Curbside Capsule: 1956 Chevrolet 210 – Black And White, Done Right

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It’s getting mighty hard these days to find a “Tri-Five” Chevrolet that hasn’t been rodded or restored to within an inch of its life. That’s why I was delighted to spot this 210 two-door sedan sitting in back of a garage lot recently – other than the license plates, it looks like it could have driven right out of Ward Cleaver’s garage (aside from the fact that The Beaver’s Dad drove a Plymouth).

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We’ve long decried on these pages the Lack of Choice in Contemporary Automotive Offerings, and it takes only a cursory glance at the lists of 1956 Chevrolet models, colors and available accessories to see just how far we’ve fallen.

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Besides being able to select from the base One-Fifty Series (more than likely ordered with the “Blue Flame 140” six), the mid-range Two-Ten Series (including the fabulous Delray coupe), and the top-of-the-line Bel Air Series, buyers had ten solid body colors and fourteen two-tone combinations from which to choose.

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An extensive array of accessories were available for both inside and under the hood. Any 1956 Chevrolet could be ordered with a “Super Turbo Fire V8”, which added to the 162 HP base engine a high-performance intake manifold, higher lift cam, dual exhausts, four barrel carb and an 8.0:1 compression ratio–all of which served to bump the 265 CID (4.34-liter) mill to 205 HP. If that wasn’t enough, a second four-barrel carb could be added along with a 9.25:1 compression ratio, bringing output to 225 HP–and making the 1956 Chevrolet one of the fastest production cars available that year.

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A new 210-Series two-door sedan started at $1,912.00, which translates into around $16,000 in today’s money. The presence of the “V” on the hood indicates that one of the aforementioned V8s is lurking underneath. Two- and four-door models were also offered in hardtop form as the Sport Coupe and Sport Sedan, respectively (it’s a shame a hardtop station wagon wasn’t offered!).

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The easiest way I know of to tell a One-Fifty, Two-Ten and Bel Air apart is by their unique chrome side spears. The One-Fifty’s horizontal spear is of single thickness and stops just past the vertical piece at the hip; the Two-Ten’s horizontal strip carries all the way to the rear bumper in a down-swept arc; and the Bel Air has a double sweep spear forward of the vertical piece. You’ll have to peek inside at the upholstery to identify a Delray Coupe, however…

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If you compare the two-tone paint treatment seen in this dealer brochure to that of our specimen car, you’ll notice a difference in how the colors are broken up – our subject car has been repainted somewhere along the line to look like a Bel Air. Even so, either way looks classy to my eyes.

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 The ’57 Chevys tend to get an upturned nose around these parts, primarily (I think) because these often heavily-modded cars have become the meat and potatoes of cruise-ins these days, and have ceased to be interesting simply because of their ubiquity. This car, on the other hand, appeals to me because it’s not a Bel Air, it’s not a ’57, and it *is* fairly close to what the young family in the ad above actually would have driven in the mid-late 1950s.

So how about you? What options and choices would you like to see brought back to contemporary cars?