Saturday, January 5, 2013

Bel Air Imperial Sewing Machine

I go to the thrift store about once a week to check for fabric.  One can sometimes get nice fabric at a great price.  Yesterday I stopped in the thrift store and found a Bel Air Imperial portable sewing machine.  It looks like a Singer of the same era.  I can date it between 1945 and 1952 because it is stamped "made in occupied Japan".  I would not have bought it, but it is in superb shape, almost like it was never used.  The case needs a little glue and nails to tighten up.  For $18.50 I thought I coudn't go wrong.  Since I like old cars, especially luxury cars of the fifties, the name grabbed me.  Chrysler Imperials are great cars in my opinion.  Chevrolet Bel Airs are good cars too.

After wiping the dust off and oiling it, I motored it.  It ran smooth.  It has a reverse.  It seems to sew fast and faster.  It really goes.

I think I threaded it properly since it has a nice stitch, but with no manual or a machine similar I have nothing to go on.

I have looked on the internet and have seen Bel Air machines, but not much information.
Bel Air Imperial
Front Angle
Fancy Metal Work
Top Angle
If anyone has some information on this machine please let me know.

Thanks for stopping.


  1. That's a Singer 15 clone, so it should thread exactly like a 15-91, if that helps.

  2. Yup! It's a Class-15, Same as a Singer 15 except the flat side of the needle may go in on the right, it (needle) threads left to right and the bobbin case position finger points to 1 o'clock instead of 11 o'clock..... all opposite of the Singer 15 to avoid patent infringement.

    Imperial was Bel Air's top of the line machine of their straight stitch machines. They also made a "Bantam" model - great little Class-66 oscillator that is unique in being cast of aluminum instead of the heavier iron.

    I have several Bel Air machines. They were a "badged" company, utilizing some of the better Japanese made machines after WWII. One of my favorites is a straight stitch machine from the mid 1950's. As a vintage car lover, you'd like can see it at the top of the homepage on my web site. It's been "doctored-up" with a few accessories, but you can still see it's original design. It reminds me of a 1950's sports car. Has a great masculine stitch length design.

    I've got another one that reminds me of my father's 1954 two-toned turquoise Bel Air sedan. The car and the sewing machine has a chrome "dashboard" with bright red knobs! I need to get that one up on my page of machines.

    In the 1950's, especially, sewing machine design reflected the trends in industrial/car design. I have a "Fleetwood" brand machine that has big fins, just like a '58 Cadillac Fleetwood. And, of course, there is Singer's classic "Rocketeer" from the Sputnik era.

    Enjoy your machine. It's a keeper!

    1. So I own this Bel Air Imperial sewing machine but I need a Bobbin Case. Where might I find one? I am assuming the Singer-15 won't work because of the patient issues. Rick

    2. This one looks like the one in my Imperial.
      I have ordered from Sew-Classic before and was pleased.

    3. Thanks Thin Man. I ordered it today.

    4. Hey Bobbin doctor~ I recently acquired a Bel Air that looks a whole lot like your '1950s sports car' machine (red and white, there's a picture on your website). I can't find any info on it at all. All I've got is that I paid $30 on Craigslist and it may or may not be a 620 you have any more info? It's a great machine and I would love to know more about it!

  3. How do I oil my 50 year old belair machine? It really needs it.

  4. How do I oil my 50 year old belair machine? It really needs it.

  5. Are these red still active? I just found a Bel-Air Imperial and have questions


      General manual. Use Singer 15 information.