- Automobile History
Refining Legend: The 1956 Chevy Bel Air
Several changes set the 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air apart from its predecessors. A full-width grille, redesigned front and rear fenders, and a gas cap hidden behind the left taillight were just a few obvious differences that continued the Bel Air party that began with the 1955 model.
Chevy continued to offer the lower-end 150 and 210 models in several bodies, including a pair of pillar-less 210 hardtops -- the two-door Sport Coupe and the new four-door Sport Coupe. The nine-passenger, four-door Beauville station wagon joined the line-up, with the Delray coupe returning for a complete 210 offering.
The performance-minded customer got a choice of three 256 CID Turbo-Fire V-8 engines: the base 170 hp, 205 hp with a 4-barrel carburetor, and the 225 hp with 4-barrel carbs. Even the tame-looking 210 was offered with the 225 hp engine, the same powerplant available in the Corvette.
Distinctive two-tone body treatments on Bel Airs gave it a look of motion even when standing still. Single housings now incorporated the taillight, brake light and backup light. The hidden gas cap – behind the left taillight assembly – had been previously popularized on Cadillacs. The new full-width front grill seemed to please more conservative customers who hadn’t been impressed with the Ferrari-styled grill of the 1955 model.
The Bel Air with the base V-8 cost a whopping $2,443. But, shoppers could load their new Chevys with a wide variety of factory options and accessories and still keep the price under $3,000. The two-door Nomad wagons topped the price chart at $2,608, but shared much of the same sheet metal as other Bel Airs instead of the unique Nomad trim of the previous year.
Seatbelts, shoulder harnesses and a padded dashboard were among the options available.Chevy built more than 1.5 million Bel Airs in the 1956 model year. More than 41,000 of those were convertibles.