Regarded as the epitome of 1950’s pop culture, the 57 Chev has been used as a nod to this era in everything from The Simpsons to Dirty Dancing.
Although Chevrolet has long held its place as America’s most beloved car manufacturer, it was actually the Ford Motor Company that was crowned the nation’s top seller in 1957 – and yet, it’s the 57 Chev that has retained a cult following over sixty years later. So what’s all the fuss about?
The Origins Of The 57 Chev
Released by American automotive powerhouse Chevrolet in late 1956, the 1957 Chevy was essentially a carry-over from the highly successful 1955-1956 models. Although the chances made on paper were minor, such as a wide chromed grille, rear tail-fins, and new dashboard, the aesthetics of this make were unlike anything else seen on the market during this era.
Although the company got wind that their biggest competitors, Ford Motor Company, were planning on rolling out a brand new model for that year, production delays at Chevrolet couldn’t afford them the same luxury. Instead, Chief Designer Ed Cole opted to give their existing models a minor facelift in an effort to give Chevrolet an edge, and oversaw the cosmetic adjustments such as hood rockets and the relocation of air ducts to the headlight pods, wrestling in the classic chrome headlight bezels. Fourteen-inch wheels replaced the fifteen-inch wheels from previous years to give the car a lower stance, and a wide grille was used to give the car a wider look from the front.
Chevrolet’s 1957 automotive releases included three series models: the upscale Bel Air, the mid range Two-Ten and the One-Fifty. A two door station wagon dubbed the Nomad was also produced as a Bel Air model. Body choices for 57 Chev were extensive, and included the following options in a broad range of colours.
- Two and four door sedans (identified by the “posts” between door windows)
- Two door “Sport Coupe” (a two-door hardtop – the car has no post between the front and back window when the windows are lowered)
- “Sport Sedan” (a four door hardtop)
- Two door Utility Sedan, a two door sedan with a package shelf instead of a rear seat
- Delray “Club Coupe”, which was a Two-Ten model two door sedan with a deluxe interior
- The “top of the line” two door Bel Air Nomad station wagon, with a sloped pillar behind the hardtop door and sliding windows at the rear seat
- The basic two door Handyman station wagon with an upright sedan B-pillar and a C-pillar – in comparison, the four door wagons have one and were available only in One-Fifty and Two-Ten trims
- Four door, six passenger station wagon
- Four door, nine passenger station wagon (both called Townsman in the One-Fifty series and Beauville for the Bel Air version)
North American buyers had the choice of a whopping nineteen variants, however Australians had just one model – the four door sedan with six cylinders and a column-mounted, manual gear shift. The top speed of the 1560kg sedan was almost 160 kilometres per hour, however acceleration to 100 kilometers per hour took close to fifteen seconds.
Exactly why the 57 Chev has gone the distance to be one of the most beloved classic cars can be attributed to a variety of reasons. As a start, they are still regarded as very good cars mechanically speaking. When they did break, they were often cheaper to repair or fix when compared to their contemporaries at the time, ensuring that a higher percentage of them survived all these years to become prized collectors items. In turn, this ensured that Chevrolet continued to process the parts required for far longer than some of their other industry peers.
While the 1960’s saw the introduction of smaller, more compact vehicles being introduced, 1957 Chevrolets have undoubtedly remained a cultural icon, and are one of the leading models for car lovers around the world to commemorate a bygone era.