We were following the journey of Tintin and Captain Haddock from Geneva to Nyon. The two were searching for Professor Calculus who had vanished from Marlinspike Hall. In my last post we saw that Captain and Tintin had taken a cab, a Simca Aronde to Nyon. However, their progress was tracked by the villains who followed them in a Citroen Traction Avante. The villains caught up with our friends and forced them into a pond. The idea was to obviously kill them. A number of cars stopped at the purported accident site. Of these cars was a red coloured car. This was the Chevrolet Bel Air.
The Bel Air was a full size car manufactured by Chevrolet from 1949 to 1980. A total of seven generations of this car were manufactured and sold in the USA till 1976. However, and eighth generation Bel Air was also manufactured and sold only in Canada. Initially Bel Air represented the 2-door hardtops offered by Chevrolet. However, 1953 onward, the name was given to all models sporting the top end trim offered by Chevrolet. These were the first successful V-8 engine cars offered by Chevrolet. In 1955 Chevrolet sold a family of cars which included the 150 series, 210 series and the Bel Air. The 1955 Bel Air was offered in a number of body shapes like:-
- 4-door sedan.
- 2-door sedan.
- Sports coupe (2-door Hardtop with pillar less windows).
- 2-door Convertible.
- Nomad wagon (2-door Hardtop wagon with pillar less windows).
- 2-door station wagon.
- 4-door station wagon.
These were very successful cars comprising 23% of all car sales in the USA in 1955. In addition to USA, the Bel Air was manufactured in Venezuela and Canada. These large cars were offered with a large number of engine options.
By 1955 model, Chevrolet has caught up with the new shoe-box design, a trend started by Ford. The Bel Air had smooth and straight side panels, a flat bonnet, wrap around wind-shields and triangular tail lamps which jutted out towards the sides. These cars offered a number of creature comforts like air conditioning, power windows and power seats. The electrical system was upgraded from 6 volt to 12 volt to support the additional loads. Power steering and power brakes were offered as optional. The Bel Air was differentiated from the 150 and 210 Series both externally and internally. They came with carpets, chrome headliner bands on the hardtops, chrome spears on the front fenders, stainless steel window moldings and full wheel covers. One could order the Bel Air in solid colour offered on the 150 series or a combination of 19 two tone colours.
These 1955 cars were offered with a number of engine options; all breathing through two overhead push-rod operated valves; which included the following:-
- 3.5 litre (215.5 Cu-inch) inline six cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine which produced 92 BHP.
- 3.9 litre (235.5 Cu-inch) inline six cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine which produced 136 BHP 281 N-m (207 lb-ft) of torque.
- 4.3 litre (265 Cu-inch) V-8 naturally aspirated petrol engine that produced 162 BHP power and 329 N-m (243 lb-ft) of torque with a 2 barrel carburetor, 180 BHP power and 353 N-m (260 lb-ft) of torque with a four barrel Rochester carburetor or 195 BHP with a four barrel Rochester carburetor and increased compression ratio.
The power and torque produced by these engines were transferred to the rear wheel using another three options of transmission:-
- 3-speed manual gearbox.
- 4-speed manual gearbox.
- 2-speed “Powerglide” automatic gearbox.
- 3-speed “Turboglide” automatic gearbox.
The V-8 coupled to a 2-speed “Powerglide” automatic gearbox could push this humongous nearly 5 meters long, 1,500 Kg (3,310 lb) car to a 100 km/h in 12.9 seconds while a 180 BHP model with four speed manual transmission could do the same in 9.3 seconds. If the foot was not removed from the accelerator pedal, the car would continue accelerating till it reached a top speed of 170 km/h (106 mph). Front suspension was independent, comprising long and short wishbones arms with spherical joints and coil springs. Rear suspension comprised a live axle supported by semi-elliptical leaf springs. Stopping power was provided by huge (11″) drum brakes.
These cars were extremely popular and are still very popular with the hodrodding community. A number of restored and modified Bel Airs can be seen even today.
I am a submariner mechanical engineer. I served the Indian Navy for 21 years. I am extremely passionate about means of mechanical transport developed by humans that include automobiles, trains, ships, submarines and aircraft. I am particularly passionate about cars and want to share this exciting world with all the people.