Is the 57′ Chevrolet Bel Air better than the 55′ and 56′?

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The 57' Chevrolet Bel Air is certainly more sought after by collectors, but I'm a fan of all three classic designs. To a completely untrained eye they look quite similar. Most Chevy fans (and classic car enthusiasts in general) can quickly spot the difference between all three years of the Bel Air.

1955 Chevrolet Bel Air

This is a beautiful 1955 Bel Air.

55 Bel Air

You'll notice that the 55' has the completely horizontal trim on the back quarter panel seperating the upper and lower quarter panel. And, the profile of the rear end is pretty square and drops almost straight down from the tail light to the bumper.

55 Chevy Bel Air tail

Here's a good shot of the rear end of this 55'. 

For the 1956 Bel Air model, a couple things were changed that can easily distinguish it from the others. Here's a 1956 Bel Air:

1956 Chevrolet Bel Air

On this 56' Bel Air, you'll notice that the fender trim piece isn't horizontal. It's curved down towards the lower bumper. Here's another look at the 56':

1956 Chevy Bel Air

You can also notice that on the 56', the trim piece that runs down along the side of the body is much thicker than the previous style, and it is wide enough to allow for a little strip of paint inbetween the chrome. Among some other differences between the two cars is the grill and hood emblem, front turn markers, and front bumper.

In 1957, the design of the Bel Air got tweaked a little more. Here's a 57' Bel Air:

1957 Bel Air

As you can see, the 57' has a different side trim than does the 56' and 55'. The trim on the 57' is a single chorme piece that runs the side of the car, and fans out to the rear end without covering the top of the rear fenders. 

67' Chevy Bel Air

And, unlike the 55' and 56' models, the tail fins on the 57' model have a sharper angle coming back to the tail lights and bumper, creating a much more distinct fin. 

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

And as you can see, the grill is different from the two previous designs as well.

So – even with these somewhat subtle differences, the 1957 Bel Air has been a much more desired car for classic car enthusiasts and collectors. It would be hard to argue that the 57' looks dramatically better, so why do people seem to like it more? Did they produce fewer of them making them more rare?

Is the 1957 Bel Air better than the 1955 and 1956 Bel Air? 

60 Comments

  • While I owned the ’56 210 2dr.post…I thought it was the best. Now I’m building up a ’57 BelAire 2dr hardtop and I’m digging it a little more.

  • 57 Chevy has more appeal,class,just a beautiful automobile,I’ve owned all 3,but I am a proud owner of a 57 Bel Air 2Dr HT presently now,they are all sweet.

  • Well guys, you say the ’57 looks “dramatically better”. I beg to differ. I absolutely love the ’55s design. The small grille & lack of fins are the main reason. Not to say that I don’t admire the other two models.

    • I agree with you as a matter of fact, I am the owner of a 1956 Bel Air 4 door hardtop. I think it’s design is an improvement on the 1955. The styling has a smooth beauty about it. I am not a fan of the tail fins on the 1957. You see lots of ’55s and ’57s out there but the ’56s are a real treat to see. I know I sure love mine.

  • It would be hard to argue that the 57′ looks dramatically better, so why do people seem to like it more?.. You answered your own question…

  • After all the years of the 57’s being most wanted. The the 55’s as the main stay gasser/race car. The 56′ is finally getting the attention it very much deserves. The grill/front end styling, front fender curves. Best looking side mouldings, to the tail light/ gas filler lock. What was not to like. All three years,any of the body styles are automotive history. If you can, grab one and drive it often like I do and don’t leave it in the garage collecting dust!

  • 57 Bel Air is ‘The Granddaddy of Bling’, It was when heads turned and rims stood still.It came in 27 colors, all of them Red, White, and Blue!

  • Being an absolute car nut I gotta say this is hard. Each is gorgeous, each is legendary, each is a solid car, real American iron. The 57 enjoys all the popularity but, minus the skirts I’d go with the 55. But it is, for me, nearly a three way tie.

  • My first car was a black ’57 Chevy convert. I loved that car, but, everyone else liked it’s looks better than I did. Of these 3, I prefer the ’55. It’s cleaner. I never did see why there was all the fuss over the ’57’s. Personally I think the ’58 is THE one.

  • Aside from it’s more appealing looks, there is a nice, and “Advanced”(for the time) option that could be had in the 57. I can put this advantage into one single word that does not apply to 55’s or 56’s, but only to 57’s. That word is “Fuelie” an option only offered in 57. The cars looked better and were mechanically improved over the 55’s and 56’s.

  • I agree!! The ’55 was a far step ahead at the time and as someone suggested the first factory hot rod and a far cry from the styling before it. But the 57 was the first to have to FI 283. The mechanical and body spec differences would have been more useful… especially since you (the author) don’t seem to know the difference between a 210 and a Bel Air.A little more research might have been in order here.

  • The differences in appearance are fairly obvious to any car nut (and who would read this other than a car nut?). I was hoping you would summarize he mechanical differences. That would be interesting!

  • In the first place neither of those 57’s are true BelAir’s. In fact my guess is they started life as a lowly 210 which I personally prefer over the trimmier Bel Air. Or perhaps these two cars were culled from the even lowlier 150 series. They have some BelAir style trim on them, but the most important piece, the one that usually gives it all away is missing on both. The trim at the roofline.Now with that said, I used to own a 57. It was my first car, one I had wanted for years before, so I AM a 57 lover. But I like all three year for different reasons. From an appearance only standpoint, they are in order, the 57, the 56 and finally the 55’s.As far as I’m concerned the 58 was a bogus replacement for any of these cars. I hated it then and am still not fond of the bodystyle.

  • The 55 and 56 were “cleaner” designs. The 57 was a pure response to Chrysler products coming out that year with their fins as well as Chevrolet wanting to be the average man’s Cadillac….. The 57 also had the 283 CID and feulie options as well.

  • I don’t agree that the ’57 looks “Dramatically better” than the ’55 and ’56. I think that it’s a personal taste. For myself, I would prefer to have the ’56, the year before the fins. I just think that the two toned color scheme works better on the ’56 than on the ’55, probably because of the curved trim, and I think that it is just a better looking car than the ’57. I, of course, would love to have any of them.

  • I love the 57 Belaire the best. 2 door Matador red with postless white top. The 283 with fuel injection or quads. My Dad had a 4-door, 283 with powerglide and 4 barrel carb.

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