• Previously restored and well optioned
• The apogee of American motoring in the '50s
"See the USA in your Chevrolet" went the old advertising jingle, and you could do lots worse than take in the great American countryside through the wraparound windshield of a two-tone Chevy Bel Air convertible. Easily one of the most recognizable 1950s American automobiles, the second-generation Bel Air received a mild facelift in 1956, a so-called "Speedline" restyling that featured distinctive two-tone bodyside treatments, and graceful wheel openings front and rear.
The 1956 Bel Air two-door hardtop remained one of the most popular body styles with 128,382 finding owners at a cost of $2,275. The new trim created a color spear, which carried forward to the headlight and matched the roof and trunk color, the grill was widened to include the sidelights and the taillights were enlarged, with the left one concealing the gas filler. Bel Air script was attached to the rear fenders.
Few steeds would have provided a better mount with which to storm the local soda shop than this Matador Red and Dune Beige Bel Air Coupe. Built in GM's Kansas City factory, power was delivered by way of a 265ci, dual-barrel carburetor OHV V8 rated at 170hp. Initially equipped with a two-speed Powerglide automatic, shortly after acquisition by the Oldenburg Family Collection the slushbox was expertly replaced with a three-on-the-tree manual transmission. Outside, optional details including rear wheel spats and chrome tips for the dual exhaust pipes squeeze another ounce of panache from a car already glistening with style and chrome. Inside, the color scheme continues with red vinyl interlocking with beige cloth. An AM radio provides the tunes (or talk, nowadays), a tissue box is ready for sneezes, and a traffic light viewer in front of the driver relieves the wheelman of the indignity of having to lean forward to know when the race to the next light commences.
Today, the Bel Air shows well having been previously restored. Prior to joining the Oldenburg Family Collection in early 2011, it spent the previous eight years in the prestigious collection of the late David Walters. Ready to stand in for your Sunday afternoon reenactment of American Graffiti this red-and-white barnstormer is rearing to go. Better yet, make it a two-fer and pick up its practical and identically colored Nomad brother as well that is coming up as the very next lot!
• Well-optioned example
• The most stylish practical car ever built
Chevrolet continued on a roll in 1956, merely altering the trim and external details on the successful '55s and brightening up the package to appear more eager. The grilles were extended to full-width, containing sidelights, the side trim was extended to the headlights and including a two-tone color spear and the taillights were enlarged, with the left concealing the gas filler. Chevrolet sold 1,574,740 cars and trucks in 1956, down slightly from 1,713,478 the previous year.
As in 1955, the Nomad Sport Wagon remained Chevrolet's most expensive car, excluding the Corvette, selling for $2,707. However only 7,886 found new homes, against 113,656 210 4-door wagons. Times have certainly changed.
This Matador Red and Dune Beige, with matching red vinyl contrasted with beige cloth inside, Nomad was assembled in GM's Oakland, California plant early in the production run. The practical sibling to the preceding lot, the purchaser must not have been one to skimp on options because, in addition to the standard comfort items like power brakes and steer as well as A/C, the push-button radio option box was ticked as was the box for the Turbo Fire 265ci V8—the revered 'Hot One' motor. This 4-barrel, 205-horsepower and 268 lb-ft of torque mill provided a healthy bump in go-juice from the standard 170 pony V8. Running power through an optional 2-speed Powerglide automatic and exhaling by way of dual exhausts, it made the sporty Nomad move like an angry bull when coerced—with swiftness and a dose of aggression.
Like all Nomads, the level of detail is astounding. From the stylized Chevy-bird flying atop the hood to the chrome ribs on the lift gate, it was clear that no stone was left unturned in the pursuit of style and design.
While the early history of this car has retreated to mystery, it previously resided in a well known private Midwestern museum from 2006 until it joined the Oldenburg Family Collection in early 2011. Carrying all the grace, style, and pace that it had when it left Oakland in '56, this Corvette with a backpack is ready to roll on to its next owner. Consider it the most stylish thing you can reasonably take to Home Depot to haul lumber.