What is the best year ever for cars and why?

We put that question to the performance-minded people on Summit Racing’s Facebook page. Using their answers as a foundation, we’ve compiled a list of the Top 8 years in automotive hot rodding and performance history. Why? Because it’s fun to make lists. And it’s even more fun to attempt the impossible–like narrowing 100-plus years of automobiles down to the eight best. 

We’ll unveil the list over the next week or so. In order the make the list, a given year must have been nominated at least once by the readers. 

Image/GM Corporate Newsroom

The focus so far, and rightly so, has been on vehicle makes and models as we explore the best years in automotive history.

For 1955, OF COURSE we’re going to hone in on the launch of the Tri-Fives.

But 1955 is also the year Chevrolet introduced us to its small-block V8 and changed hot rodding forever. Nearly 60 years later, you STILL voted the small-block Chevy 350 as the auto industry’s top engine of all time. Chevy has built and sold more than 100 million small-blocks, with the 5.7-liter 350 being the star attraction. But the small block V8 revolution started in 1955, when we were given a 265 cubic-inch V8 which made between 162 and 195 horsepower.

You might say 1955 and the introduction of the overhead-valve V8 engine paved the way for everything we love about hot rodding, car culture, and the muscle car era.

The Birth of the Tri-Five

The small-block Chevy engine fueled further interest in the 1955 Chevy 150, 210 and Bel-Air models, available with both six- and eight-cylinder engine options. It was the first commercially successful Chevy with a V8 engine, kicking off perhaps the most-significant three-year make/model run in automotive history.

“Kinda hard to argue with the tri-5.” –Johnny L.

“1955-57. No comparison.” –Nick M.

“1955. They’re made to last forever.” –Jeremy K.

“’55. SBC.” –Joe D.

There were major innovations and affordable “luxury” trim options with the Tri-Five vehicles, including options like air-conditioning, power windows, power seats, power brakes, and others. Electrical systems took a leap forward, from six- to 12-volt systems.

Ford used 1955 to introduce both the Ford Thunderbird (with a 292 V8) and the Ford Crown Victoria—a derivative of the Fairlane.

Other ’55 vehicles turned heads. The 1955 Buick Special looks like magic. The 1955 Nash Rambler is unmistakable.

Dodge delivered vehicles that are appreciated much more today than they were in ’55. The 1955 Coronet Lancer V8 stands out as a gorgeous vehicle with a bit of oomph under the hood that didn’t get much love in its day.

What is your favorite vehicle or innovation from 1955?

Author: Matt Griswold

After a 10-year newspaper journalism career, Matt Griswold spent another decade writing about the automotive aftermarket and motorsports. He was part of the original OnAllCylinders editorial team when it launched in 2012.