|Parent company||General Motors|
|Body style(s)||2-door coupe|
2-door panel van
2-door pickup truck
2-door racing coupe
2-door station wagon
4-door station wagon
'57 Chevy is a nickname of the 1957 Chevrolet made in America from late 1956 through much of 1957 by General Motors. It is one of many now-classic cars adored by millions of people. These cars are being restored to their original condition or modified according to personal tastes. As this car gets older it becomes more sought after by collectors than ever before. Its image has been frequently used in toys, graphics, music, movies and television. The '57 Chevy is an icon of the era that endures today.
The 1957 Chevrolet was available in three official trim levels: the base-model "one-fifty" series, the mid-range "two-ten" series, and the upscale Bel Air series. An upscale trim option called the "Delray" was available for two-ten 2-door sedans. A limited production two-door station wagon called the "Nomad" was produced as a Bel Air. A fourth designation was also available in limited quantities, the "El Morocco", a custom hand-build mimicking the Cadillac of the era.
1955 V-8 engine
The 1957 Chevrolet was a carry-over from 1955, when Chevrolet introduced its now-famous small-block V-8 — the first V-8 available in a Chevrolet since 1918. The first Chevy V8 in 1955 was bored in 265 ci (cubic inches). Prior to 1955, Chevrolet only offered an inline 6-cylinder engine. With the new V-8 engine for 1955, Chevrolet wanted to offer a new car design as well. The "shoebox" design, so named because it was the first Chevrolet to feature streamlined rear fenders, was a watershed for Chevrolet. The lightweight car coupled with a powerful V-8 became a showroom draw, but also thrust the company into the arena of competitive motorsports. 1955 Chevrolets went on to dominate drag racing and became a formidable force in circle track racing. In 1956, the design was lengthened somewhat in front and given a more squarish treatment; under the hood, engine power increased and a Chevrolet Corvette engine was available for the first time in a full-size passenger car.
Originally, General Motors executives wanted an entirely new car for 1957, but production delays necessitated the carry-over of the 1955 design for one more year. Ed Cole, chief designer for Chevrolet at the time, dictated a series of changes that significantly increased the cost of the car. These changes included a new dashboard, reshaped windshield, sealed cowl, and the relocation of air ducts to the headlight pods, which resulted in the distinctive chrome headlight that helped make the '57 Chevy a classic. Fourteen-inch wheels replaced the fifteen-inch wheels from previous years to give the car a lower stance, and a wide grille was used to give the car a wider look from the front. The now famous '57 Chevy tailfins were designed to duplicate the wide look in the rear. Bel Air models were given gold trim: the grille, front fender chevrons, hood, and trunk script were all rendered in anodized gold. The V-shaped trim on the tail fins was filled with a ribbed aluminum insert exclusive to the Bel Air. The small block V8 was larger at 283 cubic inches for 1957.
Body choices for 1957 included the typical 2- and 4-door sedan (identified by the "posts" between door windows), the two-door hardtop (also known as a sports coupé; the car has no post between the front and back window when the windows are lowered), the four-door hardtop (also known as a sports sedan), the utility coupé (a two-door sedan with a package shelf instead of a rear seat), two styles of two-door station wagon, the top-of-the-line Bel Air Nomad with a sloped pillar behind the hardtop door and sliding windows at the rear seat, and the basic Handyman with an upright sedan B-pillar and a C-pillar where the four-door wagons have one, available only in 150 and 210 trims. The four-door, six-passenger station wagon, the four-door, nine-passenger station wagon (both called Townsman in the 150 series and Beauville for the Bel Air version), and the convertible. Unlike most competitors, the Chevrolet four-door hardtop featured a reinforced rear roof structure that gave the car added rigidity and a unique appearance in silhouette.
It is quite possible that the 1957 Chevy was influenced by the styling of the 1955 Cadillac El Dorado, for they bear many styling similarities.
There were many options on the car, most of which were designed to make the car more comfortable and luxurious. Air conditioning, though rarely ordered, was offered, as was a padded dash. Power steering and power brakes were available, as well as a signal-seeking radio and power antenna. Power windows and power seats were also available. A rear speaker could be purchased which required a separate volume knob to be installed in the dash, beside the radio — this rear speaker was touted as providing "surround" sound. An "autotronic eye" was offered; it was a device that bolted onto the dashboard and sensed the light from oncoming traffic, dimming the headlights automatically.
Another dash-mounted item was the traffic-light viewer, a ribbed plastic visor that was installed just above the speedometer. Because the roof extends so far into the windshield, it is hard to see overhead traffic lights from the driver's seat. The traffic light viewer captured the reflection of overhead traffic lights so that the driver didn't have to lean forward to see past the edge of the windshield.
1957 was the first year that Chevrolet ever offered fuel injection as an option. A 283 in³ engine fitted with solid lifters and fuel injection was rated at 283 hp (211 kW). Solid lifters were designed to allow the engine to achieve higher RPMs, but proved a tad too temperamental for non-racers. To accommodate more casual drivers, a 250 hp (186 kW), hydraulic lifter version of the fuel injected engine was also offered.
Fuel injection continued as an option throughout the early 1960s. However, most mechanics of the time didn't have the experience to keep the units running. This prompted most buyers to opt for conventional carburation. A single four-barrel carburetor rated at 400 c.f.m. coupled with a dual-exhaust package was known as the "power pack". Two four-barrel carburetors could also be ordered. The "dual quad" engine could be ordered with hydraulic lifters producing 245 hp (183 kW), or with solid lifters producing 270 hp (201 kW). The dual quad configuration required a special breather assembly that has been nicknamed the batwing breather. The prices averaged around 2000 dollars during this time period. Standard carburetion on V-8 models came from a single two barrel carburetor, coupled with a single tailpipe.
The base engine was an inline 6-cylinder called the Blue Flame Six. This engine was smooth running and more fuel-efficient than the V-8, but not as powerful. Carburetion came from a single one-barrel carburetor.
1957 was also Chevrolet's first offering of a turbine transmission, known as the Turboglide. It was a design concept that Buick had developed with their Dynaflow transmission. However, due to a reliability reputation caused by its complexity, most automatic transmission buyers shunned the Turboglide in favor of the two-speed Powerglide that had been offered since 1950. At the time the Turboglide casing was the largest cast aluminum component ever put into mass production. But it never recovered from the reputation in 1957 and the option was discontinued in 1961. Manual transmissions were limited to three-speed, column shifted units, though there are rumors that a handful of 1957 Chevrolets left the factory with Corvette 4-speed, floor-shifting transmissions. No concrete documentation exists to back this claim up.
Chevys in this time period cost about 1,800 - 2,200.
From a numbers standpoint, the '57 Chevy wasn't as popular as General Motors had hoped. Despite its popularity, rival Ford outsold Chevrolet for the 1957 model year for the first time since 1935. However, the 1957 Ford - with the exception of the rare retractible hardtop model - is not nearly as prized by collectors today as the 1957 Chevrolet.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the 57 Chevy was a popular used car. It was the final year of the "shoebox" Chevrolet, as 1958 saw the introduction of a much larger and heavier Chevrolet. The ideal size of the '57, combined with its relatively light weight compared to newer full-sized cars, made it a favorite among drag racers. The engine bay was big enough to fit GM's big-block engines, first introduced in 1958 and popularized in the 1960s by the Beach Boys in the song "409". The relatively simple mechanical attributes of the car made it easy to maintain, customize, and upgrade with components such as disc brakes and air conditioning. By the 1980s, the '57 Chevy became a collector car. Companies such as Danchuk Manufacturing, Inc. and Classic Chevy International began selling reproduction and restoration parts. In the early 1990s, the value of meticulously restored '57 Chevy convertibles was as high as $100,000. Though those peaks gave way significantly after 1992, the '57 Chevy has held its value and now is poised to exceed the previous peak. Restored, original examples are increasingly rare, and modern customizers and restorers are creating fast, powerful, ultra-modern hot rods that are winning the '57 Chevy a whole new generation of fans. Fiberglass and all-steel reproductions are making it possible for future generations to adore the '57 Chevy as original cars become harder to find.