Capturing the essence of the era’s themes, the ’57 Chevrolet Bel Air represented the pinnacle of ’50s automotive styling. Today, this model remains one of the single most recognized icons of the tall tail fins and excessive chrome age—a time when bigger meant better and there was not a doubt that America built the best cars on the planet.
Under the hood, technology master and horsepower guru Ed Cole worked magic developing Chevy’s small-block V8 engine. The original edition was enlarged to 283 cubic inches, with several optional power packages available, pushing it up to a healthy 283 horsepower.
On the outside the Bel Air was distinguished from other models with a liberal use of chrome. Front bumpers were chrome and featured a golden grille set off with a heavy chrome bar holding very obvious parking lights. The car’s most important feature, rear fins, were capped with chrome moldings and highlighted with anodized aluminum side trim panels. Interestingly, the fuel-filler door was concealed in the left rear chrome fin trim, a small but convenient detail that helped clean up exterior lines.
The Matador Red Bel Air pictured here has been the subject of an exhaustive, frame-off rotisserie-type restoration. Starting with a solid rust-free southern car, the owner reports that every conceivable aspect of this automobile, including undercarriage, suspension, engine compartment and trunk has been completely renewed. All interior and exterior chrome has been replated and stainless moldings have been polished. So extensive was this restoration that power window switches that were purchased new were taken apart and re-chromed.
Restoration of this vehicle included a full rebuild of the 283 V8 engine and three-speed transmission. Other components benefiting from renewal include: starter motor, generator, heater core, radiator, brakes and even the Wonderbar radio.
Sporting a long list of options like Autronic eye, vacuum ashtray, tissue dispenser, fender skirts, Continental kit, power top, power steering and brakes, and dual exhaust, this has to be one of the finest numbers-matching Chevrolet Bel Airs in existence.