1957 Chevy History
Article by Mark Trotta
Arguably the world's most popular classic car, the 1957 Chevy was basically a carry-over from the highly successful 1955 and 1956 models. Minor changes included a wide chromed grille, rear tail-fins, and new dashboard. Having both performance and great looks, the 1957 Chevrolets were immensely popular.
After hearing that rival Ford would have an all-new full-size model for 1957, there was concern at Chevrolet. Although GM executives wanted an entirely new car for 1956, production delays necessitated the carry-over of the 1955 design for one more year.
Ed Cole, chief designer for Chevrolet at the time, orchestrated the minor face lift, including the new grille, hood rockets, and front bumper bullets. A relocation of air ducts to the headlight pods resulted in the classic chrome headlight bezels. The face-lifted Chevrolet was ready for sale by October 1956.
Similar to the 1957 Cadillac, the rear fenders got tall but stylish tail-fins. A switch from 14-inch wheels to 15-inch wheels helped give the car a better stance. To help keep the clean lines of the car, the fuel-filler door was concealed in the left rear fin.
1957 Chevrolet Bel Air
The upscale Bel Air series was first offered on two-door Chevy hardtops in 1952. For 1957, the Bel Air package featured gold trim on the front grille, front fender chevrons, and hood and trunk script. The V-shaped trim on the '57 tail-fins was filled with a ribbed stainless steel insert, which was exclusive to the Bel Air.
1957 Chevy Bel Air Production Numbers
- Bel Air two-door sedan - 62,751
- Bel Air four-door sedan - 254,331
- Bel Air Sport sedan - 137,672
- Bel Air Sport Coupe - 166,426
- Bel Air convertible - 47,562
- Townsman four-door wagon - 27,375
- Bel Air Nomad two-door wagon - 6,103
Included in the line-up was a two-door station wagon called the "Nomad".
1957 Chevy Options
Available in 150, 210, and Bel Air models, a customer could order any option with any trim level. Exterior choices included optional two-tone paint schemes and tinted glass. Power steering and power brakes were popular options. Air conditioning was offered on V8-equipped models only.
Inside, power windows and power seats were optional, as was a signal-seeking radio and power antenna. A rear speaker could be purchased which required a separate volume knob installed in the dash. Multi-colored interiors, padded dash, and tissue dispenser were also available. Mounted to the dashboard, the "Autotronic Eye" sensed the light from oncoming traffic and dimmed headlights automatically.
Because the roof extended so far into the windshield, some found it hard to see overhead traffic lights from the driver's seat. The traffic-light viewer, a ribbed-plastic visor that sat just above the speedometer, 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 Chevy Engine
The base engine for the 1957 Chevrolet was the long-time staple in Chevy's lineup, the 140-horsepower "Blue Flame Six".
Read: Chevy Stovebolt Six
A 265ci V8 was offered in two-barrel form only, followed by a larger 283ci V8 (same block with a larger displacement). The 283 motor was available with the standard two-barrel carburetor, an optional four-barrel carburetor, dual quads, or the new "Ramjet" mechanical fuel-injection system.
- 250ci "Blue Flame Six", 140-horsepower
- 265ci "Turbo-Fire" V8 with 2bbl, 162-horsepower
- 283ci V8 with 2bbl, 185 horsepower
- 283ci V8 with 4bbl Carter, 220 horsepower
- 283ci V8 with dual carbs and hydraulic-lifter cam, 245-horsepower
- 283ci "Ramjet" fuel-injection, 250-horsepower
- 283ci V8 with dual carbs and solid-lifter cam, 270-horsepower
- 283ci "Ramjet" fuel-injection, 283-horsepower
Read: Chevy Small-Block History
Chevy Ramjet Fuel Injection
The Rochester-built mechanical fuel injection system (also optional on the 1957 Pontiac Bonneville), was available in two power ratings. Most fuelie motors sold were the 250 horsepower, smooth-idle 283, which powered many four-door Bel Airs loaded with optional luxury equipment.
The higher output Ramjet fuel injection, producing 283 horsepower, allowed the division to claim "one horsepower per cubic inch". Although Chrysler had achieved this figure with its 1956 300B, Chevrolet capitalized on it, through racing wins and advertising.
The Ramjet fuel injection system was complex for it's day and not popular with the general public. Most dealers didn't know how to work on them, and it was often removed and replaced with a carbureted system. The Ramjet option was dropped on passenger cars after 1959, but was available on the Corvette until 1965.
Optional on 1957 Chevy models was the two-speed Powerglide automatic, which had been around since 1950. The "Turboglide" was Chevrolet's first offering of a turbine transmission, and was offered as an option for 1957. It was a design concept that Buick had developed with their Dynaflow transmission. However, due to its complexity and reliability concerns, most automatic transmissions buyers ordered the tried and true Powerglide.
At the beginning of the 1957 model year, manual transmissions were limited to a three-speed, column shifted unit, with an overdrive unit optional. A four-speed manual transmission became available in the Spring of 1957.
1957 Chevy Performance
With the two-door 150 model weighing 3,159 pounds, the 1957 Chevy was relatively light compared to other full-sized cars, which made it a favorite among drag racers. Equipped with the four-barrel 283 engine, a 1957 Bel Air could do the quarter-mile in 17.5 seconds. With the 270-horsepower 283 with twin 380-CFM Carter WCFB carburetors, it was nearly two seconds quicker in the quarter-mile.
1957 Chevy In NASCAR
Based off of the 150 two-door sedan, Chevrolet had several cars built specifically for NASCAR competition. After leaving the factory with a 283/283 fuel-injected engine, three-speed manual transmission, 20-gallon gas tank and 3.90 rear axle ratio, they were transported to Southern Engineering and Development Company (SEDCO) of Atlanta. Additional heavy-duty parts included six-lug wheels and two shocks per tire.
In February 1957, the black and white SEDCO-prepared Chevys made their debut at the Daytona International Speedway. The most famous of these was known as the 'Black Widow' driven by Buck Baker.
During the 1957 season, Baker made 40 starts and led all drivers in wins with ten and poles with six. He went on to take the championship title that year, becoming the first driver to win back-to-back NASCAR Championships.
The 1957 Chevy also won 26 NASCAR "convertible races," which was more wins than any other make.
NASCAR Bans Fuel Injected Cars
The dominance of the 1957 Chevrolet prompted NASCAR's ban on fuel-injected cars. In April of 1957, NASCAR rewrote the rules to establish a four-barrel carburetor-only rule. The fuel-injection ban would last until the Generation-Six cars of 2012.
1957 Chevy Legacy
1957 was the third and final year of the high roofline, short wheelbase, "shoebox" Chevys. Total sales were over 1.5 million (1,522,536) units. The relatively simple mechanical attributes of these cars make them easy to maintain, customize, and upgrade with components such as disc brakes and air conditioning. The engine bay is also large enough to fit Chevy's big-block engines.
1957 Chevy Parts Availability
It's easier to list what's not available for a '57 Chevy than to list what is! Entire exterior shells, crate motors, and anything you could want or need to rebuild a 1957 Chevy from the frame up. Many aftermarket companies, such as Ecklers sell reproduction and restoration parts.