Famous Automobiles: 1957 Chevrolet or The '57 Chevy Part 1

About famous automobiles specifically the history and information the 1957 Chevrolet or '57 Chevy.


The 1957 Chevrolet was introduced by General Motors in late 1956, as part of their special Labor Day Sneak Preview of New Cars. The '57 Chevy sported nonfunctional tail fins and excess side trim like most American cars of that era, and it would have passed into obscurity except for the amazing popularity of the design in the years that followed. While the Chevy's competitors disappeared into the junkyards of the nation, the '57 throve, particularly the 2-door Bel-Air model. The car became a favorite of customizers in Southern California, and its popularity spread across the nation. The '57 Chevy has been almost as visible on the highways of America as the Volkswagen, particularly in California and the Midwest.

In 1965, the California Dept. of Motor Vehicles listed 35,000 '57 Chevies on the road--an astounding survival rate for an American car (although in 1957, Chevrolet enjoyed total sales of 750,000 units). No other American automobile has survived the years with equal fortitude.

However, no other American automobile, with the exception of the limited-production Studebaker Avanti, has enjoyed the unique production facilities of the '57 Chevy. There have been subsequent designs for subsequent Chevrolet model years, but the '57, unlike any other American car and contrary to American industrial practice, enjoyed a manufacturer's run of 10 years.

A dedicated group of ex-Chevrolet stylists and franchised used-car salesmen continued to turn out close to 200,000 1957 Chevrolets, focusing on the 2-door Bel-Air model, between the years 1957 and 1967, in a small auto assembly plant located outside Jacksonville, Ill.

The enthusiasts, led by ex-General Motors stylist Ardell Malowick, quit GM in mid-1957 when it was learned, to nobody's surprise, that the 1957 design was to be scrapped in favor of the longer, lower, wider '58 Chevy, which replaced the '57's peaked fins with contoured, sublimated fins.

Malowick and his associates quickly decamped and purchased their own auto assembly facilities in southern Illinois. However, Malowick was unable to finance the die molds and giant steel presses which GM and Fisher Auto Body used to construct the basic body; rather, Malowick relied on the proved European coach-building technique of pounding the body shape out by hand over wooden molds, formed from fiber-glass replicas of the real thing. In this way, some of the imperfections of Fisher's mass production were eliminated.

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