(first posted 3/24/2014) Here’s a car that does not exist, according to the 1971 Chevrolet brochure. My Standard Catalog of Chevrolet 1912-1998 does not mention a Bel Air Sport Coupe either, yet this car was no figment of my sometimes overactive imagination. So what is this thing, and why is it here? It’s Mystery Monday!
As an English teacher and a fan of Sherlock Holmes stories and novels, I can appreciate a “whodunit.” While employing a mildly sociopathic genius for my inquiry may seem unnecessary, a peregrination into the labyrinth of the internet will be required. I’ll channel my inner Holmes to get to the bottom of this tale of intrigue. The game is afoot, Watson!
As you can plainly see, the only Bel Air option delineated in the January 1971 printing of the full-size Chevrolet brochure is the 4-Door Sedan. For my first deduction, I will venture out on a limb and speculate that Chevrolet began the year offering a Sport Coupe model, but canceled it early in the selling season.
However, after searching around Google, I discovered a “For Sale” ad on an Impala forum for a car that was very similar to the featured Bel Air. Located in Canada, it wore the same deep green (possibly “Antique Green”) and had the same transmission as our featured car. On the other hand, the advertisement listed that the car had been ordered with body side moldings, which the featured car does not have.
The molding, however, may be a red herring, as the advertisement also mentioned that the car was freshly painted, so maybe the owner removed the moldings. Apparently, it was a one-family car, displayed only 57,000 miles on the odometer, and was one of just 2,793 manufactured in 1971; however, the seller also claimed that it was delivered in April 1971, which would disprove my theory about the early cancellation of the Sport Coupe. Back to square one.
All is not lost, however, dear reader. Through elementary reasoning, I will assume that this is the same car from the online for sale advertisement, as said advertisement was posted in July 2011, and the car was located in London, Ontario. I took the pictures of our featured car in September of that same year at a Michigan car show that is frequented by cars with Ontario plates. In fact, on a website called cargurus.com, I found the following pictures of what appears to be the same car wearing, yes, an Ontario license plate.
Watson, how could I have been so obtuse? If I had only taken a picture of the rear license plate, we could have been sitting in front of the fire at Baker Street at this moment.
But I digress. The above mentioned website also included pictures of the engine compartment; which houses a 245-horsepower 350, the standard engine if one ordered the Turbo Hydra-matic, which this car’s original owner did. If you’ll notice my interior picture above, you may spot a gear selector quadrant with three forward detents, making it obvious that our feature car, too, has that desirable transmission option. The plot thickens!
While this particular Bel Air is endowed with the muscular 350 and Turbo Hydra-matic, buyers in 1971 could still order the old Powerglide, and the Bel Air even came standard with a 250 six-cylinder and three-speed on the column.
And while its years as Chevy’s top-of-the-line dreammobile were long past, the featured car actually seems somewhat stylish, even though it has few factory options other than the driveline. The main contributor to this Bel Air’s upscale appearance, to me, is the hardtop styling. It wouldn’t be too many years before finding a car with a hardtop’s airy appearance would be nearly impossible. Either way, there can’t be too many Bel Airs like this one floating around Baker Street these days.
Finally, after completing some research, and falling prey to a few divergences and flights of whimsy, I have come to the conclusion that my initial theory is false, making it not much of a theory at all. In Canada, one could order a Bel Air Sport Coupe throughout much of the 1970s, although that combination was not available in the United States. If colonists wanted Bel Airs, they could buy 4-doors or wagons, and that’s that. The following link will transport you, dear reader, to a related article from this fine website that discusses Canada’s Bel Air in some additional detail.
Every once in awhile, a good automotive mystery is good for the soul, and I am glad to have potentially gotten to the bottom of this one. Although I’m not the world’s biggest fan of 1970s automobiles, I do enjoy ’70s Chevrolets, especially B-Body coupes. Make mine a ’72 Impala Custom Coupe, please. In the meantime, this Bel Air makes for an interesting Mystery Monday, and I hope another case presents itself before I begin to suffer from ennui.
Gladstone, have you seen my dog dish hubcaps?