Chevrolet Bel Air, produced in the United States from 1953 to 1975 by the Chevrolet division of General Motors Corporation, was named after one of the most prestigious suburbs of Los Angeles. The model was advertised as “hot” because of the powerful V-shaped 8-cylinder engine that made it possible to feel the speed.
The post-war 50s were truly golden for the American automotive industry. The population of the United States snatched up the new models which, in fact, were slightly retouched old ones. Almost everything sold out in the blink of an eye. New companies have also emerged but the market quickly saturated. To keep sales at the same level meant making the buyer change the “old” two-three-year-old car for a new one. Something special was required. And so in 1953, the new model – Bel Air was born. However, Americans thought the Chevrolet style of the 1949-54 models was beautiful, but not catchy, and maybe even boring. The outdated six-cylinder engine, although economical, was good, but not very powerful. True to the old tradition, GM executives believed that the power and appearance of the department’s cars should accurately correspond to the status. And Chevrolet to Americans was the same as Volkswagen to Germans – a people’s car. However, with the old approach, it’s impossible to earn much. Everything changed with the new executive director Ed Cole, the former head of the GM tank plant, and then Cadillac, who seriously corrected the brand’s image. The first sign was the Corvette, which appeared in 1953. The second logical move was the “eight”. The third was a new styling. The 1955 model year was revolutionary, laying a foundation for Bel Air’s further achievements, which truly made the model America’s darling.
Source: Wallpaper Flare
The 1961 model year was the start of the fifth generation. It was marked by the appearance of a new body. The dimensions of the car remained the same as in the previous generation, only its length has now slightly decreased to 5320 mm. All variants of engines of the previous year remained unchanged. Its wheelbase remained at 119 inches (3000 mm). All engine options from the previous year remained in place, with the standard engine being the 235.5 CID Six 135 hp. (101 kW) or 283 CID V8 170 hp (130 kW). The V8 cost $110 more than the Six and weighed 5 pounds (2.3 kg) less.
The design of the 1961 Bel Air was heavily influenced by the head of the design department, Bill Mitchell, who had led the department since 1959. Although produced Chevrolet cars could not be called compact at all, since 1961 they have become a little shorter and narrower, but they have not diminished in spaciousness. The freshly sloped A-pillars all but eliminated the annoying “crooked leg” under the windshield. The last remnants of the tail fins have disappeared as well. The 1961 edition also boasted of giving its owners the “quietest, vibration-dampening, relaxing ride they’ve ever had” thanks to a rugged Safety-Girder X-frame. In the coupe, everything was located in front of the driver on an easily accessible dashboard. The seats were made higher, but the trunk sills were lower, which made it easier to load luggage. Called “America’s most popular model”, the Bel Air range included both hardtop sports coupe and sports sedan, as well as pillared sedans. A total of 330,000 Bel Airs were produced during the 1961 model year. Chevrolet also promoted 24 powertrains based on five transmissions. Power from the 348cc big-block V-8 ranged from 250 to 280 horsepower (305, 340, and 350 horsepower versions, or 230 horsepower.
In the early 60s, Chevrolet was a powerful player in both drag racing and NASCAR competition. In 1960, the company announced the new RPO 580 490 CID V8 with 360 horsepower. It was introduced with the new Super Sport version, which, along with the 409 engine, began production in January 1961. Legendary racing drivers Dave Strickler, Bill Jenkins, and Dyno Don Nicholson owe their careers to this model. It even became a true pop culture icon, appearing on the 1962 Beach Boy hit “409”.
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