1956 Bel Air
Write up by the owner: Doug Clements
“The 1957 Chevy is by far the most popular of the Tri-Fives (1955-57 Chevys) and is without question the most iconic production car of the 1950s, if not all time. But for many years I’ve wanted another all-black 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air Two-Door Sport Coupe just like the one I had when I was a kid. When I stumbled across an ad for one on Craig’s List in July, 2014 I mentioned it to Marilyn and she encouraged me to buy it. This one was black and white, but it would need repainting anyway, so I ended up buying it. The car was in North Carolina, and had to be shipped to California.
Upon arrival, it was obviously not in pristine condition like the seller implied, but I was committed so I plowed ahead. It didn’t come home from the shop until October 31, 2015 but I started a photo album when I took delivery to show the progression from start to finish – although a car like this is never really finished. Everything is new and restored to original factory specifications inside and out, and it even has original California 1956 series license plates. However, it is what Jay Leno calls a “Restomod” (meaning original in appearance, but with modern mechanical components). In mine the entire drivetrain is modern (Chevy 383ci engine, GM Turbo Hydramatic 700R4 Level 2 transmission, Currie Ford Explorer 9″ Positraction rear end, 4-wheel disc brakes, Hedman headers, stainless steel true dual exhaust system with Magnaflow mufflers (exempt from smog equipment requirements), Ridetech RQ shock absorbers, aluminum radiator with stainless steel quad core, new power steering and brake units, modern air conditioning unit, etcetera).
The exterior is completely restored to stock, right down to the wheel covers. My first one had narrow whitewalls, which were very popular in the late 1950s, so this one does too. The interior is restored to stock except for modern instruments, a replica radio that looks original but has AM-FM stereo and Bluetooth (to “pair” with my cell phone so I can stream 50s music and have hands-free cell phone use), and a replica quartz clock. The modern air conditioning unit is not visible except for the small supply vents under the dash, similar to the original optional system. The A/C controls are in a plate that replicates the original plate for the heater and temperature controls. Although my first ’56 didn’t have seat belts, they actually were an option, but Popular Mechanics reported only 7.4% of owners in a survey ordered seat belts. In deference to common sense, even though mine is exempt from the seat belt requirement, I installed four sets of seat belts that replicate the original optional seat belts.
It was common practice to name our cars in the 1950s and many of us even had the name of our car painted in small, artistic script on each side just ahead of the rear quarter panel. My first one was named Black Beauty, so this one is also Black Beauty. I didn’t have the name painted on my first one, so I won’t have it on this one either. Although this one is very pretty, it is not a show car. It is a fun car, just like my first one. Show cars are for others to enjoy. This one is for me to enjoy.
I can’t say enough about the superb work at Hot Rods and Custom Stuff in restoring Black Beauty. “