THE GOOD OL' DAYS
1955 Chevy Road Test
This article first appeared in the December, 1954 issue of Motor Life magazine.
CHEVROLET'S stylists, engineers and sales personnel are out to give the public exactly what they want in 1955. If the public wants an expensive-looking car, the 1955 Chevrolet resembles, more than superficially, expensive older brothers Oldsmobile, Buick, Cadillac. If it's horsepower and a new engine that's desired, the 1955 Chevy features their new short stroke V-8 which is rated at 162 hp and with an optional power package turn out 180 hp. If it's low speed acceleration, the 1955 model Powerglide now has a low with a "snap." If it's the sleek, "low" look, the 1955 Chevy models have been reduced in height; up to six inches for the station wagons. If it's the sports car look, enthusiasts will be happy with a grille which could have originated in the Italian Ferrari factory. And if it's "feel" and cornering the buyer is looking for, Chevy's new "spherical-joint" front suspension and wider-apart rear springs will offer that. If it's economy, the proven, in-line six cylinder engine is still available — but with upped horsepower which makes no slouch of the six cylinder version — in performance.
Chevrolet lovers, who watched slightly abashed as their car took a second seat in national sales, once again have something to crow about and it's as big a story as Chevrolet's introduction of the six cylinder engine in 1929 and the subsequent change in concept of low-priced values.
The most dramatic aspect of the 1955 Chevrolet is the new look; lowered tops, hoods, belt lines and "goodies" taken directly from some of General Motors' Motorama "dream cars." The grille, a cross-mesh affair, is wide and set into a front which slopes inward from top to bottom. Headlights are completely shrouded ala Cadillac.
From the headlights back, the car is definitely GM and, judging by sales of the Oldsmobile, Cadillac and Buick, that ain't bad. The Chevy has the GM wrap-around windshield this year and it serves to only further enhance the GM relationship. Through some alchemy known only to automotive stylists, however, the car still manages to look like a Chevrolet. How the stylists have managed to change the body so drastically and still retain this look remains a great mystery to the us.
Although Chevrolet will advertise two engines, there are actually four. The new V-8 (called valve-in-head by Chevrolet, known as overhead valve to the remainder of the industry) packs a compression ratio of 8:1, has a displacement of 265 cubic inches, a bore of 3.75 inches and a stroke of 3 inches; undoubtedly the shortest stroked engine in the industry today. (For complete details on the V-8 engine, see Chevrolet's New V-8 Engine story in this issue.) The standard V-8 engine, as stock in the 1955 Chevrolet, will boast 162 horsepower with a single carburetor. For speed enthusiasts, an optional "power packï¿½age" is available which consists of a four-throat carburetor and dual exhausts. According to Chevrolet engineers, this raises the horsepower to 180.
The other "two" engines are the two models of Chevrolet's famous six cylinder model. The manual transmission model is available with 123 horsepower. Powerglide models come with 136 horsepower. Both are designed for maximum economy — but their performance will be not very far behind the field's V-8s.
Not content with the new horsepower and torque ratings. Chevy engineers have also supplied the American motorist with a choice of transmissions; Powerglide, standard and overdrive. The new Powerglide has been redesigned to shift more smoothly, to accelerate more rapidly. And the engineers have been successful. In a series of test runs, MOTOR Life test staff found that the Powerglide Chevrolet models were equal to, and in the majority of cases superior to, the manual shift models for out-and-out acceleration. Although the stick-shift model digs out from a stoplight faster, the momentary lull while shifting gears (regardless of snap shifts) allows the Powerglide model to move strongly ahead. Starting in the Powerglide "Low" range and then shifting into Drive, provided a faster initial start but the difference is almost imperceptible. Powerglide, for '55, is quiet and effortless, maintaining the best of the "shift-less" transmission feel. Above 20 mph, the transmission digs in sharply and the Chevy V-8 accelerates from 20 to 60 like a well-tuned sports car. The old "American low-priced stocks won't hit 100" attitude of speed enthusiasts is closer than ever to oblivion, for the Powerglide-equipped Chevy turned in a fastest one-way run of 98 mph. With a spot of tuning and/or with the optional speed kit, the car should easily exceed the magic 100 mph mark.