Deluxe interior of an early 1950s Chevrolet Bel Air.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

From the beginning, the 1950, 1951, and 1952 Chevrolet Bel Airs were a success. Of the many innovative, affordable hardtops introduced in 1950, the Chevrolet Bel Air proved to be the most popular by far, scoring 74,634 sales to help Chevrolet regain supremacy over Ford as "USA-1." It probably helped more than that figure suggests, since many prospects undoubtedly came in to see the Bel Air but drove out in other Chevrolets. Rival Ford and Plymouth hardtops were a full year away.

Outside, the Bel Air looked much like any other 1950 Chevy, which meant the basic new-for-1949 styling with a different winged hood emblem, vertical bars below the parking lamps, no "teeth" below the grille's center crossbar, raised taillight lens, and other minor changes. Its roofline followed the Riviera/Holiday/Coupe de Ville style in having chrome-framed side windows and a wraparound backlight with a pair or bright vertical dividers near the outboard ends.

The interior treatment was similar, too, and lusher than on other Chevrolets. Handsome pile-cord fabric surrounded by genuine leather covered the seats, and the headliner sported chrome crossbars suggesting the top mechanism of a true ragtop. Convertible-type frame reinforcements helped make up for the loss in structural rigidity from the missing B-pillars, but some body flex remained, a characteristic of most every hardtop ever built. Mechanicals were stock 1950 Chevrolet, but that year's new Powerglide automatic surely lifted sales as much as the Bel Air's fresh, sporty looks.

Priced in the $1,750-$2,000 range, about halfway between its convertible and sport coupe linemates, the Bel Air changed in parallel with other Chevrolets while racking up over 103,000 sales for 1951, and close to 75,000 for 1952.

This success prompted Chevrolet to apply the Bel Air name to its convertible and top-line sedans for 1953, an arrangement that would persist through 1958. Then came the Impala and, in the mid-Sixties, the even more-luxurious Caprice, which pushed Bel Air down the series hierarchy until it disappeared in the early Seventies, by which time it had become merely the baseline four-door sedan.

The 1950 Chevrolet Bel Air had chrome-framed side windows among other luxurious features.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

But it's the early Bel Airs that Chevy fans remember most today, especially the pioneering 1950-1952 models with their jaunty looks and spiffy interiors. And who can blame them? Few cars, let alone trend-setters, have been more pleasant.

Review the specifications of the 1950-1952 Chevrolet Bel Air on the next page.

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