A Look at the Tri Chevys from 1955-57 in 1/64 scale
by Dave Weber, images by Doug Breithaupt

A few months ago I reviewed the Nomad Wagons ( TofTC May 01) that were peculiar to the above production dates . This additional analysis will attempt to inventory and summarize the other toy cars that represent vehicles manufactured during this special 3 year period . I recall that time vividly as I was only a year shy of getting my drivers license when the new 55 Chevys made their first appearance in our local dealer's showroom. The styling was a radical change from the bulbous, rounded appearance of the previous year! Wraparound windshields were introduced . The chicken wire rectangular grille replaced a large toothed bar from 54. The car was lower to the ground and although the the styling was more angular, it gave the appearance of being more streamlined! These cars were very pleasing to the eyes of the possible consumers and attracted many interested parties including me.

Changes in the styling for 1956 were moderate. A new chrome strip design on the side panels was used to offset the two tone paint schemes to a greater advantage. The front grille was lengthened and modified to extend the full length of and above the front bumper . The final year of the Tri Chevys also provided some noticeable styling changes. The body angles were more rounded . The rear fender fins were more pronounced . The front grille was rounded at the corners and had a more prominent bumper design. The hood had 2 inset bullets over the engine compartment. Again the side chrome moldings were changed. The side strip swept to the rear fender where it joined a large anodized aluminum panel . I recall a teenage buddy bought one of these red convertibles with a white vinyl top. He added rear fender skirts which made this beauty a 'lady catcher' for him! Oh, to be able to reclaim this car now. But we can't, so the next best thing is to replicate it in small scale - many times over.

Most toy / model manufacturers have produced at least one model in 1/64 or approximate scale of these cars. However at least 2 prominent foreign companies to the best of my knowledge have not as yet provided any models in this area, Siku of Germany and Tomica of Japan. Recently both Playing Mantis and Mattel capitalized on this marketing scheme with their Tri- Chevy sets as noted below.

I will summarize each model/ toy manufacturer (known to me) in alphabetical order and discuss which if not all 3 years were offered by each producer in miniature.

Coincidentally, after I received this assignment, members of the on line board mboxcommunity.com which is part of www.charliemackonline.com provided a listing of Tri- Chevy models a few months ago, most of which I had already listed on my inventory. However, I did learn about a few more companies which are included below.

Action Performance / RCCA/Hasbro produced two 57 stock cars in historical Nascar logos in the mid 90's. One was a hardtop coupe (HT) while the other was a convertible with the top down.

Action Wheels/ Moose Mountain Toy Makers - This is a greatly distorted model of a 57 HT . There is a distortion in the length of the wheelbase. The engine protrudes from the hood to give the impression of being a Hot Rod. This info was obtained from the above cited online Board.

Blue Box produced a 57 HT in 1986. The side window vents and rear window were blanked out . This condition resulted in a general lack of detail on the model.

Corgi produced a 57 convertible ( top down), model # 152-A1. These models recognized the long discontinued TV detective show Simon & Simon. The model was painted black and white but did not represent the normal two tone paint scheme of the full size cars.

Ertl also produced a 57 convertible ( top down) in the early 80's which sported a Continental rear tire kit. The only flaw in this model was that the wheelbase was too long for the body casting. This resulted in the rear wheels being set back too far in the wells. Otherwise the casting was very detailed for its time! Ertl also produced a HT coupe in the same series. It did not feature the Continental kit.

Hot Wheels (HW) first produced their version of the 55 Bel Air Coupe HT in 1982 # 5179. The initial casting had a blower box protruding from the engine hood. However Mattel modified this casting and later issued models with a smooth hood. The windows were always blacked out providing no view of an interior.The 57 Bel Air HT # 9638 was introduced in 1977. The windows were clear. Both blown engines and smooth hood castings were issued. In 1990 HW introduced a semi enhanced 57 HT in their Cal Customs line # 1279. Another model representing 57 was offered in 1999 as a funny car in a 4 car collectibles set. As a funny car, this model did nor provide a true representation of the style of the full sized showroom version of this car; but styling characteristics were identifiable to the 57. HW also issued a First Edition # 52, 57 Roadster' in 2001. This model is basically a custom rail racer with some styling characteristics from the 57 Chevy being used on this machine. In 2001 HW Collectibles offered a 55 two door 210 Coupe in their enhanced black box series. This model featured additional detailing and had a hinged engine hood. The Collectibles line also provided a 56 two door sedan in their Reggie Jackson set a couple of years ago. The engine blower box protrudes from the hood. Just recently, HW issued a 57 two door coupe 150 model in their new 100% Hot Wheels series. Their recent Tri-Fives Collectors 3 car set also included the above 55 and 56 castings along with a 57 Nomad. Also noted, in 2001 McDonalds presented a model in their HW Happy Meals line that has many characteristics resembling the 57. However the headlights appear to be taken from the Corvette C1 (53 or 54) and the grille is possibly from the 54 Bel Air - but I could be entirely wrong!

'55 Bel Air (1982)

'57 Roadster (2001)

'57 Bel Air (1977)

''57 Bel Air (with motor)

Ideal Toys produced a 57 HT in 1982. It featured a noticeably raised rear end which could be representative of a drag racer.

Johnny Lightning (JL) is no doubt the most prolific producer of these models. Miniatures in minute detail have been produced for all 3 years in various forms. These include the Convertible with both top down and top up (ribbed roof) and the Nomad Wagon. Issued in 2001 as the Tri Chevy series, some of the older castings have also been included as part of other earlier series as well. Model #'s encompassing this set are # 239 (1955),# 240 (1956) AND # 241 (1957) . Their 55 HT model was issued as part of Wacky Winners set in 1996 and carried the name 'Badman' # 305. A 56 HT #151 was introduced in 1995 as a Limited Edition Collectors Only Model . Originally this casting featured 3 unrealistic ribs on the side panels for some unknown reason! This incorrect detail was later corrected in the 1998 Classic Gold series. A 57 HT carried # 427 in the Red Card series in 1999.

'55 Bel Air Convertible

'55 HT Coupe

'56 Bel Air HT Coupe

'57 Bel Air HT Coupe

'57 Bel Air HT Convertible

Kenner produced a 55 two door coupe in their Fast 111s series about 1980 and called the car the 'Shiftin Chevy' It featured an enlarged real bumper that was designed to hold a specially issued collectible license plate. There was also a blower that extended out of the engine hood.

Kidco produced a model of the 57 Convertible # 151-4 around 1980. The design was slightly crude when compared to more recent versions from other producers, but at the time was accepted as a fairly good representation of the real car.

Lucky Ind produced a 57 HT. First info about this piece was obtained from mboxcommunity.com . No further info is available.

Majorette produces a 57 HT #223 and refers to it as the Chevy Hot Rod. There is a blower extending from the engine hood.

Matchbox (MB) produced the 57 Bel Air HT # 4D/ 43H6 in 1979. The hood incorrectly opened forward from the firewall. A new casting (tool) was introduced in 97 that corrected this problem. Models of the 55 Convertible (top down) #46 and HT #73 were available in the 1-100 Collection in 1999. In addition a 57 Convertible #47 was issued in 1998. Also MB Collectibles Motor Trend Collection issued both an enhanced 57 HT and Convertible in 2000 . These models had hinged hoods and were highly detailed.

'55 Bel Air Convertible (regular issue)

'55 Bel Air Convertible (50th Anniversary)

'57 Custom HT (with air box)

'57 Custom HT (without air box)

'57 Bel Air HT

'57 Bel Air Convertible (Premier Edition)

Muscle Machines have recently issued a grotesquely caricatured version of the 57 HT. Needless to say this is not at all a realistic version of the real car!

Racing Champions (RC) produced a 55 Convertible (top down) # 72 in their Mint Editions series in 1997. It has the additional features of a hinged engine hood which unfortunately does not close completely! This model also features a Continental rear tire kit. RC then followed by issuing a 55 two door coupe # 135 in 1998. Also produced was a 57 HT # 4 in 1996 and a 57 Convertible (top down) # 89 as Mint Editions. RC has also issued smaller non-detailed versions of some of these models in their cheaper Street Wheels series.

'55 Bel Air Convertible

'55 2-door Sedan

'57 Bel Air Coupe

'55 2-door Sedan (Street Wheels)

'57 Bel Air Custom (Street Wheels)

Revell issued a 55 two door coupe 'Street Machine' # 86-3350 in their American Graffiti set earlier this year- which is a good representation in miniature.

'55 2-door Sedan - Revell

'57 Bel Air HT (Road Champs)

'57 Bel Air Convertible (Road Champs)

Road Champs issued both a 57 Convertible (top down) and HT with hinged doors about 1984.

Summer issued a 57 HT about 10 years ago. This casting is a fairly crude representation. The side window vents are blanked out and the side chrome trim is incorrect.

Valvoline issued a distorted casting of a 57 Convertible (top down) in their 'Most Wanted' promotional set in 1993. The major distortion is in the engine grille on this model.

'57 Bel Air HT (Summer)

'57 Bel Air Convertible (Valvoline)

'57 Bel Air HT (Yat Ming)

'57 Bel Air HT (Zylmex)

Yat Ming issued a 57 HT # 1093 which is still available at present.

Zylmex/ Zeetoy also produced a 57 HT in the early 90's # P355 which featured hinged doors.

This completes my survey/ inventory of all Tri- Chevys of 1955-57 known to me. I'm sure I may have missed one or two by error or lack of knowledge of their existence. Any additions or comments are always welcome!

Major sources

Force E., 'Matchbox Toys' , Schiffer Publishing ( various editions)

Ragan M., 'Tomart's Price guide to Johnny Lightning' Tomart 2001

Strauss M., 'Tomart's Price Guide To Hot Wheels' Tomart (Eds 1-4)

Plus recognition to the Members and Guests of The 1/64 Board of mboxcommunity.com