Cohort Pic(k) of the Day: 1966 Chevrolet Bel Air Wagon – I Had My First Air Conditioned Ride In One Just Like It

This venerable veteran of domestic wars jolted a semi-forgotten childhood memory: the next door neighbors in Towson had one just like it, bought new within months of us moving there in the fall of 1965. The thing that I most noted visually was that it wasn’t an Impala, it had the fender badge indicating a 283 V8, and it had wide (6″) wheels, which were quite obvious given the dog dish hubcaps it wore. 6″ wide wheels were a relatively new thing on low end cars like Chevys, and of course only standard on station wagons. And even then, ’66 might have been the first year for that.

But the following summer they invited me and my younger brother to go swimming with them, at their swim club. It was a typical sweltering humid Maryland summer day. I opened the rear window after I climber in. Mrs. Lynch asked me to close the window. Uh oh; another draft-O-phobic like my father?

posted at the Cohort by nifticus

A few blocks later as we pulled into Towsontown Boulevard, I suddenly felt a cold breeze from the front. Whoa? It’s air conditioning! Why didn’t our cars have that?

The ride out on the Beltway and I-84  I-83 to Hunt Valley was both curiously quiet and eminently comfortable. What a revelation.  There’s no doubt in my mind that some very ugly scenes with my father on family trips and vacations might well have never happened if air conditioning had been present. The great domestic tranquilizer.

Their wagon was Artesian Turquoise, while this darker shade appears to be Tropic Turquoise. Artesian Turquoise was a popular color for ’66 Chevys, as the neighbors down the street a couple of houses also bought one, an Impala 4-door sedan. It too had the fender emblem indicating a 283, but I was surprised to see dual exhausts.

One day this neighbor had its hood open, and the air cleaner badge said “220 HP Turbo Fire 283”. That reminded me that for some rather odd reason, Chevy brought back the four-barrel 283 for 1966—and only for 1966—on the big Chevys as an option above the 195 hp two barrel version. And it came standard with dual exhausts, as did the two 427s, but not the 275 hp 327 and the 325 hp 396. That seems a bit odd too.

But not nearly as odd as riding in air conditioned comfort.