57 Chevy 50th Anniversary - The "Hottest One's" Anniversary

Arguably the best looking and most well known Chevy every built celebrates 50 years on America's roads.

Doug Marion Jan 26, 2007 0 Comment(s)
Sucp_0701w_01_z 57_chevrolet Belair_convertible 1/20

This Kansas '57 Bel Air convertible had two owners through 1976, thenwas put away for 22 years. Ron Clemens uncovered it (literally) and isthe third and final owner. He bought and sold over 150 cars back in highschool and "always wanted a '57 convertible."

A 50th Anniversary story on the '57 Chevrolet is so historicallysignificant that we ought to set the stage. First, to say that the '57Chevrolet has been immensely popular for the last 18,250 days would bean understatement. Second, if space allowed, this entire issue couldphoto and feature only '57 Chevrolets. Third, because every '57 factorystyling cue has been countlessly written about over the last 50 years,we have excluded most from this story. Fourth, we deeply respect the carand all the sensational options that were offered. But most of all, wecare most about the history the car has created via every owner for thelast 49 years, so this is where much of our story is aimed. Here we go.Fasten your seat belt.

STYLING-WISE THEY CALLED IT A BABY CADILLAC

In taking part and parcel of the '57's overall styling stature, it isimportant to address its similar front-end appearance and rear-tailfinstyling to that of the '57 Cadillac. Yes, it was planned that way. Thepublic clamored for a drastic sheetmetal revamp, and boy did they getit. It should be noted that much changed at Chevrolet with thisbreathtaking new model. It was indeed like nothing else ever created. Its wheelbase was a few inches longer, its design was wild, andengineers finished it off with new 14-inch wheels and tires said to givea "softer" ride. Everything else including Chevrolet's own initialadvertising spelled "fire breather" and "take no prisoners." The '57Chevrolet quickly proved to be a super-magnificent "one-year-wonder." Ithas gone on for fifty years as one of Chevrolet's very top models ever.Further, some 25 or so '57s were later modified and resold with '57Cadillac fins and front end . . . but that's another story.

Sucp_0701w_13_z 57_chevrolet Power_pack_283 2/20

So what's with this 220hp Power Pack 283? Well, that clump over on thepassenger side is none other than factory air conditioning. Probably nottoo many have ever seen such a system. Chevrolet first offered it in1955.

ONE HORSEPOWER PER CUBIC INCH

When the 1957 was introduced on October 17, 1956, it could be orderedwith a 235 cubic inch six-cylinder engine as standard, or one of five optional V-8engines: a two-barrel 265 V-8 engine or the new larger 283 with 220 hpwith a single Carter four-barrel carburetor. Also available was a twinCarter four-barrel carb option with either a hydraulic camshaft (245 hp)or a solid lifter camshaft (270 hp) at about $183 extra.

Or for $480, one could order Rochester Ramjet fuel injection for either250 smooth-idle or 283 rumpty-rump idle horsepower. Chevrolet's initialads glorified the One Horsepower Per Cubic Inch attainment, and everyoneindeed took notice.

Sucp_0701w_10_z 57_chevrolet Dual_quad_283 3/20

While this twin four-barrel '57 features an overrestored Bat Wingbreather assembly, it is nonetheless breathtaking to look at. Thisinduction was the rage through the early- to mid-'60s. The total amountof air was about 760 cfm--perfect for many potent small-block V-8s.

TW0 CARTER "WCFB" 380-CFM CARBURETORS

Because these "White Cast Four-Barrel" carburetors had jets and meteringrods that were on the money, performance of the optional 270hp 283 wasvery good. This was the most popular Chevy V-8 engine of the '50s andearly '60s, and it was the "engine to beat" on the street.

NEW ROCHESTER 600-CFM RAMJET FUEL INJECTION

Sucp_0701w_03_z 57_chevrolet Belair_hardtop_fuel_injection 4/20

We came across this fuel-injected Bel Air at a Classic Chevy Conventionjust over 25 years ago. Yes, many '57s evaded the custom-car show anddrag-racing routes and have remained virtually showroom-perfect.

New for 1957, a total of four different fuel-injection models evolvedthat year. Why? Well, the early No. 70174520 assembly had a sand-castaluminum fuel-meter assembly with a problematic spill-valve assembly.Its eight Q-coded nozzles were short and caused idling problems duringextended idling. The nozzles sprayed fuel into the upper portion of theintake manifold way above the intake valve. Later fuel injectionsfeatured a die-cast fuel-meter assembly with a new cranking signal valvefor better start-up. These systems also had new "R"-coded nozzles thathad a one-half-inch longer neck, which got the atomized fuel past eachintake valve and into the combustion chamber much faster, as well ascooler. The shorter nozzles were said to cause rough idling when idledfor extended periods due to heat soak.

Sucp_0701w_05_z 57_chevrolet Fuel_injected_283 5/20

This silver 150 has a Rochester fuel-injected, 283hp, 283 engine withcolumn-shift three-speed transmission. All 283hp passenger cars had ametal air inlet bolted to the top of the radiator core support. Thecorresponding hood brace had an indentation so as to not make contactwith the metal air inlet. All 250hp fuel-injected engines had no metalinlet.

Most stock Rochester fuel injections were adjusted lean and did notperform up to their top potential. A Kent Moore-brand manometer wasneeded to properly adjust the rich and lean stop settings on back of thefuel meter. After adjusting the enrichment screw a few turns for morefuel delivery, a fuel-injected '57 Chevy or Corvette gained muchthrottle-response and was a real powerhouse. True story: Imagine drivingin first gear at 15 mph with a 3.70:1 gear ratio. You floor the gaspedal, and in an instant, the vehicle suddenly loses traction and spinssideways before you can think. That's what the awesome throttle responseof Rochester fuel injection delivered on an already very responsiveengine.

'57 CHEVY ENGINE SPECS

DISPLACEMENTBORE/STROKECOMPRESSION RATIOPOWERCARB
235 cid (Inline Six)3.56"x3.94"8.00:1140HP@4200RPM1 bbl
265 cid (V-8)3.75"x3.00"8.00:1162HP@4400RPM2 bbl
283 cid (V-8)3.88"x3.00"8.50:1185HP@4600RPM2 bbl
283 cid (V-8)3.88"x3.00"9.50:1220HP@4800RPM4 bbl
283 cid (V-8)3.88"x3.00"9.50:1245HP@5000RPM2 x 4 bbl
283 cid (V-8)3.88"x3.00"9.50:1250HP@5000RPMFuel Injection
283 cid (V-8)3.88"x3.00"9.50:1270HP@6000RPM2 x 4 bbl
283 cid (V-8)3.88"x3.00"10.50:1283HP@6200RPMFuel Injection

MORE PHOTOS

VIEW FULL GALLERY

COMMENTS

TO TOP