Most people know the “Tri-Five” (1955, 1956, and 1957) Bel Airs, which are probably the most iconic American cars ever produced. Chevy continued using the name as one of several trim levels on its full-size cars until 1976.
The Bel Air was all new for 1961, even though it had undergone a complete redesign just two years earlier. Cars were the iPhones of the 1950s and ‘60s; companies were always refreshing them to encourage people to trade their “old” ones in.
The ’61 full-size Chevys were the first cars designed under the influence of Bill Mitchell, who went on to design the Buick Riviera and ’63-’67 Corvette Stingray.
In 1961, the Bel Air was the midlevel model; it was more expensive than a Biscayne, but cheaper than an Impala. A base six-cylinder two-door sedan cost $2,384, while a loaded V8 “sport hardtop sedan” cost $2,661.
The most powerful engine available on the ’61 Bel Air was a 348-cubic inch V8 with up to 350 horsepower. Judging by this car’s hood scoop and jacked-up stance, it probably has more power under the hood.
The phrase “they don’t make ‘em like they used to” comes up a lot when discussing old American cars. This beast is definitely cooler than any new Impala or Malibu, but it was also made in a time when people weren’t expected to survive crashes.
None of that really matters, though. This is a cool American muscle car out on the sreet for everyone to enjoy. That’s all that really matters.