A desirable classic, the Tri-Five-based Bel Air is far from rare. Chevrolet built about 2.2 million of them from 1955 to 1957, and apart from the Nomad wagon (22,897 units), they are quite easy to find. And because there are so many of them out there, the offer is quite diverse. A quick look at the classic car market reveals that you can get Bel Airs in all sorts of forms.
Derelicts cars for parts, survivors for restoration projects, and fully restored examples that could win beauty awards. But it also includes resto-mods and pro tourers, all packed with modern powerplants. And, of course, we cannot forget about nostalgia gassers and dragsters.
As a big fan of the Bel Air, I like all of them. But I find two certain types of builds more appealing than the rest: gassers and sleepers. This 1957 Bel Air is part of the latter category, and it’s as deceiving as they get.
Don’t let the faded turquoise paint and the rust spots on the body panels and the chrome trim fool you. This two-door Bel Air wasn’t found in a junkyard. What you’re looking at is a frame-off restored with a painted patina. I know fake patina isn’t as good as the real deal, but this Bel Air looks amazingly authentic.
And granted, the wheels are way too clean and meaty for such a car, but that’s because the weathered shell hides a modern drivetrain. The original V8 was swapped out for an LS unit of the LY6 variety. Introduced in 2007, this mill powered the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra trucks, as well as the Suburban and Yukon SUVs. The 6.0-liter V8 was retired in 2013.
Rated at 361 horsepower in factory stock form, the LY6 was already more potent than all the V8s available with the Bel Air in 1957, but that wasn’t enough for the owner. The engine got a long list of upgrades and now cranks out more than 430 horsepower, which travels to the rear wheels through a rebuilt four-speed 4L70E transmission.
A frame-off restoration, the coupe also boasts a brand-new suspension and a powder-coated chassis, power disc brakes, and a new electric wiper system. On the other hand, the Bel Air is missing a few things, like the horn, windshield wiper blades, emergency brakes, and air conditioning. So it still needs a bit of work.