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1956 Chevy Description


Chevrolet had delivered. Cole's concept of a "fresh start" in design and performance translated into a "blank canvas" for the driving public. From a seemingly limitless combination of colors for exteriors and interiors, down to a Continental kit for mounting the spare tire on the stern; from optional front-loaded, factory-installed air conditioning to electric seat and window controls-the owner was given a palette with which to customize or personalize his or her own set of wheels.


As proclaimed in its advertisements, Chevy truly had come up with "THE HOT ONE," setting production, sales and profits records with its breakthrough '55s. But what does one do for an encore?


For 1956, Chevrolet management elected to fine tune many of the features it had introduced with the 55s. Many of these refinements took place under the hood, coaxing more power from the lightweight, high-revving 265ci V-8 engine. Swapping a four-barrel carburetor for the standard two-barrel one provided an additional 25 horsepower. This Power Pack package, rated at 205hp, incorporated a new, high-lift camshaft and boosted the compression ratio from 8:1 to 9.25:1. A hybrid V-8, rated at 225hp at 5,200 rpm, featured dual, four-barrel carburetors with aluminum intake manifold and dual exhausts. Incidentally, the "Blue Flame" straight six block, now tweaked up to 140hp, was still available for the traditionalists.


A heavy duty clutch was substituted when the Power Pack was used in conjunction with a manual transmission; a full flow oil filter was introduced and moved from atop the engine to the bottom rear of the block; hydraulic lifters became standard components; the voltage regulator was waterproofed; the generator mount was strengthened to reduce vibration, and a larger, 53 amp/hr battery became standard equipment. The car was reworked to provide a soft, smooth ride that ironed out the bumps, produced less vibration, less noise from the engine, reduced interior noise and cut back on the whine associated with an automatic transmission.


Turn signals moved from the options to the standard equipment column. A padded dash, seat belts and shoulder harness; three radio options; power brakes; foot-operated or automatic windshield washer; non-glare rear view mirror, and automatic headlight dimmer were some of the popular options offered.


The basic models carried over from 1955, along with the introduction of a four-door hardtop into the 210 and Bel Air lines. Body length was extended to 197.5 inches overall-attributable to the lower and longer hood, coupled with reshaped and flared rear fender openings that contributed to the longer body. A new side trim treatment made for interesting applications of the 14 two-tone color combinations or 10 solid shades. The eggcrate grille, which drew mixed reviews in 1955, was replaced with a lower, full-width chrome unit that terminated with restyled, rectangular parking lights all giving the illusion of greater width. The rear fender acquired a notched configuration (a hint of the fins that would follow in '57) with triangular, wraparound taillight housing. The gas filler cap was hidden behind the driver's side taillight which rotated downward at the release of a lever, and a large chromed V (indicating the V-8 power plant) appeared on the front hood and rear deck under the Chevrolet emblem.


Inside, the design was pretty much a carryover from 1955. Horizontal lines on the dash replaced the stainless steel multiple "bow tie" insert in the 1955s; the double-bubble configuration for driver's side speedometer, automatic transmission indicator and gauges and passenger side clock and speaker were repeated. A three-spoke steering wheel with Chevy emblem on the hub was a new feature While many car enthusiasts consider the 1956 Chevrolet model year a transition between the breakthrough '55s and the major facelift given the '57s--production and demand remained brisk.


The 150 Series, Chevy's basic and more austere line, was again available in six or eight cylinders, in two-door or four-door sedans and two-door station wagon. 171,964 units were manufactured with base sticker prices pegged at $1,797 to $2,241.


The middle of the line 210 Series, six or eight cylinder, repeated its two-door and four-door sedans, two- and four-door station wagons, two-door club coupe, two-door hardtop sport coupe and the new four-door hardtop sport sedan. Depending on the model and engine size, basic prices ranged from $1,883 to $2,418.


The premium Bel Airs, also carrying a six- or eight-cylinder block, were offered in a two- or four-door sedan, two- or four-door station wagon, two-door convertible or hardtop sport coupe and the new four-door hardtop. Prices ranged from $1,996 to $2,678.


Chevrolet ingenuity and innovation had succeeded in bringing the driving public a roomy, well-appointed car with less vibration; a smoother, more powerful V-8 engine; a quieter automatic transmission; a range of options and color combinations that could satisfy even the most demanding taste, and one that provided the ultimate in performance and handling to that time.