The 1953 Chevrolet was advertised as "Entirely New Through and Through," due to the restyled body panels, front and rear ends. The Bel Air series featured a wide chrome strip of molding from the rear fender bulge, to the rear bumper. The inside of this stripe was painted a coordinating color with the outside body color, and "Bel Air" scripts were added inside the strip. For '54, the Bel Air stayed essentially the same, except for a revised grille and taillights.
During these years, there were two engine choices, depending on the transmission ordered. Both engines were "Blue Flame" inline six cylinder OHV engines. featuring hydraulic valve lifters and aluminum pistons. The 115-hp engine was standard on stickshift models, with solid lifters and splash plus pressure lubrication. Powerglide cars got a 125-hp version which had hydraulic lifters and full pressure lubrication. '54 cars with stick shift got the 1953 Powerglide engine. During 1953-54, Bel Airs could be ordered in convertible, hardtop coupe, 2- and 4-door sedans, and, for 1954, the Beauville station wagon which featured woodgrain trim around the side windows.
In 1955, Chevrolets gained a V8 engine option. The new 265 cubic-inch V8 featured a modern, overhead valve high-compression, short stroke design that was so good that it remained in production in various forms, for many decades. The base V8 had a two-barrel carburetor and was rated at 162 horsepower, and the "Power Pack" option featured a four-barrel carburetor and other upgrades, yielding 180 brake horsepower. Later in the year, a "Super Power Pack" option added high compression and 15 additional horsepower over the 180.
Most enthusiasts today associate the Bel Air and the V8 together, even though neither was dependent on the other. That year, Chevrolet's full-size model received new styling that earned it the "Hot One" designation by enthusiasts. Unlike Ford and Plymouth, Chevrolet's styling was considered crisp and clean. Bel Airs came with features found on cars in the lower models ranges plus interior carpet, chrome headliner bands on hardtops, chrome spears on front fenders, chrome window moldings, and full wheel covers.
The '55, '57, and especially '56 Bel Airs are among the most recognizable American cars of all time; well-maintained examples (especially Sport Coupes and convertibles) are highly sought after by enthusiasts. Roomy, fuel-efficient, and with tastefully restrained use of tail fins and chrome, they are seen by many as vastly superior to the oversized and overdecorated full-size models that would roll out of Detroit for the next 20 years.
1956 saw the introduction of the pillarless four-door model, called Sport Sedan and available in both Bel Air and Two-Ten models.