55 Bel Air Is Fresh And Fabulous; Awesome Four-Barrel Six-Pot Will Make You Smile


I used to believe that was the most exquisitely designed car ever when I was younger. Before you discover that something isn’t quite as mint as you thought it was, I used to believe it was really clean and mint. After 300 man-hours of restoration work, however, it is in mint condition and is a magnificent example of a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air. The owner is a die-hard Chevy enthusiast who enjoys driving his vehicle as closely to a factory-correct 1955 model as possible. Unless we take into account the fact that he races drag cars and likes a slight boost in power from the straight-six.

The 50s were key years for Chevrolet: the General Motors Division entered the Corvette in 1953, debuted the small-block V8 in ’55, and marked the opening and closing of the decade with automotive milestones. First, in 1950, it introduced the ‘Bel Air’ as a body style designation for two-door hardtops, and three years later, the series became a separate model.

The history begins with the introduction of the Bel Air trim line in 1958. The Impala served as the top-of-the-line Bel Air option for a single year before splitting off to become its own vehicle. One whose production figures crushed the competitors and rewrote American automotive history. Concurrently, the interceptor Bel Air continued its operations, averaging over 600,000 units per year between 1953 and 1958.


That indicates something about the classic model: it is by no means unique. However, just having its all-time production numbers pull seven-figure volumes does not make it any less desirable. For example, the second generation of Bel Airs was produced in excess of 2.2 million units between 1955 and 1957.

The four-door sedan was the undisputed best-seller of this second-generation production run. Still, the Sports Coupe sounded the mass-produced trumpets of what was gradually becoming a staple of American motoring: the two-door hardtop fashion. In the following decades, every respectable model from every make would offer a pillarless version – with the trend extending to the four-door body style, too.

It also pointed out another preference of the New World gearheads – the automobile with two rows of seats instead of just one. Ironically, the sportscar from the same manufacturer – and the only American sportscar that mattered, in all fairness – almost committed suicide in 1955. The Corvette barely managed to push 700 units down showroom floors.

To be historically accurate, that same year also brought us the Ford Thunderbird, which, while also a two-seat concoction, didn’t claim sporty attributes. And remember that even the famous ‘personal luxury automobile’ wasn’t flooding the market with its two-door, two-occupant architecture. It was from 1958 onward that the T-bird caught air under its wings and made bean counters really proud.

So, the Bel Air has something to support its two-door, six-passenger hardtop cause – and the ‘55s proved it in full. It could be that the small-block V8 was a great selling key point, being offered for the first time under the bowtie emblem, but it wasn’t the critical element. After all, Chevrolet’s six-cylinder engines covered 98% of the sales effort, with over 185,000 units out of a grand total of more than 189,000.


With so many units overspilling on America’s roads – the highway system was still a plan in 1955 – it’s pleasantly satisfying to see the Chevrolet Bel Air continuing to pose such a hypnotic magnetism on gearheads after seven decades. This example starring in the video attached to this story belonged to a man who kept it from his teen years (when it was his high school driver) until December 2021.


At that point, he proudly smiled next to the 1955 Chevy as he surrendered his beloved Chevy to Tony Munao, the brother of one of his high school friends, after four decades of ownership. The Bel Air had a long-term caretaker who had driven 43,000 original miles (just over 69,000 clicks) at the time of sale, thus it was in excellent condition even before it was sold.

Tony got to work since, when it comes to his Chevys, he is a relatively plain man, while other gearheads like to wrench their cars to perfection. In addition, he possesses a ’65 Impala SS (the late-year 396 model, not the 425-hp Special High-Performance version), which has likewise been restored to “better than factory-new.”

While it isn’t all blueprint-correct, his ’55 is by no means a disappointment – and this statement is based on the fact that, despite not following the broadcast sheet specs, the Chevy is a head-turner. The most obvious not-true-to-the-assembly-line difference is the dual carburetion of the inline-six motor. The Bel Air of 1955 didn’t have that – all the more the six-cylinder versions – but it was a popular day-two mod that many people used to get more out of the cost-friendly engine.

Two powerplants were offered for the ‘55s – a 235.5-cubic-inch Six (3.9-liter) and the new-for-the-year 265 V8 (4.3 liters). Depending on the transmission, the Six was tuned to either 123 hp for the three-speed manual (either conventional or with overdrive) or 136 hp when coupled to the two-speed Powerglide and its torque converter. The V8, by the way, came with 162 hp as standard, with a two-barrel carb. However, a special Plus-Power Package offered 180 hp from a four-barrel carburetor, a modified intake manifold, and a dual exhaust.

Tony Munao drives a 1955 Chevrolet with a four-barrel six-cylinder engine for pleasure rather than performance, therefore the engine’s power is negligible. (Regarding rubber slaughter, Tony has demonstrated that he has attended 1,320-foot meetings and made certain impressions that are unsettling. His best quarter, at 204 mph or 328 kph, is 6.72 seconds.

As for the renovated 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air, it sure does make the Bowtie proud. Yes, the money-making division of General Motors has some great names to brag about, from the Corvette to the Camaro and from the Impala to the Suburban. But the Bel Air can rightfully sit at the brand’s high table with just as much right as all the other Chevy icons, and this particular example is one of the reasons.