1955 Chevy - The 1st One!!
Welcome to the ChevyClassics 1955 Chevy history section of my site. This section is all about my favorite car the 1955 Chevrolet. The following pages will provide you with the history of the car, from the concept model through the release of the 1956 models. I'll be providing you with many facts and figures associated with the original production of these cars along with a pictorial journey that should make this site both informative and entertaining.
I have been collecting original literature for the 1955 Chevrolet for several years now. My personal collection includes such things as an original Dealer Album, the fingertips facts book given to new car dealers and a wide variety of sales literature. With the help of a digital scanner I'll be providing some photos I collected over the years, a lot that I bought were from the original GM Sales Division.
Now for a little historical background. At the end of WWII, GM was in a race with the other car manufacturers to retool their plants that had been converted to manufacturing war materials back to auto production. The public was demanding new cars with new technologies since they hadn't seen anything exciting during the war years. The new cars were coming, but it wouldn't be until 1949 that they started showing up. Due to shortages in raw materials and the fact that there was a normal three year engineering and design period necessary to bring a new product to market.
The motoring public's demand for new and exciting automobiles lead to GM's decision in 1952 that the 1955 model year for Chevrolet was going to be an all new car. A car "that would not only appeal to the usual Chevrolet buyer but also to the buyer that wanted sportiness and high performance." This last point posed a challenge to the GM Engineering Policy Committee since Chevrolet relied on its "inline 6" as its mainstay powerplant up to this point. A new V-8 engine needed to be developed that would give the motoring public the performance it craved.
In 1952 GM went about the task of putting together its engineering and design team and drawing upon the many talented people working in the GM product lines the call went out for Ed Cole to transfer from GM's Cadillac division to become Chevrolet's chief engineer and a major force behind the development of the 1955 Chevrolet. GM knew that they needed fresh thinking and enthusiasm to come up with a product completely new for 1955.
Ed Cole had worked on V-8 engines at Cadillac for several years and in 1949 helped develop their overhead valve V-8. Mr. Cole realized the challenge ahead of him and recruited Harry Barr to join him. Together these men directed Chevrolet's engineering division to develop a completely new and innovative chassis and running gear in just a little more than two years for the 1955 Chevrolet.
But forward thinking was not limited to the engineering team picked to develop the 1955 Chevrolet. To make the '55 the success, it needed to acquire the air of "sportiness" the motoring public was looking for, a completely new body style was needed. GM's design studios were among the best in the industry and the head of that division, Alfred Sloan, realized that styling was going to become more and more important to the car buying public and set upon the task of developing a design team to meet that challenge. Harley Earl was put in charge of the Arts & Colour section. Under his leadership, GM styling changed the automobile from a box on wheels to a thing of style and grace. This was evident with the mid-fifties GM cars in general, but especially the '55, '56 and '57 Chevrolets.
As with any project there were many talented people contributing to its success. It would be beyond my scope to try to acknowledge all of them here. As I mention several people from the Chevrolet styling section it is because more is written about them.
The serious design work on the 1955 Chevrolet actually began as I mentioned earlier in the summer of 1952. The work was done by the Chevrolet Styling Section. A gentleman by the name of Clare MacKichan was in charge of this section throughout the fifties. His team included such talented people as Joe Schemansky, Bob Cararet, and Carl Renner. If you'd like to read more in depth about these men and the others responsible for the 1955 Chevrolet you'd might like to pick up a copy of a book called "Chevrolet 1955, creating the original by Michael Lamm".
The 1955 Chevrolet was one car that lived up to it's hype and advanced billing: "More Than a New Car....A New Concept. New Look, new life, new everything."
Let's continue our journey through the 1955 Chevrolet's development by taking a look at the design process. Starting with the prototype models.
Design | Production Line | Production Numbers | Cowl Tag | Motorama | 50 Million | Showroom | Dealer Album | Literature | Sales Ads | Shore | Body Styles | Exterior Colors | Interior Trim | Accessories | Pace Car | Postcards