I have seen debates in the past asking what would be the perfect car to drive around for a trip to America. Many point to a Mustang, some for endless classic muscle cars, and plenty for a Corvette. In fact, if I had an older Corvette handed to me in America, I’d take it like a shot too.
But if I were given a completely free choice, what I’d actually take is this. The Chevrolet Bel Air. The perfect American car.
I’ve only driven a Bel Air in one game before, that being Midnight Club: Los Angeles. And in there it was literally perfect. In MC:LA, you can stick the throttle at a certain point and the car will, rather than going full throttle, just cruise up to the speed limit. Because of this, a barebones Bel Air is simply a flawless cruiser in that game.
Of course I could have put the throttle down at some point, but what would be the point? That would fly in the face of what this car is all about, which is, quite simply, to cruise around at no more than walking pace.
And so that’s how I drove it here too. I didn’t thrash the car to within an inch of its life at Long Beach. I simply tottered around, at no more than 35mph, just admiring how stupendously cool the car was and how it made me feel.
That’s what you’d take a Bel Air for. Just sitting down, listening to a quiet V8 strum moving you around the place in the coolest way possible.
All the views are actually pretty much perfect, and that means the best without question is the onboard view. Just sitting there, looking at that perfectly old school speedometer, makes it all feel so brilliant.
But on the other hand, a chase cam view lets you look at the whole thing when driving along. And it just looks magnificent. From a time before most American cars could be drawn with nothing more than a pencil and a ruler, the Bel Air in that magnificent aqua paintjob, coupled with the white roof, silver sidestrip and those bonkers whitewall tyres and flat rims, is the perfect image of its era. Sure some cars might have looked quite similar to it too, but they’re not in this game and this is the most iconic of the lot.
The ring of ‘Chevrolet Bel Air’ just sounds so very right too. It’s just simply a very special car.
It’s just that unlike other special cars, you don’t go mad in it. You do the exact opposite. No other way would feel right.
If you’re looking for something to race, this is not for you. If you’re looking for something to drive, and you know how to do it, it’s hard to do much better than this.