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1957 Chevy Description

 


1957

 When the longer, lower, but not necessarily leaner '57 Chevy was introduced to the public, it, too, created a sensation. As the tagline of one of its print ads proclaimed, potential owners would "Get more to be proud of in a ('57) Chevy." The only carryovers from its '55 and '56 predecessors were the doors, rear deck and basic roof designs.

 It was 2.5 inches longer than the 1956 model and 14-inch tires (replacing the previous standard of 15-inches) helped create to the lower profile. The hood was flatter and the center-mounted hood ornament was replaced by two widely spaced, rocket-shaped decorative "wind-splits." Air intakes for heating and ventilating were relocated to the upper portion of the headlight bezels. Three non-functional, rectangular indentations, representative of air intake louvers, were added to the fender just behind the headlamp bezels. The redesigned front end integrated the grille with the bumper and offered a bold new look. Chevrolet's bow tie emblem was prominent on a horizontal chrome bar centered in front of the grille.

 Along the sides, a long molding on the 210s and Bel Airs gently sloped from the front fender near the bottom of the headlights to the top of the rear bumper. Under the rear windows, a second molding joined the first and headed straight back to a midpoint next to the taillight assembly. On the Bel Airs, the triangular area that had been created was fitted with a brushed aluminum panel, or rendered in a second color if a two-tone combination was used on a 210 series model.

 The rear fenders were slimmed and slightly raised, presenting for the first time on a Chevrolet a subdued, yet recognizable, "tail fin." The taillights and back-up lights, encased in the end of the fin, were integrated into the wraparound rear bumper. As in the '56, the gas filler cap was hidden under the left taillight.

 The range of exterior solid colors (16) and two-tone exterior color combinations (15) offered something for everyone's artistic tastes. Convertible tops, while only available in solid colors, did range in selection from black or ivory to green, blue and beige. Options for the outside extended from the Continental kit for external mounting of the spare tire; a decorative as well as protective trim molding across the bottom edge of the trunk lid; a set of door handle shields to protect against scratches from keys or rings; a set of full wheel covers with spinners, or a driver's side mounted spotlight with rear view mirror. Other alternatives included factory air; power steering and brakes; electric windshield wipers; windshield washers, and power radio antenna.

 Finally, a large gold, anodized aluminum "V" was added to the front of the hood and the rear deck under the "Chevrolet" name, also in gold script, for all models outfitted with the V-8 block.

 As concerned the 1957's power plant, the 235ci, 140hp straight-six was continued into the new model year, but only one version of the 265ci V-8 was carried over-the one with 162hp output. In its place were new 283ci Turbo-Fire V-8s that ranged from 185 to 245 horses, depending on the carburetion. However, both the 265 and 283ci blocks benefited from revised casting techniques, larger cylinder head intake ports, wider main bearings, a new type distributor, and fuel filters.

 The 283ci, rated at 185hp, was equipped with a two-barrel carb and single exhaust and was available only with automatic transmission. A four-barrel version was rated at 220hp, while twin four-barrel 283s reached 245hp or, equipped with a new mechanical-lifter cam, could attain 270hp. The biggest engine innovation was fuel injection. A Rochester mechanical fuel injection system, priced as a $500 option, produced 250hp in a hydraulic cam version and, ironically, 283hp in the solid-lifter configuration. A total of 1,500 passenger cars were built with the fuel injection feature which, although it presented some positive advantages, never really caught on with the public in the 50s and was dropped from Chevrolet's options list by 1959.

 Another innovation was two-speed Turboglide transmission, a second automatic transmission that was extremely smooth with almost unnoticeable shifting when compared with the older Powerglide. While it wasn't that much more expensive an option ($43), it was expensive to build and was quietly phased out in 1961. The Positraction limited-slip rear axle was another important improvement. This innovation improved bad weather traction and was available with both manual and automatic transmissions.

 Dual-exhaust equipped cars with a balance tube generated slightly more power and were quieter. Originally built into the rear bumper under each taillight, exhaust from the dual tailpipes tended to discolor the chrome and were soon relocated beneath the bumper assembly.

 Other performance and handling improvements were rear springs that were moved further outboard; a stronger frame; improved front suspension, and strengthened brake shoe pull-back springs.

 Inside the spacious passenger compartment, headroom improved by 1.6 inches and the front bench seat provided ample back support for comfortable driving over long distances. Smaller brake and clutch pedals (where applicable) enhanced leg room. On the all new dash, three smaller hooded instrument pods were placed. The center assembly housed the speedometer and transmission selector indicator and was flanked by smaller temperature and fuel gauges, as well as warning lights. All three provided ready reference for the driver. The glove compartment remained in the center and speakers for radio-equipped cars were moved to the top of the dash.

Among the dashboard options were padding; the signal-seeking "Wonder Bar" radio; an under dash tissue dispenser; a compass in a sealed liquid housing; an Autronic Eye that dimmed the headlights' high-beams when oncoming cars were detected, and a unique vacuum-operated ash tray that sucked cigar or cigarette ashes into a container under the hood. Day-night rearview mirrors, common on cars for the last several decades, were first used on the '57 Chevy. Interior trim, in cloth and imitation leather, was available in 47 separate color and materials combinations. Power options included electric seat and window controls.

 As it had for the two preceding years, Chevrolet produced only three basic model lines-the 150, 210 and Bel Air series. The 150s were available in two- and four-door sedan; two-door utility sedan and two-door station wagon. Base sticker prices ranged from $1,845 to $2,367. A total of 160,364 units were built.

The middle series 210s were produced in two- and four-door sedans; two- and four-door station wagons; two-door sport coupes, and four-door sport sedans. Retail prices started at $2,082 and topped out at $2,623 for a basic four-door station wagon. Nearly 674,600 were manufactured in 1957. The Bel Air series, with its variety of standard equipment and options, began at $2,198 for a two-door sedan and progressed through four-door sedans; two-door sport coupe; four-door sport sedan; two-door convertible, and two-door station wagon to a four-door station wagon retailing for $2,640. Factory installed options for the ragtop could include power steering and brakes; power front seat; electric windows; tinted glass and air conditioning. Chevrolet produced 720,356 Bel Air models in 1957.

 The era of the Tri-Chevy drew to a close with the 1957 model year. The 150s, 210s and Bel Airs would give way to the Impala, Biscayne, Nova, Caprice and Chevelle model lines; the Turbo-Fire V-8 would be replaced by the Turbo-Thrust eight-cylinder engine and the "Blue Flame Special" (the venerable Stovebolt Six) would segue into the "Hi-Thrift 6," and the moderate fins or "sail panels" would be rounded over and eventually flattened into wing-like surfaces.

 In the course of three years, Chevrolet innovation and engineering had changed the durable, economic and reliable transportation of the rather chunky, rounded body and domed roof of its early '50s model lines into a car that was extremely stylish, powerful and high-performance. Over 4.9 million cars rolled off Chevy's production lines during the "Tri-Chevy" era. The response of the driving public was nothing short of amazing. That's why today, one of the most sought after collectible automobiles is the 1955-57 Chevy. Quite a response to the challenge to come up with a "fresh start" in basic transportation.