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Monday, September 26, 2016
1957 Chevrolet 150 & 210 Series
1957 Chevrolet 150 & 210 Series
The difference between wanting and owning always comes down to price, and owning a '57 Chevy without paying Bel Air prices boils down to loacting one for sale originating from either of the sub-series
Without question, the 1957 Chevy is one of America's most iconic images. From being instantly recognized around the world to its top ranking among diehard fans of GM's bowtie and general car enthusiasts alike, this single model year has seen it all since introduction. Its competition credentials were felt not only on the quarter-mile, but also on the ovals--both dirt and paved. It's been chopped, lowered, modified and lovingly restored. The '57 Chevy has also been replicated countless times in die-cast and molded plastic guises, ranging from 1/87 scale right up to 1/12th--even fiberglass go-cart bodies have been produced in its image. And its picture has hung on countless bedroom and garage walls.
Granted, in most cases it's the Bel Air that receives the lion's share of attention. One might even go so far as to question whether or not Chevy even produced anything other than the Bel Air (and Corvette) in 1957, yet two other models were rolling for the assembly line: the 150, for the economy-minded consumer, and the 210, which bridged the gap between the 150 and the luxurious Bel Air. Today, these are the affordable models that make great alternatives to owning and restoring the more expensive Bel Air.
We're going to focus our attention on the 150 and 210 series, saving the Bel Airs for a later date. Total production of these two models--including our feature 150 Series two-door sedan, owned by Gibson Reiss of Carlisle, Ohio--totaled 699,458, just 2,762 shy of matching the Bel Air output, meaning these nearly forgotten models were just as popular in their day. The 150/210 production total includes station wagons, as well as combined straight-six/V-8 production; however, just like the Bel Air, wagons and V-8s will be left out of the equation, helping to simplify what you need to know before you start shopping.
ENGINES Only one straight-six was available from Chevy, and that was the fabled "Blue Flame." Capable of producing 140hp and 210-lbs.ft. of torque from its 235.5 cubic inches, you will find that the engine is topped by a one-barrel carburetor, in most cases a Rochester or Carter unit.
The Blue Flame for 1957 was essentially unchanged from the 1956 version, except that the engine codes changed from X, XC or Y, to A, AD or B. Furthermore, six cylinder-equipped models were considered their own sub-series--at least on paper, bearing in mind that model and body style numbers were the same as V-8 equipped units. But an easy way to decipher the difference is by checking the beginning of the serial number on the left-front door pillar. The first symbol for straight-six 150 models should be an "A," whereas 210 models should be a "B." A V-8 engine would place a "V" in front of the aforementioned symbols.
We had the opportunity to speak with VCCA technical specialist James Jack, who told us, "That six cylinder was used, with periodic technology updates, from 1929 through 1962. It was rock-solid, although there were occasional clatters in the valvetrain if it wasn't oiling quite right. In all honesty, though, by the time the '57s were hitting the street, it was rare to hear a clatter."
Should you find a 150 or 210 Blue Flame model with an engine that needs a rebuild, fear not. Pistons cost as little as $28, a main bearing set costs $75, and perhaps the most expensive part is a rocker arm assembly for $205.
TRANSMISSIONS Backing each six-cylinder block was the Synchro-Mesh three-speed manual, offered as standard equipment. Not unlike other cars of the day, the three-speed was column-shifted, and only second and third gears were synchronized. Gear ratios from first to third were 2.94:1, 1.68:1 and 1.00:1, while reverse was 2.94:1. If one preferred, this same transmission could have been optioned with an overdrive unit with manual lockout and a ratio of .700:1.
One other available option was the two-speed Powerglide automatic, as seen in our feature 150. It does not have a mechanical lockup or anti-creep device, and ratios are 3.82:1 in first and 1.82:1 in second and reverse.
Both the Synchro-Mesh and the Powerglide had been in service long before the '57s rolled away from the assembly lines, meaning that idiosyncrasies were virtually nonexistent. Still, neglect can get the better of even a legendarily durable transmission; luckily, the popularity of these gearboxes means that experienced rebuilders can get the job done quickly and easily.
Over the years, rumors have surfaced of select Chevrolets being constructed with a four-speed manual. Hotly debated by some, James tells us that, for the time being, the idea of a four-speed is still considered a rumor. "I simply don't remember any stock four-speeds in full-size '57s. There was no such thing as a four-on-the-tree, and they never had a console shift that I know of; plenty of folks added four-speeds years later, usually from wrecked Chevelles," he said.
REAR AXLE Not unlike the rest of GM's cars and those from the other domestic manufacturers of the time, the 150 and 210 models were constructed with a hypoid rear utilizing semi-floating axles--not exactly groundbreaking news. That said, three different final drive ratios were inserted, depending upon which transmission was bolted to the engine: 3.55:1 with a three-speed manual, 4.11:1 with overdrive, or a comfortable cruising 3.36:1 with the Powerglide.
According to James, a limited-slip option was also available containing all three final-drive ratios. Said James, "There is no indication in the facts book as far as limiting which models the limited-slip was available in."
SUSPENSION If you're unfamiliar with the Tri-Five Chevys, then you might be disappointed when you inspect the rear suspension and find that semi-elliptic leaf springs were standard equipment; a more traditional four-link setup appeared on full size cars in 1958.
In fact, the suspension is the same from one model to another. The leaf springs measure 58 inches long, are two inches wide and, in "stock" four-leaf configuration, had a rate of 122-lbs.in. It's not uncommon to see a five-leaf upgrade in place, which can cost $200 per pair. Delco tubular shocks were installed by the factory in conjunction with the rear springs. Heavy-duty rear springs could have been selected off the option sheet.
Up front, assembly line workers bolted what Chevy dubbed the Glide-Ride independent suspension with ball-joint equipped upper and lower A-arms, coil springs and Delco tubular shocks. Though the front springs were rated at 311-lbs.in., an anti-roll bar was not installed to help control body roll while cornering.
As is the case with the rear components, the front suspension is completely rebuildable, and the aftermarket has answered the call for owners who desire an anti-roll bar. Usual wear items include the upper and lower ball joints, which cost $40 to replace, outer tie rod ends and A-arm bushings.
BRAKES There are only two words you need to remember while scrutinizing a prospective 150 or 210 model: hydraulic drums. In short, the brakes are simple and the parts are plentiful. Starting with the drums, both front and rear measure 11 inches in diameter and replacements cost $65. Shoes measure 9.29 x 2 x 0.17 inches up front, while rears are a narrower 1.75 inches; all in all, it equates to 157 square inches of stopping power.
Naturally, a mechanical parking/emergency brake is part of the package--at both rear wheels--and vacuum-assisted power brakes were a valid option. Also, though not likely on six-cylinder non-Bel Air models, some previous owners might have made the conversion to disc brakes up front while maintaining a stock appearance. Depending on one's point of view, it's a "take it or leave it" modification that can be easily returned to stock configuration.
BODY/FRAME Not unlike the suspension and brakes, the frame remained constant between the two non-Bel Air models. More specifically, it is a welded box-girder frame with channel-type cross members. Only the frame under the convertible Bel Air had an extra "X" bracing. Also consistent between the 150 and 210 models is the 115-inch wheelbase, 58-inch front track and 58.8-inch rear track.
As far as the body is concerned, we'll begin with the 150, available only in two- and four-door sedan guises, and a two-door Utility sedan aimed directly at traveling salesmen and/or marketing businessmen who preferred more cargo space to a rear seat. The Utility sedan, it should be noted, just barely made it over the 8,000-unit mark by the end of production and, as mentioned earlier, we'll be covering wagons at a later date. As a side note, it was the Utility sedan that was used in competition, including the highly sought-after Black Widow variant.
Overall body length, no matter the number of doors, measured 200 inches, and even though it was a carryover from 1956 in basic form--a redesigned body for 1958 was on the horizon--the term "facelift" does not do the body justice. Notable new features included the dual hood windsplits with chrome "spears" or "bombsight" ornaments, a refreshed crosshatched grille, and the tall and sharply pointed quarter panel fins. The trailing edge of the left fin opened to reveal the fuel neck. Six-cylinder-equipped models should not sport the signature "V" on the hood under the Chevrolet script.
The 150's side trim, unlike that on the 1957 Bel Air, was reminiscent of the 1955 Bel Air in that the horizontal piece, when starting from the aft edge of the quarter panel, just barely crept onto the aft end of the doors on two-door sedans. When it comes to the four-door, the front pair fails to exhibit any trim extension.
Available in four-door sedan and hardtop variants, the 210 series was also constructed in two-door sedan, hardtop and Del Rey configurations (and three wagon models). 210s also exhibited a 200-inch-long body from bumper to bumper, and shared their overall design elements with the 150s, with the exception of the side trim. No matter the body style, the side trim on a 210 mirrored that of the Bel Air, except that instead of silver-anodized aluminum inserted between the two horizontal trim pieces on the quarters, body color or contrasting paint filled the void if two-tone paint was selected; the roof bore the same color. What's interesting is that factory literature showed a single piece of side trim that swept down to the rear bumper.
Regarding potential rust issues, James had this to say: "They had a tendency to rust along the bottom of the body; rocker panels, ahead of the rear wheel openings; and along the bottom of the front fenders near the area where the body bolts to the frame--there could be some residual carryover to the frame in this locale. The headlamp areas do not rot like the 1955 and '56 models--I think Chevy designed some rustproofing in this area for the '57 models."
INTERIOR It should be obvious that the 150 and 210 models are not as opulent inside as the Bel Air. As an example, the 150 does not come equipped with floor carpet, and arm rests were merely an option, as was a right-side sun visor. In fact, the Utility sedan was constructed with a wooden luggage platform (in place of the rear seat) rather than one of steel. There is also a lack of brightwork and a horn ring, and color-keyed upholstery was never offered.
Two-Ten models, on the other hand, had a few more appointments as standard equipment, including a horn ring with the model name emblazoned in its center, and options here included power windows and a power seat. It should also be noted that Chevy offered three different two-tone interiors, while the Del Ray featured vinyl-only upholstery.
Both models shared a dash arrangement, the centerpiece being a circular 120 mph speedometer, flanked by water temp and fuel gauges, recessed into a squared panel. Controls for the fresh air vents were situated to the driver's right, low on the dash, and buyers had the option of choosing one of three radios, for an additional layout of cash. An electric clock was also extra.
RESTORATION PARTS Though we've only made mention of a few replacement parts, the 1957 150/210 models are among the growing list of cars for which parts are plentiful. Quite honestly, it's fair to say that literally every part has been replicated, or is in the process of being tooled, from cylinders to trunk floors and everything in between--even complete Bel Air convertible bodies are available. The only current requirement for coupe and sedan restorers is a complete frame, cowl and rust-free roof.
Cars, Inc. 800-227-7462 www.carsinc.com Reproduction sheetmetal and complete body