Sunday, September 28, 2014

1958 Chevrolet Bel Air Sport Sedan

"YOUR PRIDE WILL PERK UP whenever you're seen in your '58 CHEVROLET. One look at those low, wind-whisked lines and you know you're bound to be noticed. An you'll find still more to be proud of in the quick, sure way Chevy responds to your touch. There's just something about Chevy's low, straining-at-the-bit beauty that makes people sit up and take notice. And the way this Chevrolet moves! It's got quick-sprinting power and a reassuring way of keeping its poise, even on sudden dips and curves. Another big reason you'll be prouder of a Chevy is that it's the only honest-to-goodness new car in the low-price field. There's a new X-built Safety-Girder frame . . . new Turbo-Thrust V8* . . . a choice of new standard Full-Coil suspension or a real air ride*. Cars just don't come any newer! Make it a point to stop by your Chevrolet dealer's real soon. What he's selling is high on pride but low on price."

A soft tropical evening light nicely emphasizes the surface sculpture of this Chevy Bel Air. With the 1958 models, Chevrolet followed the general industry trend to boxier and more angular shapes. Yet, even Chevrolet’s experienced designers needed some time to get used to the new proportions: because there weren't big package advancements, these cars look pretty heavy and not very elegant. The 1957 Chevys, in comparison, sported softer shapes, which gave them a more eye-pleasing appearance.

Recurrently setting the trends in American automotive design, Harley Earl and his GM designers had been spoiled by their own success for years. The picture changed in the mid-1950s, when Chrysler leapfrogged GM with Virgil Exner's "Forward Look" design. GM had flaunted the longest, lowest and widest looking cars in the industry for years, but suddenly they'd become runner-ups. Earl's answer to the threat was more and more flamboyancy and even more chrome. The flashy front end of a entry-level Chevrolet now easily could rival even the grille of a much pricier Buick. It was a dead end road.

The pressure that Chrysler's 1957 "Forward Look" models had put on to GM's designers, and attempts to save costs by using even more shared parts within the GM divisions made the 1958 Chevrolets a one-year wonder. Good so, we think. Already next year's lineup featured much better looking cars. The designers got the proportions right, this time.

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