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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

1955 Chevrolet

This 1955 Chevrolet was utilitarian in look and purpose.
 Development for the 1955 Chevrolet began in 1952. This chrome-and-steel confection would be the third generation of post-war Chevs and it needed to be stunning if the GM division was to keep its lock on first place in the sales race.

Designers were handed a package of instructions that included creating a vehicle on a 2 191-millimetre (115-inch) wheelbase. Early designs called for a split windshield to minimize costs. Style reigned supreme during the era and the two-piece windshield was ultimately nixed in favour of a one-piece affair with graceful glass that wrapped around the sides to greet a nicely indented A pillar.

   A September 1953 drawing reveals an attractive automobile-based pickup truck was under consideration. Ultimately that model was nixed in the Canadian and American markets but did find a home in Australia.

The 1956 Holden FE Utility made good use of the 1955 North American Chevrolet passenger car body.

What developed in the studio was an astonishingly fresh and clean design with slab sides and a discrete sweetheart dip in the rear quarter panel. Like this year’s Nash, Chevrolet carried an inset grille; Chev’s version was a simple, yet elegant, egg crate motif. The car’s chrome trim was tasteful as were the two-tone colour combinations.

The new V-8 engine introduced by Chevrolet
boasted a 4.2-litre (265 cubic-inch) displacement and generated
162 horsepower.
The small-block V-8 mill was new, too. Available domestically only in the 4.2-litre (162-horsepower) form, the Chev clipped along at a goodly speed with help from the three-speed manual transmission or Powerglide. 

The faithful Stove Bolt Six was still an excellent alternative and line workers in Oshawa installed only the 136-horsepower version. The now dated torque-tube drive was dropped in favour of the more versatile Hotchkiss setup, which permitted bodies to be lowered by 63.5 millimetres (2.5 inches) on sedans and a full six inches on wagons. Chev got a leg up on much of the competition by switching to a hotter 12-volt electrical system.

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The instrument cluster was a large, chromed 1/3-pie slice featuring an easy-to-read speedometer, fuel and temperature gauges, oil and ammeter lights. 

The chrome pie-slice theme was repeated on the passenger side of the instrument panel where the optional electric clock fitted neatly into the base of the large “V”.

The 1955 Chevrolet models started rolling out the doors in Oshawa on September 8. Vehicles were now being built in the new South facility, comprised of an 11-hecatrare (27-acre) body assembly building, an eight-hectare (20-acre) chassis facility, a final assembly plant and a four-hectare (12-acre0 parts warehouse. Of the 28 models offered to the public, only six of the bowties were imported. On October 1st, some Chev and Pontiac wagon models were returned to domestic assembly lines after a 15-year absence. 

Like geese headed south for the winter, folks from St. John's to Victoria flocked to car dealers’ showrooms every fall to see the new cars. For the 1955 selling season the ritual continued unabashed as Canadians headed off to ogle the newest crop of automobiles. Studebaker claimed the honours of being first to step up to the plate this year when its redesigned automotive lineup was unveiled to the public on October 6. 

Chevrolet’s egg crate grille was controversial when introduced on the 1955 models.
The Bel Air two-door sedan carried a price tag of $2,021 and tipped the scales at 1 413 kilos (3,115 pounds).

Next up to bat was Chevrolet. From coast-to-coast, a hungry, curious public made a date on October 28 to see the new V-8 Chevs and the posh, new four-door Bel Air Station Wagon. The new Chevrolets were simply sensational. There had never been bowties like these long, low and lovely cars with their wrap-around windshields. 

While everyone admired the new Turbo-Fire V-8, opinion at the time was that the inset grille looked far too European. That style marker immediately became a point of controversy among purists. Regardless of where one stood in the grille debate, there were crowds a plenty on the showroom floors to kick the tires and slam the doors; Chevrolet had been Canadians’ favourite automobile for more than two decades.

1955 Ford.

Dealers with Ford-Monarch or Mercury-Lincoln-Meteor franchises were green with envy. They had beautiful cars too, but had little to show at introduction time because employees in Oakville were in the midst of a very long, bitter strike against the manufacturer. Only a handful of models, imported from the US and the UK were on display. That work stoppage at Ford didn’t hurt Chev-Olds dealers one little bit. 
1955 Chevrolet 150 Four-door Sedan.
Chevrolet fielded four models in the Spartan 150 Six series. The least expensive Chev on the market was the three-passenger business coupe with its $1,711 price tag. The two-door sedan carried a list price of $1,804; the four-door sedan cost $1,853 and the sober two-door station wagon sold for $2,185. Popping a V-8 mill under the hood hiked the final bill by a C-note. Interiors of the modest Canadian-built 150 series borrowed its dressier steering wheel from the American 210 models. Upholstery was cloth and vinyl and basic black rubber matting covered the floors. 
The 1955 Chevrolet 210 Townsman station wagon was 197 inches in length, weighed in at  1 528 kilos (3,370 pounds) and cost $2,614 f.o.b. Oshawa. Taxes were extra.

Further up the scale was the 210 Six series with a trio of entries. The two-door sedan was priced at $1,898; the four-door sedan cost $1,947 and the two-door wagon sold for $2,437. Adding $100 to the price tag got one the new V-8 instead of the six. The four-door V-8 wagon carried a sticker of $2,614.

If one desired a new Chevrolet Bel Air convertible in 1955, one reached into one’s bank account for 
$2,382 and took out a few extra bucks for taxes.
Then there was the ritzy Bel Air clan, made up of a two-door sedan at $$2,021; $2,070 for the four-door sedan; a hardtop coupe that retailed for $2,211 and a sweet ragtop selling for $2,382. 
1955 Chevrolet Nomad featured a racy tail combined with hardtop styling.

When it made its mid-season debut, the imported Nomad two-door wagon would sport a price tag of $2,654 Once again, a crisp $100 bill gave one that Turbo-Fire V-8 upgrade. Bel Airs were graced with interiors that were colour-keyed to the exterior of the car and given luxurious carpeting as well. 

Popular options included power steering, power brakes, power windows, the Signal Seeking radio, white sidewall tires, full wheel covers, windshield and side window visors, an electric razor and a Continental spare kit. Wise folks ordered the extra-cost heater and defroster as well as the engine block heater. 

The Chevrolet Corvette received numerous upgrades in 1955.

Finally, one could escape far from the madding crowd in a snappy two-seater Chevrolet Corvette. The fast fibreglass coupe and convertible received a raft of sorely needed changes to make it more competitive with Ford's sassy Thunderbird. The sportiest bowtie in the Chevrolet family now started out at a cost of $2,774. 

Some unusual Chevs were built that year. A 210 Townsman Station Wagon was delivered to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The royal ride had special bars installed in the windows of the cargo bay to protect the glass from any shifts in luggage or cargo. It featured other custom appointments including unique, full-width rear door pockets.

Chevrolet was chosen to be the pace car at a the Indianapolis 500 in 1955.

Another Chev was chosen to pace the Indianapolis 500 that year and worldwide, GM turned out its 5-millionth passenger car on November 23, 1954—the honour falling to a ’55 Chev Bel Air Sports Coupe that rolled out the doors of the Flint, Michigan factory. The car’s usual chrome parts were gold plated to mark the occasion.
Workers in Oshawa built 79,308 Chevs during the 1955 model year, making it the marque’s third best year in the Dominion and keeping the bowtie brand Number One in the hearts and garages of the nation.

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 Copyright James C. Mays 2004
All rights reserved.

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