Every classic car fan will know this one: the 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air. The ’55 had so many revolutionary changes, people wondered what could possibly be done more to improve the already high rated Chevy. The fine “craftsmen” from Chevrolet came through once again, bringing smoother and cooler style, even more power and of course, more luxury.
An ad said about the ’56 Chevy that “Nothing absent of wings will fly like a 1956 Chevy. Head up a steep road and you’ll understand why it’s the record breaker in Pikes Peak”
Anyone that knew about the famous styling cycle in Detroit was absolutely sure that the 1956 Chevrolet will be even more face lifted compared to the ’55 model. Yet the surprise came in the shocking new style upgrades and engineering improvements. $40 million was spent on the redesign alone, from where only the front fender has eaten up $1 million. The ’56 Chevy could have been simply labeled as an improved ’55 but it wasn’t so. In spite of the record breaking number of sales of the ’55 model, the ’56 Chevrolet did incredibly well because it was different. It had sharper looks and was detailed better, with some extra chrome as well, making it look more like a Cadillac. Market at that time demanded big cars with more performance and increased horsepower, therefore making the ’56 Chevy a lot more in tune with the demands.
The 1956 Chevrolet came as a gift wrapped in chrome styling, for the large public that clearly desired a good reliable car, and quite cheap too. Since General Motors knew exactly what the public wanted: that a car must look new no matter what, made some major modifications in design.
The hood was straighter and flatter and about 4 inches longer. The large Chevy emblem was placed on it alongside a chromed “V” that stood for the V8 models. The fender was now chromed and the front fenders were bigger, redesigned to go all the way to the headlamps. Speaking of which, the headlamps now carried a reshaped eyebrow.
Looking to the sides of the ’56 Chevy, you could see the modifications brought to the wheel openings, they were rounder and seemed more flared. Looking at the L shaped trim on the sides, you could see the resemblance with the One – Fifty models, enabling them to be brought with optional types of body side paint. The Bel Airs had complicated moldings that offered them a bolder toning.
Heading for the back of the 1956 Chevy, we can see the cool plated taillight housings that were added. Each of them holds a round and pointy taillight, a backup lamp in the shape of a rectangle and a reflector. The gas tank access point was placed at the housing on the left side (driver side). A back bumper that was bigger and brighter added the finishing touch.
Width, height and wheelbase remained just about the same, yet after measurements you see that about 2 inches have been added to the overall length. Wagons were the longest measuring 200.8 inches, while the other trims measured 197.5 inches. With the increase in length, and the added side trim, the Chevy looked a lot more straight and streamlined.
All in all, 1956 was a very good year in which Chevrolet added many upgrades, and a couple of market “firsts”. Yet it still cannot compare to its successor, the ’57 Chevy which was considered the last, and the best of all Chevrolet classic cars. Yet still this is a beautiful car, not to be ignored.
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