- A 1949 Chevrolet Coupe. Photo Courtesy of: Barn Finds

Spotting Guide: Chevrolet Cars '49 to '54

The easiest to spot differences between each year.

1949 would usher in a new era of American Automotive design. This would be the year that major auto manufacturers would introduce their first post WW2 line ups. Big things were happening, both styling wise and mechanically. As usual I will present you with the Coupe body design to try and keep some continuity between the years. Also, I'll only be pointing out the easiest to spot differences!


Above: (left) a rusty 1949 Coupe. (right) a dark colored 1949 Coupe

The 1949 Chevy would be different from any car they had ever made. Gone was the wooden frame bodies of just 15 years before and in their place was this sleek new design. The easiest way to tell a '49 from a '50 is in the grille. Notice the 7 individual vertical bars along the bottom of the grille. A '50 would not have nearly as many!


Above: (left) a white 1950 Coupe. (right) a rough, but ready, green 1950 Coupe

The major difference between a '49 and a '50 is their are only two lower vertical grille bars. One underneath each parking light / turn signal.


Above: (left) a black 1951 Coupe (right) a green 1951 Coupe

The difference on the '51 would come in the parking light / turn signals. They would move out to the edge of the grille and get larger. Also, the top of the grille would be larger and flatter. The body, would remain mostly the same.


Above: (left) a cream colored 1952 Bel Air Hardtop. (right) a blue and white 1952 Coupe

In '52 Chevy would sort of combine the '49 and '51 grilles. The 5 bumps on the center grille bar would mimic the 7 lower bars on the '49, but the parking lights / turn signals would still be large and outboard on the grille.


Above: (left) a green 1953 Bel Air Hardtop (right) a yellow 1953 two door sedan

By 1953 the notion of a traditional Coupe was gone. Both examples above are really 2 door sedans. The changes to the grille area in '53 are very obvious. The grille surround is larger, in fact it looks a little like a larger version of the '53 Corvette grille. A floating center bar has two large parking / turn signal lights on the ends.


Above: (left) a red 1954 convertible. (right) a blue 1954 Bel Air Hardtop

1954 would be the last year for the stylized protruding rear quarter panels. The '54 would also possess one of the most striking grilles of all the years we have looked at. The grille would be shorter than previous years and would include parking / turn signals that were set on the ends. The housing for these lights would wrap around to the side of the fender. Also, the headlights on this year would look a bit like the designers at Chevy were starting to take notice of what the custom car people were doing with Frenching headlights. The '54 would be a fitting end of these style of cars.

A heavily Customized 1951 Chevy two door sedan. Photo Courtesy of: The Hot Rod Network

A heavily Customized 1951 Chevy two door sedan. Photo Courtesy of: The Hot Rod Network

These years of Chevrolet cars would get overshadowed by the Tri-Fives, '55, '56 & '57 that would follow them. That's a real shame considering how beautiful these Chevys are!

Early 50s Bow Ties

What do you all think about these forgotten Chevrolets? Think they were overshadowed by the '55s, '56s & '57s with good cause? Maybe you think that these are really treasures waiting to be discovered by gearheads? Have a particular early American car line you'd like me to talk about in the future? Tell me all about it in the comments! Be sure and keep a look out for early '50s Chevys, while you Keep on Cruisin'!

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Comments (1)

  • The green 1953 Bel Air pictured in this post has the incorrect grill bar; the grill bar on a '53 has only three vertical elements, not the 5 elements on the car identified in this article as a '53; five vertical elements are correct for both the 1952 and 1954 Chevy Bel Air. Yes, the car's a '53 but the grill bar is incorrect.

      9 months ago