1958 Chevrolet Bel Air
8-cyl. 283cid/185hp 2bbl
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
After all the fuss that’s been made over the elegant 1957 Chevrolets in the past 40 years, the success of the 1958 models has been rather overlooked. While Chevrolet and Ford were neck-and-neck for the number one in 1957, Chevrolet was a clear winner in 1958, selling 1,255,935 cars – a clear 217,375 more units than Ford. Almost half the 1958 Chevrolets came from the luxury Bel Air line, which accounted for 532,000 sales.
The 1958 Chevrolet Bel Airs owed nothing to the previous year, from their four headlights to rolled and lowered rear fins and a completely new X-frame underneath all-new bodywork. The wheelbase was extended from 115 inches to 117 inches, while the overall length jumped to 209.1 inches. Coil springs were now used all round, and for an extra $125, GM offered an air suspension option throughout its various marques, though it would prove to be fragile and was gradually withdrawn.
Chevrolet even offered a new engine, the stump-pulling 348 cid OHV V-8, costing only $70 more than the base 283 cid small-block V-8, and not available in the Corvette. It was available in three levels of tune, from a single four-barrel carburetor good for 250 bhp or through one of two sets of triple carburetors. The highest performance, solid-lifter engine boasted 11:1 compression and 315 bhp at 5,600 rpm.
The basic 283 V-8 with a two-barrel carburetor produced 185 bhp, while the 235 cid six-cylinder engine generated 145 bhp and worked hard to propel a 3,400 lb four-door sedan. The fuel-injected 283 was still optional, with 250 bhp on tap at 5,000 rpm.
Chevrolets were divided into the basic Del Ray, mid-level Biscayne and luxury Bel Air series. Two- and four-door Del Ray sedans and Yeoman station wagons were available, along with a sedan delivery. Biscaynes were sold as two-and four-door sedans, along with a four-door Brookwood station wagon in six- and nine-passenger configurations.
The Bel Air line offered two and four-door sedans, two-and four-door hardtop sport sedans and sport coupes and a four-door Nomad station wagon. The top of the Bel Air line was the Impala Sports Coupe and Convertible, with its own trim and a different roofline for the coupe. A total of 55,989 Impala Convertibles and 43,000 Sports Coupes were sold. The Impala would of course later become its own distinct model.
The year 1958 is best known for the enthusiastic use of fancy trim through the U.S. auto industry and the Chevrolet Bel Air line was no exception. All V-8 models had “V” emblems front and back, the side trim ran mid-level and full-length with a “spear” at the front, and the rolled fin had separate trim separating the two-tone colors. There were four chevrons on the front fenders, four vertical chrome strips on the lower rear fender bulges, front fender-top ornaments, chrome outlined windows and grooved C-pillar plates. Full wheel covers were fitted.
The Impala Sport Coupe and convertible added Impala script, insignia and crossed flag emblems ahead of the cove, ribbed body panels on the rockers, dummy air scoops ahead of the rear wheels, a deep dish steering wheel with chrome spokes and Impala medallions, dashboard script name and three taillights at the rear instead of the two on the Del Ray and Biscaynes. The Impala Sport Coupe had a chrome-rimmed, rear-facing dummy air scoop, with the shape molded into the roof.