283 V8 Upgrade: 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air

The Bel Air was the top-of-the-line Chevrolet through most of the 1950s, including the famous “Tri-Five” models that were produced in 1955-57. Those later cars began to shed the boxy look that Detroit automobiles largely had in the years after World War II. This Bel Air sports coupe was one of the biggest sellers for 1955 and appears to have been meticulously kept. While it looks completely original, two things set it apart: it has an upgraded engine and possibly a newer transmission. But it presents as if it was 1955 all over again. Located in Chester, New York, the Chevy is available here on eBay where the bidding has reached $14,500, but there’s a reserve still waiting to be met.

All-new for ‘55, Chevrolet would sell a ton of cars that year, 1,775,952 of them to be precise. Of that, 189,269 would be the striking Bel Air sports coupe like the seller’s auto. That made it one of the most popular choices to leave the dealer’s lot after all the paperwork was signed. This example has traveled only 75,000 miles in more than 65 years and likely only sees the occasional outing to hang out with other vintage cars. As we can piece together from the seller’s description, this car has been restored at some point, either all at one time or in stages.

While it presents well today, some rust has no doubt been battled as there are partial replacements in the floor pans. The paint, body, and chrome trim all look good, although we’re told you’ll find some minor imperfections under closer scrutiny. The seller says it’s been repainted just once, but we think one slight color change may have been made. The current combination of two-tone colors looks to be India Ivory/Gypsy red, which would be paint code 617. But the cowl tag says paint code 615, which would be Shoreline Beige/Gypsy Red. Minor difference and the current set-up looks better anyway.

Purists may not agree with the mechanical changes made to the car, but they likely do improve it. It left the factory with the 235 cubic inch Blame-Flame six but a 283 V8 is now under the hood. It was lifted from a 1965 Chevy, rebuilt, and had a 4-barrel carburetor installed along with dual exhaust. The engine is painted to look period correct. Also, the Powerglide transmission pattern has been changed to P-R-N-D-L, which suggests a later 2-speed automatic is now in place. We’re told that the Bel Air runs and drives well, so the changes have held up nicely. We’re told the interior is in exceptional condition and who are we to disagree as it looks grand.

Some recent work has been done that likely makes it a turn-key car now. It has new tires, brakes, and battery, and was also treated to a tune-up. Both Hagerty and NADA suggest a super nice ’55 Bel Air can be a $40-50,000 car. Whether the upgrades to the drivetrain will hurt or help this car’s final bid remains to be seen. But I’m betting in drives better today than it did in 1955.


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  1. MrBZ

    Beautiful car, the only thing I would change right off the bat is the gear indicator, that still shows P-N-D-L-R. Might get me in trouble.

    Like 4
  2. RKS

    Beautiful 55 and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. I had to reread the first paragraph a couple times though to try and understand what the author was trying to say. These cars are quite a bit boxier than anything postwar and in fact are called shoeboxes by a lot of people. Put this car beside a 47 Chev and tell me which one’s boxier lol.

    Like 6
  3. Barry Traylor

    What can I say other than WOW

    Like 2

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