Classic Auto Mall
6180 Morgantown Road
1957 Chevrolet Bel Air
Chevrolet designers were really hitting their stride in the mid 1950's with their Tri Fives, and you would arguably say the Magnum Opus was the last model of the Tri Five era, the 57 Chevrolet. So how exactly does one take this masterpiece of bowtie design, and take it one step further? Something to really end up with the pie'ce de re'sistance, and stand out from the crowd a bit, but all the while not ruining the original concept.
An original design kept for this car, all bathed in 50's turquoise and white paint with a two-tone interior, upgraded wheels, bumpers and styling with a few faults that come with this classic. Now with a 383ci stroker V8, aluminum intake and 4-speed manual tranny, it's looking a lot like 1957 all over again, only better!
Led off by its front, chromed and dagmared front bumper which is retained with shiny chrome and a deeply inset grille. We then move to the turquoise highlights for the upper grille and hood, shiny headlight bezels and visors. A dual rocketed chromed adorned hood with a long bump running rearward to the windshield flanks the chromed Chevron on the front of the hood that has Chevrolet badging in your grandmother's handwriting in gold, matching the egg crate below (only for 1957!). On either side the swoop spear with ribbed metal insert, and white background on the rear quarter is looking original. Door and fender panels are straight, rust free and mind their gaps very well. Exterior paint is showing bubbling and fading but overall presents very nicely. Bringing up the rear is another curved chrome encircled rear tinted glass, and a neatly curled around trunk lid which is flanked by the finned rear quarters complete with chrome and lower taillights. Chrome Cragar wheels in 14" format are wrapped in blackwall radials with wider meats being in the rear. All looking good, and a wonderful update to the '57 design.
A swing of the door and the panels for said doors are looking original with like new broadcloth in flagstone pattern black over turquoise vinyl inserts and dark blue smooth vinyl bottoms add some contrast to the broadcloth and look like new. Inside the seats are in their original configuration with a split bench up front and a full bench in the rear. These are carefully covered with turquoise bolsters and have a bordering of silver piping and more of the flagstone pattern broadcloth in ghost blue and black background. Seat backs use more black inserts with silver buttons within a border of more silver piping and turquoise. The bench in the rear presents as the front does and all is very nicely redone. Turquoise carpeting floods the floors, and the single squared off bump up metal dash in a turquoise metal jacket has some punched square aluminum banding in its center, a modern AM/FM/Cassette stereo, original temp sliders and knobs, and small chrome bezel gauges mounted within. White is the color for the main gauge cluster which sits in front of the white steering column with a white factory steering wheel and aftermarket Sun tachometer attached. The headliner is near perfect and presents in turquoise vinyl panels neatly stitched and nice and tight.
Under the hood in the unrestored engine bay now sits a 383ci stroker V8 and the balance sheet and engine build sheet are both included. Within the block is an Eagle cast crank, Eagle SIR I-beam connecting rods, and a Comp Cams Mother Thumper Cam with .522i/.509e lift, 235i/249e duration. A 4bbl Holley carburetor is atop a Professional Products intake manifold, and a Borg Warner T10 4-speed manual transmission is on back. The rear axle presents with a BB stamping code and is in 3.36 configuration. All under this hood is very nice, with some very mild patina, orange/red block and some chrome dress up for the air cleaner and alternator.
The first thing I notice is a peppering of surface rust on the black frame and floorboards, as well as suspension parts. All is still structurally sound though with a liberal application of black paint and undercoating. We do note the rear body crossmember has a few areas of invasive rust toward the outer edges. Independent coil springs for the front and leaf springs for the back are on and power drum brakes are on all 4 corners too. Headers work together with glasspack style mufflers to handle the exhale and produce a wonderfully melodious exhaust note.
That 383ci stroker V8 fired right up and ran like a dream. Plenty of power on the acceleration front, and smooth easy shifting from the T10 4-speed and good braking thanks to the power assist. All functions were working well, save for the heater blower and the speedometer, otherwise it was a pleasurable test drive.
A nice example which has not been ratted, overly rodded, or restoration-modded, just brought back to look original for 1957 but with
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