The ’57 Chevy Bel Air - Modified Restoration or True Restomod

June 20, 2014

The ‘57 Chevy Bel Air - A Classic Car Icon

When it comes to classic cars, one of the most iconic is the ‘57 Chevy. From its shiny chrome front end to its distinctive pointed tail fins, the ’57 Chevy holds a unique position in automotive history.  For the 1957 model year, Chevrolet’s plan was to introduce a dramatic new look to replace the “shoebox” style of their ’55 and ’56 models. Production delays made it impossible to get a completely new design ready in time, so the “shoebox” model was revamped with changes that resulted in the most incredibly creative automotive make-over ever achieved.

Three models were available, the 150, 210 and Bel Air, but it was the upscale Bel Air that attracted the most attention. A chrome-encased front end, chrome-capped tailfins with ribbed aluminum side panels, and smaller 14 inch rims, gave the ’57 Bel Air a distinctive low, wide stance. It was the lighter front end and bigger engine bay, however, that opened up a whole spectrum of modification options allowing the versatile Bel Air to span the gap from flashy road car to drag and NASCAR racing domination.  

Fortunately, restored and/or replacement parts for the ’57 Bel Air are still readily available today. The hardest part of a restoration/restomod project is the decision of how much to change.

'57 Chevy Bel Air - Change A Little or Change A Lot

At the time of production, a number of upgrade options for the ’57 Chevy were offered. If you would like to keep your ’57 Bel Air authentic, but still give it a performance boost and some modern amenities, opt for modified restoration. With this option, the visible parts of the car, are restored using original colors, fabrics, and trim. Some creative modernization is then applied to the non-visible components using original upgrades. As with all restorations, ensure structural integrity first. Remove the body from the frame and make any necessary chassis and body repairs/replacements. Safety features like a padded dashboard, a recessed hub steering wheel, seat belts and shoulder harnesses were standard on the ’57 Bel Air, so be sure to include them in the interior restoration. For comfort and convenience, original upgrade options include air-conditioning, power brakes and power steering, power windows and power seats, and a signal-seeking radio with a power antenna. Under the hood, the base engine was an in-line 6 with a single 1-barrel carburetor.  Original upgrades include a small block V-8 265  and two 283’s, a 2-barrel carburetor 185 hp and a 4-barrel carburetor 220 hp. A 4-speed upgrade to the standard 3-speed manual transmission was also available and can be installed as part of the modification. Add the optional fuel-injection, a “Duntov” cam, and solid lifters and the 283 will actually crank out 283 hp. These changes will add comfort and power to your classic ’57 Chevy without sacrificing authenticity.

If what you crave is the “souped-up” look and feel of a hot rod, the ’57 Chevy Bel Air is the perfect candidate for restomod. As in restoration, structural integrity is essential, so structural inspection is the place to start. From there, options are virtually unlimited. Items like a hand-built tube chassis, high performance front and rear Corvette suspension, and heavy duty shocks and springs add stability. The bigger engine bay of the ’57 Bel Air makes it possible to drop in a big block engine, like the versatile 327, popular 409 and 427, or the mammoth 632, with little or no modification. Jack-up the horsepower with dual quad carburetion. Increase air flow with a covered hood scoop. Install disc brakes and a custom dual exhaust system. Re-style the interior with custom two-tone cloth bench seats or distinctive rolled and pleated leather buckets. Install a coordinating padded leather dash and side panels and a custom racing-style steering wheel and gauges. Top it all off with a flashy, custom paint job, complete with flames, spinner wheel covers, and white stripe tires and you’ve got a one-of-a-kind classic car that will turn heads on the street and draw crowds at cruise-ins.

Restomod – Classic '57 Chevy Bel Air Beauty with Modern Day Amenities

Whether you decide on modified restoration using originally available upgrades or the complete individuality of true restomod, nothing is as important as careful attention to detail. Even the most expensive replacement parts are nothing but junk if they are incompatible with other components of your project or are poorly fitted or damaged in installation. A make-do mentality can quickly cause financial disaster in the precision driven world of classic car restoration or restomod. Careful research and precise installation may take a little longer, but both will pay off in the end, as piece by piece, you bring your classic car back to life.

If you lack the expertise or equipment to complete the job, give Tx Classic Cars a call. We have been restoring classic cars for over 25 years. At Tx Classic Cars, classic car restoration is not just our job, it’s our passion.

Our goal is to put you in your dream car. Contact us today for more information.

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