevrolet Bel Air is a full-size automobile that was produced by the Chevrolet division of General Motors for the 1950–1975 model years. Hardtops in the Chevrolet Deluxe Styleline model range were designated with the Bel Air name from 1950 to 1952, but it was not a distinct series of its own until the 1953 model year. Bel Air production continued in Canada for its home market only through the 1981 model year

 


In 1950, Chevrolet came up with a revolutionary style that would set a pattern for decades.

The Bel Air Hardtop (on the DeLuxe line) was styled as a convertible with a non-detachable solid roof.

Models like this had been around since the 1920s, including early Chevrolets, with no degree of success. But the newly revised idea, sweeping the GM line from Chevrolet to Cadillac, had finally found its era.

First year production reached only 76,662 as buyers cautiously tested the revised concept. The car cost $1,741 and weighed 3,225 lb (1,463 kg).Front suspension was independent, named "knee-action".


In 1953 Chevrolet renamed its series and the Bel Air name was applied to the premium model range.

Two lower series, the 150 and 210, also emerged. The 1953 Chevrolet was advertised as "Entirely new through and through," due to the restyled body panels, front and rear ends. However, essentially these Chevrolets had the same frame and mechanicals as the 1949-52 cars.The Bel Air series featured a wide chrome strip of molding from the rear fender bulge, to the rear bumper.

The inside of this stripe was painted a coordinating color with the outside body color, and "Bel Air" scripts were added inside the strip.

Lesser models had no model designation anywhere on the car,




For 1955, Chevrolet's full-size model received new styling that earned it the "Hot One" designation by enthusiasts. Unlike Ford and Plymouth, Chevrolet's styling was considered crisp and clean.

Bel Airs came with features found on cars in the lower models ranges plus interior carpet, chrome headliner bands on hardtops, chrome spears on front fenders, stainless steel window moldings, and full wheel covers. Models were further distinguished by the Bel Air name script in gold lettering later in the year.

For 1955 Chevrolets gained a V8 engine option.

The new 265 cu in (4,340 cc) V8 featured a modern, overhead valve high compression, long stroke design that was so good that it remained in production in various forms, for many decades.

The base V8 had a two-barrel carburetor and was rated at 162 hp (121 kW), and the "Power Pack" option featured a four-barrel carburetor and other upgrades yielding 180 bhp (130 kW). Later in the year, a "Super Power Pack" option added high-compression and a further 15 bhp (11 kW). "Idiot" lights replaced gauges for the generator and oil pressure.




 

For 1958, Chevrolet models were redesigned longer, lower, and heavier than their 1957 predecessors, and the first ever production Chevrolet big block V8, the 348 cu in (5,700 cc), was now an option.The Bel Air gained a halo vehicle in 1958, the Impala, available only as a hardtop coupe and convertible in its introductory year.

Impala styling followed the basic lines of the other Chevrolet models but received special styling cues including a different roof line, a vent above the rear window, unique side trim, and triple tail lights housed in slightly broader alcoves. For the budget conscious, the Biscayne, (formerly the 210) and the Delray (formerly the 150) completed this model year's family-oriented and utility offerings.





Chevrolet's design for the year fared better than its other GM offerings, and lacked the overabundance of chrome found on Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles, Buicks and Cadillacs. Complementing Chevrolet's front design was a broad grille and quad headlights that helped simulate a 'Baby Cadillac'; the tail received a fan-shaped alcove on both side panels, which housed dual tail lights.

Despite being a recession year, consumers made Chevrolet the No. 1 make of automobile (beating Ford, which held the title in 1957) and the Bel Air was at the core of Chevrolet's popularity.

With its wide variety of body styles and models, Bel Airs could be optioned with almost every conceivable luxury within the Chevrolet line.The Nomad station wagon name also reappeared in 1958 when the vehicle bowed as the premium four-door Chevrolet station wagon, lacking the unique styling of the 1955-57 Nomads.

Most Chevrolet station wagon models had two tail lights housed in abbreviated alcoves, which were made smaller to accommodate the rear gate. A new dash was used

For 1961, Chevrolet again had a totally new body, not just new sheetmetal. Its wheelbase remained 119 in (3,000 mm), but its length was now reduced slightly to 209.3 in (5,320 mm). All engines options of the previous year remained in effect with the standard engines being the 235.5 CID Six of 135 hp (101 kW) or the 283 CID V8 of 170 hp (130 kW). The V8 cost $110 more than the Six and weighed 5 lb (2.3 kg) less.



The Bel Air 2-door sedan used squared-off roof styling and large wrap-around rear window as opposed to the hardtop's swept-back design. The Bel Air 4-door Sport Hardtop still used a different roof line than did the 4-door sedan


For 1962, all sheetmetal except the door panels was changed. Overall length was stretched slightly to 209.6 in (5,320 mm). The 4-door Sport Hardtop was no longer offered in the Bel Air series. Standard engines remained the same as the previous year.

A new 327 cu in (5,360 cc) V8 of 250 or 300 hp (220 kW) was offered in addition to the giant (for the time) 409 cu in (6,700 cc) V8 of 380 hp (280 kW) or 409 hp (305 kW) with the dual four-barrel carburetor setup. All wagons this year were 4-door models and separate distinctions for wagons were dropped. Now all models were either Biscayne, Bel Air or Impala series. Full carpeting returned as standard equipment on all 1962 Bel Air models for the first time in several years.





For 1963, the full size Chevrolet received little more than a facelift. Overall length increased to 210.4 in (5,340 mm). Replacing the older 235 cubic-inch six-cylinder engine as standard equipment was a new 230 cubic-inch six-cylinder of more modern design with a 140-horsepower rating that was based on the 194 cubic-inch six introduced on the compact Chevy II Nova the previous year.

The base V8 remained the 283 CID, which was upgraded to produce 195 hp (145 kW). The 409 CID V8 was now offered in 340, 400 and 425 hp (317 kW) versions, while the small block 327 V8 continued with options of 250 and 300 horsepower. The Bel Air continued to be Chevrolet's middle range, but it now consisted of only two car models- the 2-door sedan and the 4-door sedan. 6 and 9-passenger Bel Air station wagons were again offered.



For 1964, very few changes were made except the expected sheet metal and trim renovations. Cars were 209.9 in (5,330 mm) in length while the wagons were 210.8 in (5,350 mm) long.

In addition to the un-changed standard engines, there were two different 327 CID engines were offered, developing from 250 hp (190 kW) to 300 hp (220 kW) and three 409 CID engines ranging from 340 hp (250 kW) to 425 hp (317 kW).

Except for a chrome belt line and $100 difference in price there was little exterior difference between the Bel Air and Biscayne version.


For 1965, the full size Chevrolet was totally restyled, and the cars were stretched to 213.3 in (5,420 mm) overall, even though the wheelbase remained the same. The new stamped grille had a lower extension below the bumper which was slightly veed.

Curved window glass and round taillights mounted high characterized the new styling. The interiors were also redesigned and a very attractive dash resulted. The standard V8 remained the 283 CID model of 195 hp (145 kW), but options included two new 396 cu in (6,490 cc) CID engines of 325 and 340 hp (250 kW) and two 409 CID blocks of 400 and 425 hp (317 kW).






The Bel Air utilizes a stainless-steel belt and rocker molding, identifying signature on the rear fenders, a glove compartment light and power tailgate on 9-passenger wagons to distinguish itself from the lower-priced Biscayne series.

For 1966, Chevrolet was in its second season of a totally new body change, so mild facelifting sufficed including forward thrusting, blunted front fenders and a revised grille.

At the rear, a break with the traditional round taillamps took place. Bel Air and Biscayne featured dual rectangular lamps with back-up lamps built in.

Overall length was 213.2 in (5,420 mm). The standard six-cylinder engine this year was the larger 250 CID version of 155 hp (116 kW).

New for the speed set was a 427 cu in (7,000 cc) V8 of 390 or 425 hp (317 kW). Bel Air was readily distinguishable from Biscayne by its full length body side molding and rear fender Bel Air signatures.

All-vinyl interiors were now standard on station wagons while cloth and vinyl trims continued on sedans.



For 1967, Full-sized Chevrolets featured a new body with bulging rear fenders, one of this year's styling trends, not necessarily appreciated by everyone. Bel Air 2 and 4-door Sedans continued in addition to 6 and 9-passenger wagons. This year Bel Air featured triple taillights unlike Biscayne's dual units. Standard engines remained the same as the previous year. Optional engines were a 327 CID V8 of 275 hp (205 kW), the 396 CID V8 of 350 hp (260 kW); or the 427 CID V8 of 385 hp (287 kW), plus various speed packages.

For 1968, the Full-sized Chevrolets received some changes but were quite similar to the 1967 models, though they had grown one inch to 214.7 in (5,450 mm). Chevrolet's new grille design bears a strong resemblance to Cadillac's, but Bel Air's dual round taillight design is strictly Chevrolet. In an unusual move, the taillights were mounted in the bumper.



By the late 1960s (with the introduction of the Caprice), the Bel Air and its Biscayne stablemate were primarily marketed to automotive fleet customers. However, the Bel Air remained available to retail customers who sought a basic, no-frills, full-sized car that was better trimmed than the low-line Biscayne. When the Biscayne was discontinued after 1972, the Bel Air was demoted to the low-level model. Bel Airs again used four-segmented taillights as opposed to the triple-segmented lights of higher-level Impala and Caprice models, except in 1972 when all models shared the same triple-segmented lights mounted in the bumper.

A 250-cubic-inch six-cylinder engine and three-speed manual transmission with column shift remained standard equipment through the 1973 model year on sedans with the 350 V8 and automatic standard on wagons the Turbo Hydramatic automatic had been the sole transmission choice on V-8-powered Bel Airs since the spring of 1971 though the old two-speed Powerglide was still offered with the six-cylinder engine through the 1972 model year.

Only about 1,400 cars were built with the inline six in 1973. The engine and manual transmission were shelved by the end of the model year marking the last full-sized, "body on frame" American car to offer a manual gearbox.


All Bel Air sedans built in 1974–1975 listed a 350 two-barrel V8 engine and Turbo-Hydramatic transmission as standard, with station wagons getting the 400 cu in (6,600 cc) four-barrel V8, again with Turbo-Hydramatic standard. The 400 V8 was optional on sedans and the 454 was available on both models.


The 1977 Caprice Classic was drastically downsized, which reduced its weight and exterior dimensions, while increasing headroom, rear seat legroom and trunk space compared to 1976 models. GM called its downsizing program Project 77 and invested $600 million to develop the most changed full-size Chevrolet to date. The weight reductions from the 1976 models were 611 lb (277 kg) for coupes, 637 lb (289 kg) for sedans and 871 lb (395 kg) for wagons.



The 1977 The Caprice coupe and sedan were over 10 inches (250 mm) shorter while the wagon was 14 inches (360 mm) shorter.

Wheelbases were reduced to 116 inches (2,900 mm) from 121.5 inches (3,090 mm) for coupes and sedans and 125 inches (3,200 mm) for wagons.

Width was reduced by 4 inches (100 mm) for sedans and coupes; the wagon's width remained virtually unchanged.

Heights were increased by 2.5 inches (64 mm) and trunk capacities were increased to 20.9 cubic feet (0.59 m3) for sedans and 19.8 cubic feet (0.56 m3) for coupes.





The 1980 Caprice Classic saw its first major revision since the 1977 downsizing. To further improve the fuel economy of the car, efforts were made to reduce weight and improve aerodynamics. The Caprice received all new exterior sheet metal, without drastically changing the look of the car. To improve aerodynamics the hood was tapered lower, while the trunk area was higher.

The grille was now an egg crate style while the tail-light panel featured three separate square lights per side. All the doors and components within were redesigned to be lighter, including the window crank mechanisms, which now used a tape drive mechanism. Greater use of aluminum including in bumper reinforcement and in sedan/coupe radiators helped to further reduce the overall weight of the vehicle. 1980 models were approximately 100 pounds (45 kg) lighter than 1979 models.





1986 marked the first major exterior restyle since 1980. The front fascia was restyled to have a more aerodynamic look. The Caprice emblem was no longer a hood ornament, but was an emblem located on the vertical area directly above the grill in the center of the front fascia.

A new smaller sleeker grille with prominent vertical chrome divider bars replaced the egg-crate style used in 1985. The rear taillights were restyled to look more modern and detailed, but continued to have three lights per side. The sheet metal remained unchanged; however, the new front and rear restyles updated the appearance of the Caprice.


With the Impala no longer being produced, a new base Caprice four-door model was introduced (similar to the previous Impala). Still available was a four-door sedan, coupe and eight-passenger station wagon, while a new Brougham four-door sedan joined the model line-up.

Brougham models featured a 55/45 front seat with armrest, and a new "pillow design" with velour fabrics. Broughams featured woodgrain appliqué on its dash fascia, a dome map light, front-door courtesy lights and 20 oz carpeting. Power window controls for all models moved from the door panel to the armrest for improved ergonomics.






1986 marked the first major exterior restyle since 1980. The front fascia was restyled to have a more aerodynamic look. The Caprice emblem was no longer a hood ornament, but was an emblem located on the vertical area directly above the grill in the center of the front fascia.

A new smaller sleeker grille with prominent vertical chrome divider bars replaced the egg-crate style used in 1985. The rear taillights were restyled to look more modern and detailed, but continued to have three lights per side. The sheet metal remained unchanged; however, the new front and rear restyles updated the appearance of the Caprice.

With the Impala no longer being produced, a new base Caprice four-door model was introduced (similar to the previous Impala). Still available was a four-door sedan, coupe and eight-passenger station wagon, while a new Brougham four-door sedan joined the model line-up.

Brougham models featured a 55/45 front seat with armrest, and a new "pillow design" with velour fabrics. Broughams featured woodgrain appliqué on its dash fascia, a dome map light, front-door courtesy lights and 20 oz carpeting. Power window controls for all models moved from the door panel to the armrest for improved ergonomics.



The 1991 model was completely restyled  It replaced the 1977-based rectilinear design with rounded, more aerodynamic sheetmetal. While the body and interior were all new, excluding the Anti-Lock Braking System — the chassis and powertrain were carried over from April 1990. and several major components (including the floor pan) are entirely interchangeable between 1977 and 1996.

Motor Trend awarded the new Caprice Classic Car of the Year. Two trim levels were initially offered - Caprice and Caprice Classic, replacing the previous Classic and Brougham models. General Motors had hoped to regain the top spot as America's favorite automobile with the new aerodynamic styling of their full-size offering.


 
 
          
 

 
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