1955 Chevrolet

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1955 Chevrolet
1955 Chevrolet Bel Air PAS346.jpg
Bel Air
Overview
Manufacturer Chevrolet Division
of General Motors
Also called Chevrolet Bel Air
Chevrolet 210 Delray
Chevrolet 150
Chevrolet Nomad
Chevrolet Sedan Delivery [1]
Production 1954–1955
Assembly United States
Canada [2]
Woodville, Australia [3]
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door coupé
2-door hardtop
4-door sedan
2-door convertible
2-door Station wagon
4-door Station wagon
2-door sedan delivery [4]
Chronology
Successor 1957 Chevrolet
1955 Chevy in Turkey 2007, with owner

The 1955 Chevrolet (sometimes referred to as '55 Chevy) is an automobile made by the General Motors division Chevrolet in 1955. It is considered a huge turning point for the manufacturer and a major success. It was available in three models: the 150, 210 (Delray), and Bel Air.

The '55 Chevy was the first successful Chevrolet with an optional V8 engine. Chevrolet had produced an earlier car with a V-8 in 1918 Chevrolet Series D using a 55-horsepower, 288-cubic-inch V-8,[5] but it had remained in production for only a year. For 1955, Chevrolet decided to fit their new car with an overhead valve V-8 engine design, which was a similar overhead valve design to the 1949 Oldsmobile "Rocket 88" V-8 engine. The new 265-cubic-inch overhead valve V-8 was designed to be smaller, lighter, and more powerful than previous V-8s in the auto industry.

Ford had an overhead valve V-8, the 239 CID (same displacement as the previous flathead) a year earlier than Chevy. But Ford's "Y-block" (as it was called) was problematic, especially when it came to a critical design error in its engine oiling system. A small and too-deeply set passage from its crankcase to its cylinder heads could easily clog if the oil wasn't changed often. Since oil of that time was low on detergent but high in coke, oil with too much age combined with short intermediate drives could cause a clog in the passage, which could lead to the engine's top end being deprived of oil and burning up the rocker shaft assembly. Another problem was the Y block was limited to how large it's cylinders could be increased, compared to the Chevy V-8.

However, Chevy's new "small block" for 1955 wasn't without its problems. It had no oil filter, and the factory could only add an oil filter externally. This was actually an option for 1955. Those that did not order the engine with the "oil filter option", their oil would become dirty quicker. This was corrected for the next year. However, the new small block V-8 could be easily maintained, and had a wonderful built-in ability to be upgraded. Its cylinders could be bored from 265 CID to 400 CID (Ford's Y-block could only be bored to 348 CID). The small block Chevy V-8 would become so popular, that it is still used in Chevrolets today. Although there have been various changes made to the motor to modernize it, the basic design of the original 265 remains.

Body Design[edit]

Additionally, Chevrolet drastically changed their body design from the previous year. Although Ford had already gone to a shoe box body design in 1949, Chevy was gradually doing the same through the early 1950s. By 1953 the Chevy had advanced to smoothed out straight side panels for a straighter side look, except for the air-foil near the rear wheels. The 1953 Chevy made other gains such as wrap-around glass as the back window. But Ford was still ahead in the straighter-look shoe box design as the Chevy still had the 1940s-like "3-hump" hood line in the front, and rounding in the rear. However, in 1955, Chevy caught up with Ford in the body design category by leaping to a true shoebox look. It had smooth straight panels on the sides and hood, wrap-around glass on the windshield, and triangular tail lights that jutted outward. And this new look, combined with new power and engineering, made the '55 an instant hit and a critical success.

The car's popular "shoe-box" body style and chassis were carried over to 1956 (with changes to some of the front and rear aesthetics), and then carried over to 1957 (where the body was lengthened several inches in the rear and more drastic aesthetic changes were made).

Since the Chevrolet retained the same body and chassis for the 1955, 56, and 57 model years, and since those three models are extremely sought after by collectors, they are often referred to by collectors and enthusiasts as the "tri-fives".

Options and Trim[edit]

The 1955 Chevrolet also offered many other firsts for Chevrolet, including changing from a 6-volt to a 12-volt electrical system. The '55 offered new options like air conditioning, power windows, and even power seats; power steering and power brakes were also optional. Other options included automatic light dimmers, door handle protectors, bumper protectors and "wonder-bar" radio's. So many new options were available that some referred to the car as "Chevy's little Cadillac." Never before had so many options been offered for a car in the low price field.

The 55's top trim offering was the Bel-Air, which had more chrome than the 150 or 210 Delray. The Bel-Air and 210 Delray could be bought with a post between the front and rear passenger windows, or without a post. Without a post it was known as a "Hardtop," which came in a four-door or a two-door. The two-door hardtop was also known as the "Sport Coupe." Since the Sport Coupe had no post between the two side windows, it had a slightly shorter roof and longer rear deck. The Bel-Air was available in a convertible, with the same shorter roof and longer rear deck as the sport coupe. The convertible was offered in Bel-Air trim only.

The '55 offered a wide array of colors. One solid color, which was standard for the 150, could be had for the 210 or Bel Air...or nineteen different two-tone color combinations were also available.

Models[edit]

There were nine different variations of the three models made in 1955, with differences in body, roof type, number of doors, and available equipment, but not all possible combinations were sold.

Name and Description 150 Series 210 Series Bel Air Series
4 Door Sedan: 6-passenger, 7-window sedan with a rear trunk. X X X
2 Door Sedan: 6-passenger, 5-window sedan with a rear trunk. X X X
Club Coupe: 6-passenger, 2-door, 5-window coupe with a rear trunk. X
Utility Sedan: 3-passenger, 5-window sedan with a rear trunk. X
Sport Coupe: 6-passenger, 2-door, 5-window coupe with hard top and rear trunk. X X
Convertible: 5-passenger, 2-door, 5-window coupe with folding top and rear trunk. X
2 Door Station Wagon: 6-passenger, 5-window wagon with drop and lift gates. X X X
4 Door Station Wagon: 6-passenger, 7 window wagon with drop and lift gates. X X
Sedan Delivery: 2-passenger, 3 window, panel delivery wagon. X

Engines[edit]

The following engines were available on the 1955 Chevrolet:

  • OHV Inline 6 cylinder: 235 cubic inches, 135 brake horsepower (SAE)
  • OHV V8: 265 cubic inches, 162 brake horsepower (SAE)
  • OHV V8: 265 cubic inches, 180 brake horsepower (SAE), also known as the "Power Pack" engine
  • OHV V8: 265 cubic inches, 195 brake horsepower (SAE), late in the model year, known as the "Super Power Pack"

The 265 was new for 1955, and it was the first V8 available in a Chevrolet since 1919, when the Model "D" was offered. That car did not sell well due to its poor gasoline mileage, so Chevy reverted to OHV inline 4-cylinder engines until 1929 when Chevy switched to an inline 6-cylinder engine. This reliable six cylinder would power chevy cars until 1955 and was known as the "stove-bolt six" and also known as the "blue flame six". But the new 265 V-8 in 1955 offered more power than the optional blue flame six, and weighed 100 pounds less.

The 265 was a big success, and was fitted to the majority of Chevrolet cars for decades in various cubic inch displacements. It is commonly referred to as the "Small Block Chevy" motor.

Transmissions[edit]

The car could be had with one of three transmission types, all with the shifter on the column:

  • 3-speed Synchromesh manual
  • 3-speed Synchromesh manual with overdrive
  • 2 speed automatic "powerglide".

All models had the 3 transmission options.

Critical acclaim[edit]

The '55 Chevy was a huge success with the general public. After its introduction, it was quickly dubbed "the hot one", and the public flocked to dealerships to get a look at the new car. Over 1.7 million were produced, and they accounted for nearly 23% of all car sales in the US in 1955. Although Chevrolet was already the top-selling car for several decades leading up to 1955, its appeal was mostly to older drivers. After 1955, Chevrolet had mass appeal. The '55's light weight (3,200 lbs) combined with its powerful engine and popular shoe-box body design also made it a hit with hot rodding circles and soon after, collectors. The 55 would also put Chevrolet into the motorsports arena for the first time, where it would win many races.

Today, the '55 Chevy is one of the most recognizable cars ever made and is a top draw for collectors.

Popular Culture[edit]

A 55 Chevy (210) was featured in the 1974 movie "American Graffiti" as the black hot rod driven by Bob Falfa (Harrison Ford) to challenge the current town champ John Milner (Paul Lemat) in his yellow 1932 Ford 5 window coup.

The same 55 Chevy would also be used in the movie "Two Lane Black Top".

See also[edit]

1917-1918 Chevrolet Series D V8 previous Chevy V8

References[edit]

  1. ^ 1955 Chevrolet Sedan Delivery brochure page, 1.bp.blogspot.com Retrieved on 8 November 2013
  2. ^ Production Numbers, www.fiftyfivechev.com Retrieved on 8 November 2013
  3. ^ Norm Darwin, 100 Years of GM in Australia, 2002, page 146
  4. ^ 1955 Chevrolet Specifications - Model Identification, chevy.oldcarmanualproject.com Retrieved on 8 November 2013
  5. ^ [1][dead link]