Maybe it’s the grille update or the sense of motion ingrained in the Motoramic styling but there is something about the 1956 Chevrolet that just demands attention. Arguably the most composed of its tri-five siblings, the car sold well in its day and continues to be a staple of the collector market. If you’re looking for the one of the nicest ’56 convertibles around, this Bel Air convertible is a must-see. The beneficiary of a recent frame-off restoration, the car has been enjoyed just 52 miles since completion. With options like the Power Pack 256, a Powerglide automatic, power steering, power brakes, and a convertible top, this Chevrolet should hit all the right buttons for anyone that’s been holding out for the perfect tri-five cruiser. Visually stunning and packed with plenty of date-coded pieces, this is a great piece of GM history waiting for a sunny day and manicured show field.
GM got a lot right with their ’56 lineup and this example puts all of those good decisions on display. The cowl tag claims the car was born with a Matador Red / India Ivory two-tone and that’s exactly what you’ll find in place today. It’s a vibrant choice and one that matches the styling of the era perfectly. The paintwork presents well from every angle imaginable and the body obviously has a good bit of time invested in it – they certainly didn’t come this straight from the factory. When the bad weather threatens, the taut white top comes to the rescue protecting the interior from the elements while mixing well with the India Ivory paint.
As a mid-fifties car, there is plenty of Detroit-designed chrome here to admire. Up front, a showroom fresh bumper follows the front end curves just below the squared stainless grille above. A Chevrolet logo is centered between round headlights and squared eyebrows while a trio of chrome ornaments top the hood and fenders. The windshield appears to be new, surrounded by fresh stainless trim and wiped cleaned by fresh stainless wipers. Beyond the vent windows, rear view mirrors flank both sides of the car for safety and visual balance. The ’56 featured some of the cleanest trim of any tri-five and those sweeping lines are represented well here by immaculate stainless that divides the two paint colors. Smooth rocker trim and chrome door handles finish out the side view with style. At the rear, subtle fins are capped by styled factory taillights while a second showroom-fresh bumper ties the look together. Below, rectangular chrome exhaust tips jut out, hinting at the car’s performance potential.
Lift the hood of this Bel Air to find a show-ready 265ci V8. While, these days, the car is more parade queen than stoplight street fighter, in the mid-50s, this car would have been a serious threat to any hot rodder. The block is a ’56-exclusive 3720991 casting with a ‘FB’ suffix code that reveals it to be a 205hp unit originally equipped with a four-barrel carburetor. Originality was the goal, so that setup is exactly what you’ll find in place today. The block, cast iron heads, and factory intake all wear a matching coat of red paint while a Rochester carb with a glass bowl fuel filter sits partially tucked under a correctly decaled single-snorkel air cleaner. The accessory drive spins a dated-coded Delco-Remy 1102041 power steering generator which adds a little luxury to the overall package. Up front, a tagged OEM-style radiator works alongside a single fan to keep the bay cool. From the reproduction Delco battery to the glass windshield washer fluid bottle, all the bigger pieces stay true to factory form. On a closer level, reproduction GM hoses, a correct oil filler neck decal, and correct dual horns carry that sense of authenticity even further.
Put this tri-five on a lift to find a clean undercarriage that continues the factory-correct theme so prominent in the engine bay. The floors aren’t actually red oxide primer but they’ve been painted to replicate that look while offering a little more protection from the elements. In the center, a period-correct two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission spins power down the driveshaft to an open differential with 3.55 gears. The center section wears a ’56-exclusive 3707306 casting number for some extra originality. While the temptation to lower and upgrade these cars is always strong, the suspension on this convertible stays true to its roots with a standard double A-arm independent front and leaf springs out back. The builder went through to the trouble of keeping all the finishes correct across the various suspension components, so you certainly won’t lose any judging points under here. Turn the wheels to feel the Delco-assisted power steering in action. Braking is equally confident thanks to power-assisted drums at all four-corners. Those brakes tuck behind 15-inch steel wheels dressed in steel wheels with simulated spokes. A set of 6.70-15 BF Goodrich Silvertown wide white walls connect the refinished chassis to the road.
Featuring a correct array of red and white accents, this Bel Air’s restoration-fresh interior is one of its most impressive traits. At the center of the car, firm bench seats anchor a combination of cloth and vinyl skin that’s highlighted by straight white stitching. On the doors, pleated panels, which almost look custom, hang chrome door handles, chrome window cranks and chrome vent window handles next to sculpted armrests. At the floor, fresh Daytona Weave carpet is protected by rubber, bowtie-branded mats. At the front of the cockpit, a pristine dash hangs the distinctive instrument cluster which focuses its efforts on speed, fuel, and temperature while an center-mounted AM radio sends signal to speakers mounted in the kick panels. The passenger gets a front-row view of the Bel Air cutout rounded out by an analog clock. All the stainless shows as new and the paint is every bit as smooth as the exterior. Behind the rear seat, a white boot covers the top when not in use. Lift the decklid to find a solid trunk space completed by white paint, a rubber mat, a full-size spare, and roadside tools.
If you’re looking for a premium example of an infinitely collectible car, this 1956 Bel Air convertible is a great choice. With its Power Pack 265, automatic transmission, convertible top, and excellent list of key options, this is the kind of car that was a pleasure to own in 1956 and, thanks to the immaculate restoration, continues to be in 2013. Great tri-fives never stick around for long so admire all you like but act fast!