Following a hugely successful 1949, Chevrolet made only mild styling changes, mainly a touched-up grille. The mild changes however didn’t seem to matter to the buying public. Chevrolet ended the year with record sales of nearly 1.5 million.
As one ad noted, Chevy had the whole town talking. What they were mainly talking about was the new Powerglide transmission and its lack of horsepower. It operated only through a single speed unless the driver selected “low” range manually. In theory, the torque converter’s variable ratios would meet all driving needs. Unfortunately, though Powerglide ran quieter, it sopped up lots of engine power and automatic equipped cars took off a quite the leisurely pace.
The Chevrolet Bel Air two-door hardtop made its debut and became a mainstay of American design for 50 years. It was Chevrolet’s first hardtop as well as the pioneer pillarless coupe in the low-priced market.
A sales brochure boasted the 1950 Chevy Bel Air as being open to summer breezes yet cozy and snug against the wintry wind. In other words, the consumer got both sportiness and all-weather comfort.
Though Chevrolet offered just one hardtop versus other manufacturers (Buick, Cadillac and Oldsmobile) who had also released hardtop convertibles in 1949, far more Bel Air’s went to customers. Neither Chrysler nor Ford had one on the market.
The Chevy Bel Air, from the beltline down, looked exactly like other Stylelines. Its minor lack of structural rigidity due to the lack of B-pillars was made up for by a convertible-type frame. Upholstery was leather and pile-cord fabric as opposed to the usual broadcloth. Bright metal headliners would help give the feel of a real ragtop.
In the sales race, it wasn’t long before hardtops would overtake convertibles.