Having sampled a 50 year old car from the extreme high end of the American market transplanted to Sweden as a daily driver , it is appropriate to take a look at an even older car from the lower end of the market in the same circumstances: a 1953 Chevrolet 210 four door sedan. This Plain-Jane 1953 Chevy parks regularly only a handful of blocks from the 1963 Eldorado and also continues to do daily driver duty, 60 years after it rolled off the assembly line.
Coming before the era of the Tri-Fives with their style and optional V8 power, a 1953 Chevrolet was a relatively plain and modest car, powered by a standard 235 cubic inch inline six producing 123 or 136 horsepower, depending on whether the transmission was the three speed manual or Powerglide. The 210 was the middle trim level from 1953 to 1957, between the stripper 150 and the top of the line Bel Air.
The front end shows that the car is not a restored garage queen. A dented fender, some minor surface rust on the front bumper and grille surround – “patina” to many – and faded paint give it character. Not that the front end needs more character; the toothy grille, “Dagmar”-like turn signals, and massive bumper give it a dramatic face not unlike that of a 1953 Cadillac.
A view of the 210’s left side shows where it has received a few accessories over the decades. It wears a sunshade over the windshield and a fishtail-like extension over the exhaust pipe. Twin mirrors on the front fenders are in addition to the standard driver’s side mirror, perhaps to assist when towing a trailer, which is a frequently used accessory in Sweden.
The two chrome dots on the B-pillar are present on each side, and they appear to be the heads of bolts that secured an anchor for a retrofitted three point seat belt. The anchors were not present, and neither was any form of seat belt, indicating that the current owner prefers original 1953 safety equipment. (Even safety-conscious Volvo did not install two point belts until 1957 or three point belts until 1959.)
The dashboard remains unaltered, on the other hand, apparently retaining even its original radio. The three on the tree indicates that the car would have originally had the 123 horsepower version of the 235 cubic inch six, with mechanical rather than hydraulic lifters and without a pressurized oiling system, refinements that were limited to the engines of Powerglide equipped cars.
The front seat appears to be in excellent condition aside from the substantial hole worn into the upholstery and padding by the driver’s rear end after 60 years.
In the rear of the passenger compartment, passengers are treated to simple décor but cavernous leg room. The amount of interior space in this reasonably compact standard-sized car shows how space-efficient Americans cars could be before the longer-wider-lower craze of the late 1950’s.
Although the polar opposite of a Cadillac Eldorado in GM divisional hierarchy and market position, and a decade behind the 1963 Eldorado in technology and engineering, this Chevrolet 210 displays many of the same characteristics that have made American cars popular in Sweden. It is large, roomy, and well styled, and it stands out among common modern European and Asian cars. As long as the power of a V8 is not expected, it offers most of the American car driving experience in a less expensive package. This 210 hopefully has many more decades of daily use ahead of it before restoration, conversion into a smallblock-powered street rod, or some other fate changes it.