I’m a great admirer of artist Philip Coleman’s murals around the area, and I especially like the one he did on the side of the Beverly Gas & Tire building at near the intersection of Cabot and Rantoul Streets in Beverly. The subject matter appeals to me — I like diners, old cars and factory buildings. I also like the fact that it’s at a location by the railroad tracks that’s best described as utilitarian, quite a way up Cabot Street from the galleries and coffee shops near Montserrat College of Art, the Beverly Public Library and Beverly Common. The wall of the tire business, bordering a Rite-Aid parking lot, didn’t strike me as a great place for a mural, but the artist certainly knew exactly what would work here. Rather than ignoring the parking lot and just paint on the top half of the wall, he created a mural that works perfectly with the parked cars, incorporating them right into the picture.
This classic car caught my eye as I was driving by. It’s a two-tone Chevy Bel Air, cream on the bottom and a pale blue on top. The soft color surprised me — I expect 1950s automobiles to be lipstick red, bright turquoise or tiger lily orange. My reference car for the period is the red and white 1956 Bel Air my mother bought in the 60s.
This one was different. It looked like the sky, like the car you might drive into Heaven.
I took this photograph of a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air on display at the Festival Italia in Wakefield, Massachusetts, yesterday. You can see the distinctive roofline of the Lucius Beebe Memorial Library reflected in the hood. I wish I had taken more photographs of this beautiful automobile, but I was feeling conflicted about it. My mother owned a red and white Chevy Bel Air, bought used in 1960, and that’s always been my idea of the ultimate cool car. Seeing this Bel Air reminded me of ours, but the differences between the models just made this one look not quite right to me.
I did a little research on the 1955 Bel Air when I came home last night — in other words, I Googled it. It was called “The Hot One” and its sales brochure suggested “Try this on for sighs.” Apparently young people loved it because “this car’s so perky it always looks like it’s going to a party!” And it was a powerful car: the Turbo-Fire V8 engine “put a heaping hoodful of fun under your foot — 162 h.p.!” I don’t know anything about engines and couldn’t tell you the horsepower of my current car, but who wouldn’t want a heaping hoodful of fun under his or her foot? But best of all, it was motoramic! I don’t actually know what that means, but it sounds so modern! 1950s modern, that is.
It’s amazing how little sales resistance I have even to advertising that’s over fifty years old.