- Body off restoration
- Three-owner car
- GM 383ci stroker
- GM 700R4 4-speed automatic
- Open differential / 3.55 gears
- Power steering / brakes
- Air conditioning
- Restored interior with power windows
The 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air has style in spades, making these cruisers some of the most recognizable and desirable American cars ever created. They've always been great to look at but, for a lot modern drivers, what equated to impressive street manners in the 1950s simply doesn't translate to 2013. For that reason, there is a tendency to go overboard with updating these cars with modern hardware but this '57 Bel Air two-door hardtop offers the perfect balance of classic looks and modern behavior. The subject of a detailed body-off restoration, this 3-owner car retains a nearly stock appearance while offering a 383 stroker, a smooth-shifting automatic with overdrive, power steering, power brakes, and air conditioning – everything you need to enjoy this car on modern roads. Looking for a classic Bel Air without the compromises? Your Chevrolet has arrived!
This tri-five was formerly owned by the proprietor of a print shop in Chattanooga, TN. The car had been in his family since 1962 when it was purchased from the original owner. It remained in service, even occasionally pulling the family race car, until the company lost a big contract and the owner was forced to sell his Bel Air. The third and current owner restored the car to its original form visually and the work is impressive. According to notes, the body was in great shape to begin with. A few patches were welded in but no full panels needed replaced. Once the body was prepped, a fresh coat of Onyx black paint was applied over the vintage sheet metal. The final product offers straight lines, even panel gaps, and crisp reflections from wherever you choose to look.
Zoom in on the details and you'll find all the correct trim in place and ready for show. The front is a familiar combination of gold and silver, lead by rubber bullets and a pristine chrome bumper. Pointed fenders are capped in chrome and the hood décor continues the sense of forward motion. The greenhouse is filled with clean glass edged in well-preserved stainless trim while round mirrors sit just beyond either vent window. A trio of gold fender louvers introduce the side profile while the iconic side trim flow back and opens up above the rear fender as the fins continue back. Stainless rocker trim and fender skirts round out the bottom of the body while chrome door handle guards add a nice touch above. Out back, the sharp fins are capped in chrome while a golden Chevrolet emblem and V badge fill in the center. Rarely-seen trunk trim fills the space between the taillights while a chrome bumper incorporates reverse lights.
At first glance, the engine bay appears to be like any other tri-five. There's a familiar small black dressed in orange with a cartoonish air cleaner assembly and plenty of other period-correct visuals. What many would never guess is that the mild-looking mill is actually a 383ci V8. The foundation is a tried and true 010 casting 350ci block that's been stroked and rebuilt by the talented crew at Race Engine Design in Chattanooga, TN. The heads and intake manifold are GM castings and fuel is served through a single Carter AFB four-barrel carburetor. The most trick part present is an RV-spec cam, so you can rest assured this isn't some unstreetable monster – just a smooth-running small block with plenty of bottom end. The accessory drive turns a 100-amp alternator, power steering pump, and a Sanden air conditioning compressor while the radiator works alongside a single fan to keep the engine compartment cool. There's a new NAPA battery under that tar top battery cover and the distributor shoots spark through fresh high-temperature plug wires. Spent gases funnel out through clean cast iron exhaust manifolds that connect to a factory-style dual exhaust system. It's a great looking bay that presents with factory appeal and, best of all, reaffirms the small block's reputation for reliability.
Take a look underneath the car to find a nicely finished undercarriage that scarcely shows the 1,100 miles it's seen since completion. The floors are red oxide, the frame rails appear to be smoothed, and there are plenty of thoughtful updates to admire. Behind the small block, a more contemporary 700R4 4-speed automatic adds two full gears over the original Powerglide. Power is sent down the driveline to an open factory differential with 3.55 gears. The goal was a stock-appearing car so there's no funny business going on with the suspension – just your standard independent front and leaf spring rear with freshened hardware all around. When the roads system a solid aftermarket power steering system makes the best of driver input while a power assisted braking system clamps down on GM-style front disc and rear drums. At the corners, body-matched steel wheels tuck are topped with full covers are wrapped in 225/75R14 Coker Classic white wall radials that continue the mix of old and new so prevalent throughout the rest of the car.
When it comes to interiors, even the best stitch-master would be hard-pressed to create something more attractive than a stock '57 Bel Air interior. The red and black interior in this hardtop is a great reminder of that. Swing open either door to admire beautifully styled door panels with fresh trim, hardware, and added power window switches. Fisher Body door sill plates protect the threshold while fresh black carpets protected by new Chevrolet-branded rubber mats greet your arrival. A pair of bench seats offers spacious accommodations for four, wrapped in the same striking red vinyl as the door panels. Slide into the driver seat for a better look at the controls. If you notice some extra legroom, thank the significantly smaller-than-stock steering wheel which pairs well with the power steering system. Behind the wheel, the stylish Bel Air dash hosts a trio of gauges that measure temperature, speed, and fuel while, to either side, stainless pulls control the accessories. Vents underneath of the dash distribute cooled air from the HVAC system while an AM radio provides entertainment for the ride. The whole cabin is topped by a taut red headliner completed by a dome light and matching red visors. Naturally, the trunk is finished to factory specs with a full-size spare, roadside tools, and a fresh mat.
If you're after a concours restoration topped out with thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of NOS trim, prepare to pay a $30k+ premium and clear space in your trailer for whenever you want to show it off. If you'd rather enjoy 50s styling with double the functionality, cars like this '57 hardtop are the way to go. Its 383 / 700R4 combination is a pleasure to operate and details like air conditioning and power windows will keep the passengers happy too. If you're ready to truly enjoy a tri-five, don't miss the chance to put this Bel Air in your collection today!
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What Customers Are Saying
After hearing good things about the people at RK Motors, I contacted them regarding consignment of my street rod. I found Tony Klein to be a pleasure to work with. He was very professional and forthcoming in our communications. He evaluated my vehicle and made suggestions of enhancements which would help ensure the desired result would be achieved in the marketing of the vehicle. We agreed on an acceptable sale price. Following the completion of the recommended items, I brought the vehicle to RK for consignment. After a thorough inspection and correction of some minor issues at what I considered a fair price, the vehicle was offered for sale. It sold quickly with me receiving the agreed value. I would have to repeat the recommendation that I received. RK Motors does what they say they will do, and obtains for the seller a fair and agreed value. What more could you ask for?Doug C.