Experience tells us some restorations are so nice there’s simply no way we can charge enough to cover the cost of their build. And with 1957 Bel Air convertibles being six-figure purchases as is, we can’t even imagine what it took to transform this killer tri-five into an AACA First National winner. You see, collector cars are all about passion, and we’ve found that the best metal we feature is that built by guys who are in love with the car rather than what it commands. And with an impressive red on red color combination and a correct 283/Powerglide drivetrain, this slick rag top is the kind of well-done classic that’ll have you racking up trophies and dreaming of sunsets. If you’re one of the many enthusiasts who’s constantly torn between the cool feeling of cruising the strip and the proud feeling of rounding the show circuit, why not enjoy a little of both?
This exceptionally clean drop-top is a no-compromises build that combines everything great about Bel Air design with marvelous craftsmanship and a correct Chevrolet small block. Officially revived by Old Gold Restorations of Hershey, Pennsylvania, this pristine convertible was completely stripped and given a high quality, frame-off restoration that ensured every one of its tall body panels were returned to their rock-solid factory appearance. Once the car’s fenders and doors were mocked up, its ripple-free body was blanketed in a correct coat of Matador Red urethane and buried in a durable clearcoat shell. And today, it sits as a fresh spin on a traditional look that combines the visual punch of a classic Ferrari with the visual class of a vintage Cadillac.
The ‘57 is certainly the most well-known of the tri-five Chevys with brilliant trim and crisp, retro styling that strikes a perfect balance between grandiose 50s bling and exaggerated 60s proportions. At the front of the car, a heavy, body-width bumper props a gold Bel Air grille behind a pristine Chevrolet crest and two clear parking lamps. Above that crest, Bel Air-exclusive header ornamentation rides between new hooded headlights and ’57 Chevy-exclusive ‘spear bullets and spoons’. At the sides of those headlights, classic tri-five stainless, which visually connects the car’s front fenders with its rear fins, is branded by Bel Air-exclusive emblems that display no dulling or imperfections of any kind. At the top of those emblems, curvy chrome trim combines with correct chrome mirrors, new stainless wipers and a white vinyl roof to perfectly frame a like-new greenhouse. At the back of that roof, peaked stainless caps begin at the top of the car’s fins and continue down to ’57 Chevy tail lights and a second chrome bumper. And between those tail lights, a second Bel Air-exclusive “Chevrolet” script complements a matching gold “V” emblem and a traditional gold tag frame.
In 1957, Chevrolet’s 283 cubic inch Super Turbo Fire V8 was the most common choice for factory GM performance. It made an advertised 220 horsepower, created a stout 300 lb./ft. of torque and, even in today’s world of 300 horsepower grocery getters, is still quick and very impressive. Follow this Bel Air’s slick Matador shine into its highly detailed engine bay and you’ll find a fully rebuilt small block that’s been layered in a thick coat of bright Chevy Orange paint. At the top of that legendary mill, an old school, gloss black air cleaner funnels wind into a Power Pack exclusive 4-barrel carburetor that comes complete with a correct glass fuel bowl. At the base of that carburetor, a correct cast iron intake feeds air and fuel to authentic Power Pack heads that are capped by stamped and silver-detailed valve covers. At the back of that intake, a traditional points distributor shoots fire through fresh 7mm Radio Suppression cables that are organized into painted metal looms. Once those fires have been lit, a glossy black radiator circulates coolant through reproduction GM hoses and authentic squeeze clamps. Once that air and fuel is torched, bare metal exhaust manifolds whisk spent gases into a Power Pack true dual exhaust system. And once combustion is created, new V-belts spin a tagged Delco-Remy generator opposite factory power steering. Everything in this Bel Air’s freshly painted engine bay is as complete as its pristine exterior panels. And not a single detail was missed during the car’s calculated restoration; with items like correct tags and decals, a fresh radiator screen, a Delco yellow cap battery and a familiar AACA First National Senior plaque setting a trophy-winning tone.
Underneath this razor-sharp drop-top, a stunningly straight chassis is finished in flawless satin black paint and, when viewed next to the car’s plethora of clean suspension parts, looks so nice you’ll swear it’s floated down less than 10 miles of country black top. Above that top notch chassis, solid red floor pans wear a chip-free coat of what appears to be traditional oxide primer. Behind the engine, a correct 2-speed Powerglide transmission spins torque through a new driveshaft and a fully rebuilt rear end. Holding that road ready powertrain in place is a fresh, fully-sorted suspension which includes traditional control arms up front, correct leaf springs out back and fresh shocks at all four corners. Modern car turning characteristics are provided by a factory power steering system. Short, confident stops come courtesy of correct drum brakes. And at the center of the floor, a 2.5 inch, true-dual exhaust system sends spent gases through deep sounding turbo mufflers to bare stainless tips. All of the car’s brake lines, fasteners and fuel system components appear fresh and free of weathering. And putting the power to the pavement is a sweet set of 14 inch Matador Red steelies which spin old fashioned 8.00-14 wide whitewalls around ornate stainless center caps.
The spectacular cockpits in second generation Bel Airs need no introduction, but here goes. Depress the button on this Chevy’s bright chrome door handle and you’ll find a gorgeous GM code 683 red and silver interior that stays completely true to the car’s original scheme. The rebuilt front and rear bench seats are all-day comfortable and feature supple, chrome trimmed hides that fit well and feel great. Beneath those seats, fresh black carpet props rugged Bel Air-crested floor mats next to clean silver kick panels and bright Fisher-branded sill plates. At the edges of that carpet, flawless two-tone door panels are anchored beneath sculpted red toppers and classy stainless frames. At the front of those panels, a curvaceous dash is layered in bright red urethane, spectacular chrome trim and a stylish, bowtie-branded gauge pod. The driver spins a correct red steering wheel that’s complete with a chrome horn ring and a classic Chevrolet Bel Air centerpiece. And passengers store their essentials in a freshly finished trunk that features a correct mat, a correct jack, a correct decal and a full-size spare tire.
As I mentioned earlier, this awesome Chevy is the recipient of two prestigious AACA awards. At the 2006 AACA Nationals in Hershey, Pennsylvania, it was presented a First National Junior Award. And at the 2007 AACA Nationals in Hershey, Pennsylvania, it was bestowed a First National Senior Award.
If you add up all the ingredients that went into building this car, you know someone really cherished it. There are no shortcuts, no marginal parts, and nothing that looks out of place on what is uniformly a high-quality piece. Of course, quality never goes out of style. And when you take this Bel Air for a drive, you can literally watch the crowds form!