COAL #3: Mother’s First Car – The Bow-Tie Bel Air



When our family moved to northern NJ, Mom needed a car of her own for the first time in her life, as she had commuted to her previous NYC job via train (and subway). More to the point, she also needed driving lessons, as she had never held a driver’s license up to that time.

Though my father made a few valiant attempts to assist in that process, it was eventually agreed that to keep peace in the family, the best course of action would be to hand that assignment over to a professional. So it was that the Easy Method Driving School in Randolph, New Jersey was retained for that purpose. (A family-owned enterprise established in 1961, it remains in business today, operated by the founder’s two adult children.)

With behind-the-wheel training satisfactorily completed, and newly-issued driver’s license in hand, the next step was to search for an appropriate vehicle. Not too far from the driving school on Route 46, was Ray Tillotson’s Used Cars. I’m not sure how or why we were steered to that particular dealer, but it soon transpired that a lightly-used, second-hand 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air four-door sedan soon joined the ’58 Plymouth wagon in our Morris Plains driveway.

Not ours, but identical.      Source:


The Bel Air series was the most popular of Chevy’s three trim levels for the ’58 model year, accounting for just over 700,000 sales across all body styles (and just over half of Chevy’s 1.4 million-unit model year total). Not surprisingly, the four-door sedan was the best-selling Bel Air body style, with just over 250,000 sold.

A bit surprisingly, most of the previous ’57 Chevy-related CC posts have covered the base One-Fifty or mid-level Two-Ten trim levels. This 2016 post by Robert Kim does show a Bel Air four-door sedan, though somewhat the worse for wear…

Our new-to-us ’57 was a black four-door with a white top and two-tone interior, powered by Chevy’s 185-HP 283 V8 mated to GM’s ubiquitous two-speed Powerglide automatic. To my eyes, the Chevy’s instrument cluster design and aluminum-accented dash might have been (loosely) inspired by the Corvette…

Our car’s interior was in much better shape.     Source:


…but I think that was the only vaguely sporty aspect of the car (aside from its dual rocket-tube accents on the hood).

Space-age styling at its best!                                                      Source:


I don’t recall any major mechanical issues with the car during the relatively short time it served as Mom’s short-distance commuter car. The Chevy remains rather anonymous in my memory some sixty years later. Maybe that’s because we visited a local new-car dealer not too long after that. Dad decided that we needed to trade in our ’58 Plymouth wagon and replace it with something a bit more economical. I’ll leave you guessing until next week’s COAL…


Further reading:

CC Outtake: 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Sedan – Detroit Rhapsody In Rust, White & Blue.