1957 Chevrolet Bel Air
Fresh Chevy from Bel AirText and Photos: Reinis Babrovskis
I love the American classics, even if it is hard to explain why. One doesn’t buy a Mustang or Charger for their handling capabilities, or for the speed – we all agree on that. If a car enthusiast looked for a great driving experience they might consider a Lotus Elise; if it’d be comfort they desired, they’d go for a Mercedes Benz, but American cars, what good are they?!
Well, it might sound ridiculous, but I’d say American cars have that special aura, call it a “soul” if you wish. Do you believe cars have souls? Do they have their story? Well, John Carpenter did when he shot the movie “Christine” and so did H.B. Halicki with the “Gone in 60”. Call me mad, but I do believe there certainly is a connection between the car and the owner… not if you drive a Ford Ka or Fiat Multipla Fe that is.
If one has never experienced the thrill of a classic car, it will be hard to understand what I’m describing here. It is easy to jump into a brand new Focus RS or BMW M3 and go for a blast, but seriously, get in a classic Mustang and take it for a drive. Spend a day with an American classic and suddenly you’ll realise all the classic values are not applicable anymore. The speed, the cornering capabilities or the 0-60 times are worthless. It is the smell of the leather seats, the noise of the glamorous v8, the road and the drive – that’s what matters.
It seems Mike would agree with me; why else he’d have a garage full of beautiful American cars (apart from the fact he also owns the Star Car Hire car rental company). So when Mike rang me and asked to do a shoot of the recently purchased Bel Air, I was overwhelmed and happy to be able to capture another classic American icon.
The American beauty - Chevrolet Bel Air was produced by the General Motors between 1950-1981. The model was so popular people it survived for eight generations, when it got finally replaced by the Chevrolet Impala. Mike’s 1957 second generation model is a four door hardtop; however, the Bel Air also was offered in the two door hardtop or convertible specifications. The distinctive body design of the Bel Air, described as a convertible with a non-detachable roof, soon became the fashion trend of the 1950s earning its place in the most popular American classic list.
We were blessed with a California-like weather on the day of the shoot giving us a nearly perfect setting to make the car look at home.
After a beautiful drive on the coast and some stops it was all going perfect, until our photoshoot was destined for a bit of “Christine” drama. The car left us stranded in the middle of the nowhere following some fuel issues at pitch black with no phone signal. Luckily we got rescued in the end and I was able to return for the second part of the shoot; it was only fair that I settled for a more dramatic setting this time, replicating the classic horror movie theme.
Mike’s Bel Air left the factory in 1957 during the last year of production of the second generation model, 1955-1957 years also were known better as the famous Tri-Chevy period. Finished in the best colour available it looks truly magnificent with the upgrades it has received over the years! The traditional front bumper was replaced in favour of the very rare California spec one piece front bumper while the rear was re-chromed for a fresher look. Any excess parts were shaved to give it the smoother body lines.
Mike’s Bel Air has heavy duty front coil springs and heavy duty 5 leaf rear springs, whilst the beautiful American Racing Torq Thrust D wheels are dressed in the BF Goodrich tires.
The heart of the car is the 265cu V8 upgraded with the Edelbrock aluminum intake and 4 barrel carburettor with an electric choke. To help with the audio a custom aluminized dual exhaust system with chrome “pencil tip” exhaust tips has been installed.
The interior of the car is as magnificent as it the exterior. The Bel Air has been treated to a full white marine vinyl upgrade that has been matched with white door armrests and contrasting black Bel Air carpets. The stainless retro details go well along the beautiful modern Autometer gauges. In the front a custom centre console with drink holders has been installed. The standard radio and clock is still present but no longer in use as a more modern Sony CD player and set of speakers and amp has been installed.
With the futuristic design and charisma Bel Air is certainly another American classic that will entertain anybody that gets a drive in one. If you want to have the chance of being in one contact Mike and Star Car Hire (www.starcarhire.co.uk).
1957 Chevy Belair 4door hardtop
California spec one piece front bumper
Re-chromed rear bumper
Third brake light integrated on licence plate frame
New front and rear floors
New trunk floor
Replaced trunk, new trunk lid insulation
Licence plate mount shaved
Rear handles shaved
Antenna hole shaved from right front fender
Aluminium quarter panel inserts with Bel Air logo
American Racing Torq Thrust D wheels
BF Goodrich TA Tires
Suspension / Brakes
Heavy Duty front coil springs
Heavy duty 5 leaf rear springs
Rear spring hangers
Fat Man Fabrications upper tubular A-arms
Aftermarket front Sway Bar
Dropped front spindles
Aftermarket rack and pinion power steering with shortened steering arms
Tie Rod ends
Rear Shock mount crossmember
Master Power front disk brake kit
Summit vaccum canister
350 Chevy Automatic Transmission with a new shift kit
Chevy 10 bolt rear
Auburn limited slip differential
CCI shift linkage
CCI transmission cross mount
Mechanical trans kick-down
CCI hard line fuel feed to the fuel pump
1977 Corvette 350 2-bolt engine Engine Block
Edelbrock aluminium intake
Holley fuel pump with pressure regulator
Braided fuel lines
Edelbrock 4 barrel carb with electric choke
Jet-Hot coated Hooker headers
Weiland Water Pump
Weiland Radiator Hoses
Griffon aluminium radiator
Mallory coil & plug wires
Chevy chrome air cleaner and valve covers
Chrome Powermaster single wire alternator
Custom aluminized dual exhaust system
Chrome “pencil tip” exhaust tips
Custom white marine vinyl
Custom red under steering column cover
Stainless interior door trim
White door armrests
Chrome door and window crank handles
Moon steering wheel
Oil idiot light converted to high beam indicator
Custom centre console with drink holders
Chevy radio delete cover
Aluminium dash trim (from the convertible model)
Chrome visor pivots
Black Bel Air carpet
Firewall pad connectors
Dynamat and insulation padding
Sony CD Player
Alpine rear 6X9 speakers