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1956 Chevrolet Bel Air

Has there ever been a more iconic American car than the ’56 Chevy Bel Air? Of course there hasn’t, it’s not even close. Not even the Model T is as much a symbol of its age as the Bel Air. It represents American middle class postwar prosperity perfectly, and is a rare example of a car with styling that was exactly in line with contemporary fashion and design.

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There is something of a downside to this, though. The car has become such an icon that its greatness is now either taken for granted or completely ignored in the belief that its popularity was more about trendy fashion than the car itself.

But, the Bel Air really was a fantastic car, Chevrolet’ s top mainstream (defined as “not the Corvette”) offering. And, the generation of the car we’re talking about here actually includes the model years from ’55 to ’57, but styling and options were tweaked each year, and the ’57 is now considered to be the quintessential Bel Air.

The FC’s cab was hewn from the two-door Wrangler, retaining the windshield, A-pillars, and doors; the roof is from Mopar’s JK-8 pickup kit.

The car was just the right mix of style, performance and had an appealing price tag. It was a huge hit in showrooms, and was even a much bigger technical achievement than it usually gets credit for.

This was a period in GM history where several marques really only offered one main model in a variety of body styles and trims. As such, Bel Air isn’t really a model name, but rather the top trim level for Chevrolet Chevrolet ’s primary model. As such, its bodywork is broadly similar to most other Chevrolets at the time, and it was offered in no less than seven different body styles.

The most classic versions of the car are generally considered to be the 2-door Sport Coupe and the Convertible. The hood ornamentation, chrome trim down the sides and the grille are the easiest ways to tell one year apart from the others. The ’55, for example, had a Ferrari-inspired egg crate grille, while the ’56 and ’57 had grilles extending across the whole front end.