If ever there was a time — and there was — when the American Dream was more than just a "succession of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that occur involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep" (thanks Wikipedia), it was the Fifties.
That decade isn't known as the Golden Age of America for nothing. It was a time of happiness, excitement, and a time when America was the centre of the universe.
General Motors was having a blast, too. The company ruled the world, with over 50 per cent market share in the US, and Chevrolet alone accounting for a third of all vehicles purchased in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Most of all, it was the decade of the Chevy Bel Air.
Introduced for the 1950 model year, the Bel Air arrived just in time to revolutionise automotive styling and set a trend that lasted for decades. In truth, it wasn't until the 1955 models and later the Harley Earl-designed Bel Airs that the fad really kicked in, with its exaggerated tailfins, two-tone paint with pastel palettes, extensive brightwork, and naturally, rumbling V8s.
Chevy simply did everything right, and buyers flocked to the car even though Chevrolet was traditionally the lowliest brand of GM's flock. The genius was in the marketable twist of the name: Bel Air being an affluent area of Los Angeles. Basically, for $1,741 (about $14,500 in today's money) you were living the Hollywood lifestyle, even if you came from Norman, Oklahoma.
And Chevrolet also ensured there wasn't any need for you to broaden your search for a new car: dealers offered numerous trim levels to cover everyone's needs, Powerglide packages, the now desirable Nomad station wagons, convertibles, Power Packs, and of course, Super Power Packs.
The third generation came around in 1958, and introduced the famous Impala name, but this also spelled the end of the Bel Air's glamorous existence. The Fifties really exemplified the Bel Air, and as time dragged on and GM extensively updated the model year-on-year as was tradition, it rolled on into the Sixties and Seventies and simply became the Impala, or the Biscayne. If you're buying, shop around for a '55 or thereabouts.
You can get a restoration project going from as little as Dh10K, and you can get picky about the year too.
The very best frame-off (these are body-on-frame cars, obviously) restoration examples will part you with 100,000, and that's in crisp, green, US dollar bills. But so what? You're buying the American Dream.