Apart For 40 Years: 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air

This classic 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air coupe is listed here on Barn Finds Classified, and the car is in Union, Illinois (45 minutes from Chicago O’Hare). It’s a fascinating project that appears to have been taken apart 40 years ago when it was in quite good condition. The asking price is $15,000.

The Bel Air, a stalled restoration project, was recently pulled out of long-term slumber in a garage. “It was a California car,” the seller says. “This is as far as [the restoration] got. You know how that goes, right?”

Indeed, we know how it goes, having seen this scenario many times. Ambitious plans start with an enthusiastic strip-down, then collide with both lack of time and (in many cases) limited mechanical skills. And so the project sits, with the owner planning to get back to it. They usually don’t. That’s for the new owner.

Given the realities, then, this car is, as the vendor contends, “in amazing shape, all things considered.” It’s a mix of serious challenges and pleasant surprises. The original 283 V-8 is in place, coupled to a Turboglide automatic. The owner claims “very little rust,” but the pictures certainly reveal a fair amount of it is present, though much of it is surface and nothing appears insurmountable.

The original paint still looks shiny—if you want the rat rod look, you could leave your sprayer at home. The seats are mostly intact, too, and the carpet is quite nice. This suggests a low-mileage car, but because the instrument panel is missing and the owner doesn’t reveal all, we don’t know.

The key question here is whether all the missing parts are with the car. The car is minus its hood, front fenders, glass, doors, the aforementioned instruments, the trim, and much more. Fortunately, the excellent photo documentation shows that most or all of it is indeed there, and there may even be duplicates of some parts.

All in all, this is a reasonable restoration project. But is $15,000 a reasonable price? I’m seeing similar restored cars priced between $30,000 and $70,000, depending on condition and special features. If you’re good at putting jigsaw puzzles back together and have the necessary mechanical skills, you could probably get this car back together with a reasonable expenditure of time and money. Then you’d be in a position to know why they took it apart in the first place.

Cars like this are a risk, but this is a very desirable ’57 Chevy, nicely specced, and in an attractive color. It also comes with a nice story to tell. So which direction are you leaning?

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Comments

  1. Joe Haska

    This car fits one of the previous comments from Dirty Harry “Do you feel Lucky ,Punk”.

    Like 4
    • Mike Brown

      A man has got to know his limitations!

  2. flmikey

    Going through the parts pix, I see there is indeed many duplicate parts…I counted 3 radiators, for example…and lots of NOS too…someone with mad skills and patience, along with a large trailer, could really score on this one…if, as Drew Carey says, the price is right….

    Like 4
    • Mike W H

      I always wanted a 1:1 ’57 Chevy model kit

      Like 2
  3. Chris in Pineville

    whoa, Nellie!
    this is a heck of a lot better deal then the $11K rust-bucket convertible featured recently…….

    Like 9
    • Steve

      Top goes down, price goes up.

      Like 4
  4. Tempo Matador Ray

    Hey Jim 👌,
    The bones on this one look to be in good shape. These are basically life size models. Anyone that has ever been in and around one of these Chevrolets, should have no problem sorting things out. With a strong aftermarket surplus of most bits and pieces and the extra parts provided, this is certainly one that deserves a closer look…

    Like 9
  5. don

    Doesn’t seem like a bad price considering what people are paying for the Tri-5s . I really like the color combo on this too – not like all the reds and blacks many of these ended up being.

    Like 2
  6. Little_Cars

    Doesn’t hurt that it comes with spares in triplicate. Especially the NOS stuff. If you don’t plan on using it after doing a complete inventory of needed parts you can sell them off for some quick cash and fill the restoration jar for the future. This does remind me of a 1/1 scale model kit. I did the same with a common car years ago, and was only left with one GLAD bag full of bolts that didn’t find their way onto the finished product!

    Like 6
  7. TRPIV

    When I see a car like this (that’s in relatively good shape) and in the middle of a ‘stalled restoration’ I always wonder why it was taken off the road to restore it?

    It looks to be in sound shape. I didn’t see the complete side trim but it may have been in those cardboard tubes.

    Super neat car. I fear you’d have to reassemble before you dissembled it to properly restore it. Knowing me? I’d reassemble it and just drive it for a bit before selling it on down the road for another project.

    I envy the person who picks it up.

    Like 2
  8. TRPIV

    Actually, I found the trim in the photos! What’s missing is the radiator core support and grill. They may be there someplace.

  9. Blue Alfa

    No title, no thanks.

    Could be stolen.

    Good reason to tear it down to this condition.

    Not to be a nay sayer but with all the parts (some NOS), a missing title is very fishy

    Like 3
    • jerry z

      Agree. Asking $15K for the car and can’t produce a title? Get a duplicate made. Whatever was restored on the car needs to be restored again for sitting that long.

      Like 4
    • jerry z

      Agreed. Selling a car for $15K, at least produce a title or have a duplicate made. Whatever was restored needs restoring again for sitting that long.

      Like 1
  10. Retiredstig

    The factory assembly manuals have been reprinted and can be purchased easily. If you haven’t seen one, they are really impressive and extremely helpful when working on any of the 55-57 models. These cars are about as simple as they come.
    Just me, but something about seeing a flipper too lazy to take the car off the trailer, and in this case move it away from a sign for the auction where he just bought it always makes me say “no thanks”.

    Like 4
  11. JGeezer Member

    Why “coupe”? It’s a two door hardtop. Coupe – to me, anyway – has meant pillar cars.

    Like 2
  12. TimM

    There isn’t much body work so if your good at jigsaw puzzles go for it!! But how many puzzles have you done with one key piece missing????

    Like 1
  13. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    Better than the Nomad for twice the money listed earlier this week. I really would like to buy this and start the process of putting it back together. Trouble is by the time I could finish it I’ll be ancient of days if still alive. No title doesn’t bother me, because by the time the project would need a title the car will be out of any system, plus once a insurance company pays off on stolen cars they no longer have an interest and will usually surrender the title to the new owner. This has happened on more than one occasion. For instance a stolen Jeep found by an ex coworker in a pond in the Florida Everglades. He winched the car from the water, got all the identifying numbers and with a internet search found the insurance company, took pictures, sent them to the company asking for the title. They had no interest in retrieving the car and sent him the title. He stripped the car cleaned and replaced needed parts and drove the car a couple years before selling it for a nice profit.
    God bless America

  14. Bernie H.

    One would have a tough time getting a title in Michigan now, it might have to go thru a Sheriffs sale, and then be issued a Michigan State ID VIN number. Posting a BOND is another possibility here, Seems like the rules change often.

  15. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    40 years ago and a lot since is what people have done is take a nice driver original car apart……..and it’s never put back together. It has happened to much !

  16. Johnny

    Now they have a federal orginization that can trace a car down. Being its from California and ends up near Chicago. Could point toward a chop shop car. I,d definitely run the vin numbers before I would lay any money down. Theirs something odd about it. Though I would like the challenge–I wouldn,t take the risk. The saler would have to be the owner and show proof of ownership and be able to answer questions WITHOUT any reason. It does look good,but sounds too good. Getting caught with stolen property–the law doesn,t want to believe anyone. Until they check out everything. If it is stolenand you buy it and get caught with it.The law does confisicate it and you have to proof you innoncence and your out of your money.Use caution.

    Like 1
  17. Dave

    It sure is a big reassembly project, but might be an enjoyable retirement project for me. No title is absolutely no problem in Connecticut, all they want for a car 20 years old and older is a bill of sale.

  18. Ed Jennings

    Cars registered in Alabama prior to 1975 did not have titles. If it’s a 1974 or earlier they still don’t get titles.

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