Greater Toronto Collector Car Museum | 1955 Bel Air Restoration
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1955 Bel Air Restoration

History of the 1955 Bel Air

1955 was a pivotal year for Chevrolet. Long thought of as a stodgy, sensible, steady form of transportation Chevrolet stepped up the ante with a sleek new design that was bang on the mark and soon to be a future timeless classic. Adding to this new-found desirability was a brand new small block V-8 engine that would go on to be the most popular V-8 of all time. The little “Mighty Mouse” would eventually sell over 100,000,000 copies.
The industry as a whole was on a roll with a record number of cars sold in 1955. World War II was becoming a distant memory, wages and employment were all up and there was a general sense of prosperity with the North American consumer.  Demand was high for new models and new innovations and industry wide the automotive manufacturers of the day met the challenge with impressive models across the market. The race was on to meet the new-found power of the post war consumer.

Top of the Chevrolet line was the premium Bel Air model.  Available in 2 door hardtop, convertible and station wagon and 4 door hardtop, sedan and station wagon, the Bel Air could be had with two 6 cylinder engines or the new 265 cu in V-8.  Transmission choices were limited to a two-speed Power glide, a 3-speed manual and a 3-speed manual with overdrive. Road tests of the day had the 0-60 mph time in the 10 second range for the V-8 with automatic transmission.  All new for 1955, the Bel Air incorporated many new and innovative features such as a longer chassis, wider rear springs, improved “Glide Ride”, new ball joint geometry and a new Sweep Sight single curved windshield.  There were fourteen different color choices that could be had on their own or combined in a variety of two tone colours. The option list included things such as an electric shaver, compass, heater and defroster, tissue dispenser, spotlight, traffic light viewer, oil filter and a windshield washer. Today many of these options are now standard equipment or no longer offered.

1955 Bell Air Original Passenger Side

1955 Bell Air Original

1955 Bell Air Original Driver’s Side

So What is it Like to Drive a 1955 Bel Air Resto Mod

This car is tight, handles like a new sports coupe, accelerates and stops like a modern car and gets thumbs up wherever it goes.  The seats are supportive, firm and very comfortable on long country cruises.  With 430 hp, the new LS3 gives acceleration, performance and reliability that could only be dreamed of in the 50’s. Stopping power is equally impressive rivalling many of the new cars on the road today.  With 3.25 rear end gears highway cruising is at an easy 2300 rpm at 60 mph. The new 4L65e transmission with performance gearing delivers precise and crisp shifting in a no nonsense manner.
All in all the new power-train, suspension and interior compliments make this a very comfortable and luxurious performance ride.

Our featured car

A 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air 2 door post, started out life in Memphis Tennessee with a little old lady owning and driving the car from new right up until 1971. Originally Navaho Tan and Ivory two tone it came with a brown cloth bench seat. Options included bumper guards, 265 V-8 with 3 speed manual column shift transmission, deluxe heater, oil filter and AM radio.  Next up for ownership was the former Chief of Police of the City of Waterloo. Acquired from Tennessee, the car was completely original and in excellent condition. Used sparingly, the car remained within the family for the next 38 years and then sold to a close friend. The current owner stumbled across the car on a business trip to Waterloo and immediately seized upon the opportunity. At just under 55,000 miles on the odometer the car was in exceptional original condition and still retained the original spare tire that was never mounted on the car. There was one repaint in the early 80’s but aside from that the car was in perfect condition.

Bell Air Dealer Logo

Odometer reading

Original spare tire that was never mounted

Plans for the new acquisition included a complete body off restoration but utilizing all new modern equipment.


Bell Air frame

Art Morrison Custom Chasis

Front details

Also included was a triangular four link rear suspension with coil overs, Ford 9” rear end and power rack and coil overs in the front. Massive 13’ rotors with six piston callipers ensure confident stopping power to tame the powerful new drivetrain.

Corvette LS3 Engine

Corvette 4L65e Transmission

Stainless tank mounted on frame

Motor test fitting

Engine installed

Chevy engine bay

Front grill

The original seats and interior were shipped to Texas where an old school upholsterer French stitched Buff leather on the seats, door panels and headliner.

Original cloth interior

Custom Seats

Installed Seats

The car was treated to a spectacular new two tone paint job and 18 inch Billett rims. Staying cool on those warm summer days is easily done with the new Vintage Air air conditioning. A new dual exhaust completes the sound and look of this new masterpiece.

Restored Bell Air Driver’s Side

Restored Bell Air left rear

The end result was so impressive that the car made the Top 60 in the Pro’s Pick Designers Awards at the 2013 Syracuse Nationals in NY State.