Sunday, July 10, 2011

1954 Chevrolet Bel Air 4-door Sedan

"YOU'VE GOT IT UNDER THE HOOD! All new Chevrolets pack new high-compression power . . . in fact the highest compression power of any leading low-priced car. That high compression makes the going better and smoother all the way. From a stoplight. Up a hill. Along the highway. And you pass by more gas stations than ever before. All because the gasoline gives up more power and more mileage when it's more highly compressed in the engine.

IT'S NOT SURPRISING WHEN YOU KNOW. Look at Chevrolet's smooth, free-flowing and gracefully curved lines. Look at the colorful interiors, the quality of the fabrics and the caliber of the workmanship. Is it surprising that a low-priced car can be so finely made of such fine materials? Not when you know that Chevrolet is the only low-priced car with Body by Fisher!"

In side-view, this Chevy Bel Air shows the curves and full, sculpted surfaces that were a Harley Earl trademark throughout the 50s, and his downfall, when the look of cars substantially changed at the dawn of the 60s. When the 1953-1954 Chevrolets were developed, the company already worked on the all-new generation for 1955. And while the 1953-1954 Chevrolets were only an intermediate solution (bearing the same underpinnings as the previous generation but all-new body panels), Harley Earl's designers under Carl Renner virtuously re-skinned these cars to appear very different.

By 1953, Ford had started a "sales war" against Chevrolet, determined to become America's number one. Dealers were flooded with new cars, regardless of customer orders and, in result, had to give heavy discounts. The losers were the smaller "independents" who couldn't follow this practice. By the numbers, the 1953 Ford was a better deal, offering an optional V-8 engine where Chevrolet only had an inline Six. But the Chevrolets simply looked the part, and drew the style-hungry customers into the showrooms. Earl's simple solution to keep Ford at a distance was "chrome", and even "more chrome" for the facelift in 1954. It worked well, and perhaps the success of this practice was the reason why Earl favored such flamboyant chrome monsters at the end of the 50s, when GM styling lost it's edge.

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