- Courtesy: GM Corp. Chevrolet Division

Terrestrial Travel Module: Bel Air

While the USSR was busy launching Sputnik and scaring hapless middle America to death, Chevrolet had another winner with the 1957 Bel Air. The 1955 redesign was so good that it remained relatively unchanged through '57 with the only noticeable differences being in that piece of side trim running from fin to fender. It sure beat any ROAD vehicle the communist block had for this period, especially after all of that star-blown capital.

This is right when chrome was as plentiful as plastic is today which you can see by the side trim and large front bumper. It's not drowning in chrome like a Caddy, but Bel Airs are bright enough. A Bel Air is the car your moderately successful appliance salesman purchased after a hard year of door slams and stubbed toes. He'll never be able to afford that coveted Coupe De Ville, but nobody spits on Chevy since that spiffy V8 splashed. There's room for the family and a secretary or two: just what Mr. Maytag needs.

If you want to go undercover, order a 150 or 210 coupe with V8. Available in coupe, four-door sedan, or wagon (known as Nomad) bodies, there was a Bel Air for every optimistic citizen. Under the hood Chevy's young small block went out to 283 cubic inches and even offered Rochester fuel injection. Save the fuel injection for the racers because you'll have an adventure finding a local service station equipped to even know what they're seeing.

1957 would be the final year of this general shape before a one-off redesign debuted for 1958. Investigate the film "American Graffiti" to see one of those. Of course this doo wop icon is all about making a statement when you pull up in front of the diner with a hot date. Don't ask how safe it is because all that separates you from a messy demise is two tons of cold hard unforgiving steel.

Everything is held with simple screws and bolts as this comes before totally automated production. Real people assembled these cars, thus the use of such basic fasteners. Even with such tolerance these automobiles feel solid from their almost perfect door alignment and smooth road manners. What mechanics learned in WWII absolutely translated to domestic vehicles. Pride built reflective machines that those in the east could only lust over on print because the system of equality isn't so hot outside of government work. They can have space. We owned the road that got them there.

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