Sunday, February 19, 2012

1954 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible

"Here is a car that's so easy to drive  . . .  so spirited  . . .  so smartly styled  . . .  that it easily doubles your traveling enjoyment. Fact is, 'most any trip is a pleasure trip in a new Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible. You'll like the vacation-size luggage compartment  . . .  the durable, washable vinyl upholstery that keeps its good looks over the miles. And, you can have any or all of the automatic power features you want as extra-cost options. See the new Bel Air Convertible at your Chevrolet dealer's soon."

We seriously doubt that you can find a much better looking Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible across the Florida Strait. Mind you: this ain't Miami, this is Cuba, where official dealerships, factory spare parts or old-car junkyards are non-existent. All the more, we marvel at the determination and stamina of the cuban motorists who keep their cars in such a good condition! But then again, good looks make for good business. Our pictured Chevy Bel Air convertible, much like others, is frequently used as a parade car for fiestas de quince, and that secures a good and steady income for its owner.

In the traditional hierarchy, convertibles were always among the best-equipped and costliest cars in the lineup of any manufacturer, and therefore you can find quite a few postwar convertibles on cuban roads, although the climatic conditions here make open driving not as exciting as one might think. Yet, to own the top model was reason enough for many choferes in Cuba's show-off society to put a convertible in their garage – or better in front of it. However, as soon as the trendy "hardtop convertibles" became fashionable, "real" convertibles gradually disappeared from the customer's wish-list.

Same car in new suit, Chevrolets lineup was completely restyled for 1953, and looked dashing. Under the skin, the cars still had the mechanics of their predecessors, but such loud two-tone colors and interior appointments were previously unseen in Chevrolet's price class and they made the competition look quite bland. Once again, Harley Earl and GM Styling were boldly setting the trend – and the whole industry followed. Especially the Bel Air convertible excelled in the style department, matching interior hues and "fashion fiesta" exterior colors. No one would like to sit on plastic seats today, but back in 1954, an all-vinyl interior was chic: "The gay, color-harmonized interior is distinctively tailored. The all-vinyl seats and sidewalls stay new-looking  . . .  wash clean in a jiffy."

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