Chevrolet Bel Air

Chevy beats the levy

NOTHING says ‘America’ like a 1959 Chevrolet Impala or Bel Air with their wild fins and outrageous cat-eye tail-lights.

However, the beautiful Bel Air, along with several other GM products, was also assembled by Holden in Australia.

Holden continued to import and assemble GM product after it introduced its own model in 1948, along with some Vauxhall models from Britain, and decided to make a bigger effort with the 1959 Chevrolet and Pontiac models, which represented a big step forward.

It wanted to offer a high-end luxury model at a reasonable price, and the Chevrolet product was perfect, so long as the company avoided high import duty by assembling it locally.

Holden sourced the parts from GM North America and the bodies were assembled and painted at its Woodville plant in South Australia. They were fitted with Holden-sourced interiors and coated in the same paint colours as their contemporary Holden siblings.

The bodies were then delivered to one of five Holden assembly lines dotted around Australia (Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane and Sydney) and mated to the chassis.

The 1959 Bel Air, with its four doors and thin central pillar, was the first car available here with a two-speed automatic transmission (which had been available in the US for nearly a decade) and ran a 3.9-litre Blue Flame in-line six. V8s came later.

AUSSIE PRIDE

One of the most stylish American cars ever

IT’S A SHAME

Handling wasn't good on its narrow-tracked chassis