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? 

55 Comments

  • Reply March 29, 2013

    Paul Wilson

    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.

  • Reply March 29, 2013

    Jeff Sicklesteel

    56 is my fav.

    • Reply October 20, 2013

      stoessner

      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.

  • Reply March 28, 2013

    Quantummist

    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…

  • Reply March 28, 2013

    Ian Norburg

    I prefer the simplicity of the ’55 myself

  • Reply March 16, 2013

    Shawn Bjork

    Very nice car Larry!

  • Reply March 16, 2013

    Shawn Bjork

    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!

  • Reply March 16, 2013

    Shawn Bjork

    Agree 100%

  • Reply March 16, 2013

    Donald Lee

    me to love them, I had one of them ,wish I had it today

  • Reply March 16, 2013

    Larry Gross

    Flippers were only found on the Hardtops, friend. Pardon but you’re no expert.

  • Reply March 16, 2013

    Joe Masar

    1956 bel air is the best looking to me ,but I wouldn’t get rid of any of them they are a true classic

  • Reply January 30, 2013

    Janice F. Brown Foster

    Yes the 57 is classier than any 50′s cars, Rocco Foster.

  • Reply January 8, 2013

    Steve Fleming

    55 is my favorite

  • Reply January 8, 2013

    Dawn Beeler Medley

    I had a 69!

  • Reply January 8, 2013

    Ashstin Jones

    ’56 chevy Nomad

  • Reply January 8, 2013

    Mark Botsford

    ’56, then ’57, then ’55.

  • Reply January 8, 2013

    Ken Hart

    56 is mine

  • Reply January 8, 2013

    Mark Kennedy

    its like steak its all good !!!

  • Reply January 8, 2013

    George R. Storey

    My favorite is the 55! but I like 56,57,62,63,64

  • Reply January 8, 2013

    Nila Ritchie Raclawski

    57

  • Reply January 8, 2013

    William Matt Curtiss

    55 is my favorite

  • Reply January 8, 2013

    Jack Kennedy

    I like the 58!

  • Reply January 8, 2013

    Classic Nation

    I can’t decide which year I like better! What’s your favorite?

  • Reply January 7, 2013

    Bonnie Severa Trill

    57 is the bomb

  • Reply January 7, 2013

    Bonnie Severa Trill

    57 chevy is my favorite classic car I would love to own one.

  • Reply December 30, 2012

    Larry Gooch

    Nothing better than a ’56 & dashboard lights !

  • Reply December 30, 2012

    Larry Gross

    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!

  • Reply December 29, 2012

    Scott Winters

    Bonnie, I bet you wish you had it now.

  • Reply December 29, 2012

    Bonnie Fouts Annis

    I used to own a silver 55 just like this one! I named it the Silver Bullet! It was a great car.

  • Reply December 29, 2012

    Waldon Herdman

    55! Personal choice.

  • Reply December 29, 2012

    Kevin Minch

    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.

  • Reply December 29, 2012

    Chris DeCanio

    I think that all three are great but, I’d be more inclined toward the 55.

  • Reply December 29, 2012

    Tom MacFarlane

    For my money the 56 Bel Air is the prettiest Chevrolet ever built.

  • Reply December 29, 2012

    Nelson Rasmussen

    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.

  • Reply December 29, 2012

    Scott Winters

    I’m partial to the 55 the lines are the cleanest of the 3.

  • Reply December 29, 2012

    Chelsea Landis

    ’56 is the most appealing. More noticeable than the trim is the grille! Hellooooo?

  • Reply December 29, 2012

    Steve Thompson

    Richard Boettger yep I had the choice of what to buy and picked 55 chevy ….looks very cool !

  • Reply December 29, 2012

    Nicholas John Rizzo

    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.

  • Reply December 29, 2012

    Richard Boettger

    Now there’s a good reason(?).Because you own one it’s the best?

  • Reply December 29, 2012

    Steve Thompson

    55 is the best…I own a 55 chevy and its the best car of the tri fives.

  • Reply December 29, 2012

    Richard Boettger

    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.

  • Reply December 28, 2012

    Salvatore Gigante

    ok

  • Reply December 28, 2012

    John Calia

    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!

  • Reply December 28, 2012

    Richard Boettger

    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.

  • Reply December 28, 2012

    Ed Raymond

    I’m a bit prejudice….i like the 55….but do think the 58 impala was an awesom set of wheels.

  • Reply December 28, 2012

    Anthony J. Calabro

    I love the 57,55, qnd 56 in that order

  • Reply December 28, 2012

    Keith Dickson

    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.

  • Reply December 28, 2012

    C Wayne Sigler

    I agree that the 57 is iconic, but I personally prefer the 56. I think it is a sexier car.

  • Reply December 28, 2012

    Norman Schnell

    I think the best one of the three is the 55 bel – air 2dr. post , but love ‘em all!

  • Reply December 28, 2012

    Zac Lambert

    the 55 is buy far the best lookin of the three!

  • Reply December 28, 2012

    Irene Marrero-Galizia

    sal look on my page I can’t share but my son in law has this one 56

  • Reply December 28, 2012

    Matt Berryessa

    56 is the sharpest looking to me.

  • Reply December 28, 2012

    Steve Moody

    I like the 57 but to me, the 58 is far better looking than the 55, 56 or 57.

  • Reply December 28, 2012

    John Zaffino

    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.

  • Reply December 28, 2012

    Salvatore Gigante

    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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