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1957 CHEVROLET BEL AIR– Highly Optioned Frame Off Restoration
This example of the desirable Bel Air has spent its entire life in California. The registration reflects “Date Sold” as 1957, supporting that the car was originally registered in California. The car has had a total of 3 owners with the documented history dating back to 1983 when the previous owner of 25 years sold the car to Mr. & Mrs. Brandt. Mrs. Brandt had always dreamed of owning a ’57 and after a long search, a suitable car was located. Mr. Brandt owned a company specializing in Chevelle’s and was not only familiar with the ’57 but also had an excellent network of parts sources for NOS (New Old Stock) components. Shortly after acquiring the car, he rebuilt the engine, transmission, and suspension. Mrs. Brandt drove the car for a year prior to the car going through a comprehensive, high quality “frame-off” restoration. In the subsequent years, the car saw limited use receiving regular cosmetic and mechanical attention to maintain its excellent condition. The car was acquired by the current owner, an avid long-time collector, in 2014. The car was a very solid, rust-free example prior to the restoration and, since being restored, it has not had any damage, retains its original GM body panels, has no partial repainting, and has always been garaged when not in use. What separates this Bel Air from so many other offerings is the extensive, rare equipment options. The reproduction window sticker outlines the features in detail with a summary of upgrades listed below:
- Air conditioning (functional and updated to R32 and recharged 1/22)
- Correct Super Turbofire (“Power-Pack) 283c.i. / 4bbl
- Proper Powerglide transmission
- Power Steering
- Power Brakes
- Power Windows
- Power Seats
- 7.50 x 14” Coker Whitewall tires
- Two-Tone Paint Harbor Blue Metallic (809) / Blue/black interior
- Autronic Eye (automatic high beam)
- Dash Mounted Traffic Light Viewer
- Continental Kit / Spare Tire
- Illuminated Compass
- Electric Windshield Wipers
- Windshield Washer – Vacuum- Foot Operated
- Front Bumper Guards
- Door Edge Guards
- 3rd Horn Note
- Instrument Panel (Dash) Padding
- Back-up Light
- Under-hood Light
- Outside Side View Mirrors (Left & Right)
- Parking Brake Warning Light (Signal)
- Wonder Bar Radio
- Power Antenna
- Speaker (Rear Package Shelf)
- Wheel Covers w/spinners
- Ash Tray Vacuum
- Trunk Trim Molding
- Electric Clock
- Tissue Dispenser
- Locking Gas Cap
- Gasoline Filter
- Emergency Tool Kit
- Gold License Plate Frames
Decoding the Chevy’s numbers reveals the following:
Serial Number: VC57L118013
- V = V8
- C = Bel Air
- 57 = 1957
- L = Los Angeles Assembly Plant
- 118013 = serial number
- Style: 57-10370
- Body No. W3483
- M = Baltimore, MD Fisher body plant
- Trim – 672 Black / Blue
- Paint – 809 – Harbor Blue Metallic
Engine No. F1010FE
- 1010 = built October 10th
- FE = 283 c.i.d. (220hp) with 4 bbl, Powerglide & A/C
The car has been lovingly treated to a comprehensive restoration covering all mechanical components while carefully addressing the detailed trim, extensive chrome, and beautiful script throughout the car. All the hallmarks of an exceptional Bel-Air have been addressed with care and continued preservation since the body-off restoration was completed. In addition to the desirable, and strong 220 hp 283cid 4-barrel carbureted engine and Powerglide transmission the car features a considerable number of optional equipment normally not seen on a ’57 (outlined above). The car remains in original configuration including the engine, transmission, independent coil spring front suspension, and live rear suspension with semi-elliptical leaf springs are all in place and properly configured just as when new. Tags and color coding are present on the engine, interior, and underside components. The engine number supports the car as being a 283c.i. V8 w/ 4bbl mated to a Powerglide transmission and A/C. Additional key component numbers can be viewed in the extensive photos.
The exterior of the car presents extremely well, with the unmatched visual impact of the chrome and tailfins era. The extensive trim and brightwork is difficult to get right during restorations, but this one has been extremely well executed. It has an exceptionally cohesive feel to it that is immediately apparent, even to the most critical eye. The paint is glossy throughout, the chrome and stainless are polished just right, and the anodized gold features are all spot on. The car sits on white wall tires with a perfect stance, enhanced by the wide front grille and accented with iconic the tail fins at the rear. A few very minor indications of mild use are visible, but none detract from an otherwise excellent visual appearance.
The beautifully trimmed black and blue interior offers a lovely contrast to the two-tone exterior. The color combination highlights the design of the interior, including the padded dash and beautifully restored instrument cluster, redesigned for 1957 for more performance appeal in a stunningly detailed sculpted metal design with unique instrument clustering and juke box style. The Motorama design elements are used throughout the interior offering visual delights throughout. The full-sized steering wheel with safely recessed hub is adorned with chrome much like the dash and door panels, gleaming with elements of high-end quality and appeal, as only found on the top-of-the-line Bel-Air.
Under the hood, the engine compartment has been restored with a very high level of attention to detail, displaying correct factory finishes both on the engine and accessory components as well as the firewall, wiring, hoses, and correct hardware as it originally was delivered. The trunk is properly lined with the correct materials, factory jack, and tools. A continental spare tire adorns the rear of the car. The undercarriage shows the thoroughness and thoughtfulness of the restoration is clear, with clean presentation, proper finishes, and very little evidence of use since the restoration.
The car starts easily and reliably with a nice deep V8 rumble from the V8 engine. The Powerglide transmission shifts properly, and the entire driveline is free from noise, or issues. The car is an absolute pleasure to drive, with excellent straight-line performance, and is impressive today and must have been spectacular when the car was new. Once underway, 50’s era cruising delights the driver and passengers as passersby smile, wave, and take photos. Highway driving is smooth and composed, cruising easily in modern traffic. The brakes and suspension work as they should, with good symmetrical operation from the hydraulic brakes.
- Brakes- Stainless steel cylinder inserts/sleeves to alleviate future leaks when sitting. Master cylinder replaced with a NOS unit. All lines replaced, system bled, shoes replaced with softer compound for better stopping.
- Air conditioning- System completely rebuilt. Charged with R12 in Jan 2022. All cables replaced with nylon lined sleeves so they will not rust and bind in future. Baffles in distribution boxes rebuilt with new gaskets.
- Power steering system rebuilt. All lines, gaskets, o-rings replaced.
- Transmission resealed.
- Oil/Filter changed in the last 500 miles
Beautifully restored and heavily optioned, this Bel-Air has all the attributes one might expect from an iconic Chevrolet of this glorious period of American automobile design. Extensively optioned, this Bel-Air has all the glamour and excellence that embodied Americas “can do” attitude, when GM represented more than 75% of total world automotive production and the ultimate Tri-Chevy offering exemplified those ideals for prospering American families.
THE HISTORY OF “TRI-FIVE” CHEVROLET’S
Introduced by General Motors’ Chevrolet division in September of 1956, the all new and top of the line Bel-Air was available in several variants. This allowed for a wide range of configurations, among the most exciting of which was the all-new 283cid small block V8, which, coupled with the fabulously 1950s Motorama influenced styling, has made the 1957 Bel-Air one of the most desirable American cars of the 1950s. The unique and advanced design emerged from a series of Motorama concept car themes spearheaded by Harley Earl. Collaborating with Earl, Ed Cole, chief engineer for Chevrolet, implemented a new dashboard, sealed cowl, relocated air ducts to the headlight pods, and unique tailfins trimmed in aluminum. These and many other safety improvements including padded dash, collapsing steering wheel, and crash proof door locks, increased costs but resulted in a superior car.
To highlight their top-of-the-line appeal, Bel Air models were trimmed with anodized gold finishes on the grille, front fender chevrons, hood, and trunk script. Offered with the potent 283 cu. in. engine and 3-speed manual transmission, the Bel-Air had impressive performance, particularly when optioned with the optional “Power Pack” four-barrel carburetor & dual exhaust that provided nice performance. Chevrolet entered NASCAR and other sanctioned racing, creating not only a style legend but a performance one as well. Indeed, today the last of the immortalized “Tri-Chevy” models beginning in 1955, 1957 Bel-Air has become an icon of American 1950s strength and economic revitalization, immortalized in songs, movies, and fashion not only in the US but throughout the world.