So when I came off of BART this afternoon and headed to my car, you can imagine that Dinah Shore was singing in my head when I saw this 1954 Chevrolet 210 Two Door Sedan sitting next to my car.
“On A Highway, Road or A Levee… Performance is Sweeter, Nothin’ Can Beat her, Life is so much Sweeter in a Chevy!”
I had seen this car about a week ago on San Pablo, parked, and assumed that it probably barely ran. Seeing it parked next to my car at a public transportation hub, it became quite obvious to me that someone uses this car as their daily driver, at least for local errands.
The 1954 Chevrolets were the last ones build from the 1949 Vintage bodies, although they were squared up to look more massive for 1953. But the same mechanicals remained: The dull if stone reliable Blue Flame Inline 6, The first in the Low Price field Powerglide Automatic. For 1954 The Powerglide Blue Flames had a screaming 125 Horsepower, the stick shift ones like our subject 210 had 115.
Going by the various statistics online it seems that the all new V8s that would debut for 1955 brought performance up to Semi-Modern levels. The only people I can fathom that deal with 15-20 second 0-60 times and top speeds around 85 in their daily drivers nowadays are people tooling around in 240Ds and non-Turbo 300Ds.
It also makes me think about who still owns this car, and drives it daily. It’s a charming old beast, with chair height seating, a decent amount of glass area, and an amount of room I could never fathom for a two door car. It’s probably extremely easy to fix, considering there’s still a healthy parts community even for Chevrolet Inline sixes. It almost makes me feel chicken for not plunging back more than 30 years for my daily driver. Although if I had done so I would be committing myself to the days of barely functional when new brakes, inadequate long distance freeway driving ability and quite possibly a 6 volt electrical system.
Compared to the direct rivals from Ford and Plymouth, even this mid-level 210 seems quite glamorous for its intended market. There’s an abundance of chrome, even in comparison to the 1955 Chevrolets, which seem a bit more restrained in comparison. At certain angles the family resemblance to the stretched A body Pontiacs of the same vintage is far too obvious, especially when I shot from the ground, looking up towards the power dome hood.
Harley Earls attempt at making even the most cheap car look “important” was successful here. There is an amazing sense of visual mass that says “big car” and really echoes the 1950-53 Buicks to me. The concurrent Plymouths and Dodges looked (and in some cases were) visually stubby, like Coffee stunted their growth. Fords and especially Mercury cars of this vintage verged on Athletic to me, almost leaning into the wind. But I can see, despite the dull mechanicals, Chevrolet was already capturing the majority of hearts. The self-aware self-confidence was rampant by the early-mid 1950s. Plymouth’s projected a miserly, wimpy, cheap attitude that probably reminded too many consumers of Depression era values, despite the best efforts of the Top line Belvedere. Fords projected a muscular, war like stance in relative peaceful times and might have seemed too defensive (note the 1955 Re-skin of the 1952-54 Fords went the “important” route too).
These particular Chevrolets portray an easy, languid confidence that would become an American obsession for the majority of the Post War era. It was only the beginning of America’s obsession with Chevrolet.