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1956 Chevrolet 50th Birthday - A Favorite For 50 Years

The Tri-Five Middle Child Celebrates Its 50th Birthday

By Jim Rizzo, Photography by GM Archive

Shortly after the "all-new" '55 Chevrolet took the American public by storm, GM was poised to take full advantage of the successes they'd achieved with that model year. The design genius of Harley Earl and technical wizardry of Chief Engineer Edward Coles were again put to the test by trying to best an already nearly perfect (for the time) design.

By 1956, Harley Earl's flashy styling advances had significantly impacted the motoring public, as well as Chevrolet. The new design had folks clamoring, and in 1956 Chevrolet gave them even more of what they craved. Additional and flashier two-tone paint designs, liberal doses of chrome plating, and an increase in available models were just a few of the expanded offerings. The '56 model year also debuted two "dashing" new four-door sport sedans-the Bel Air and "Two-Ten" series. Good news for wagon fanciers came in the way of a pair of nine-passenger station wagons-the Bel Air Beauville and the "Two-Ten" Beauville.

The whole new series of Chevrolets boasted a bold, new full-width grille design, hooded headlights, rectangular parking lights, redesigned front fenders and rear quarter-panels, sweeping side trim, and redesigned taillights with a concealed fuel filler discreetly hidden behind the driver-side taillamp. Add the aforementioned new two-tone paint schemes and colors and fresh new interior offerings, and you had the final styling touches that set the '56s apart from their prior year counterparts.

For the performance-minded public, the '56 Chevrolet offered three 265ci Turbo-Fire V-8 engine options: base 170hp (162hp with a manual trans), 205hp 4-bbl, and the 225hp dual 4-bbl. That lineup of engines gave Chevrolet buyers the widest powerplant selection in the company's history. In addition to the engine choices available in 1956, there were also three transmission options: the Powerglide, Touch-Down Overdrive, and the conventional Synchro-Mesh three-speed. It's also important to note that in that very year Chevrolet set the Pike's Peak record in a pre-production '56, powered by a Super Turbo-Fire V-8.

All in all, the '56 Chevy wound up as the nucleus of the historic Tri-Five trio, and will forever be a favorite of many a Chevy enthusiast. Happy Birthday to an automotive icon. Long live the '56 Chevy!

By Jim Rizzo
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