Barn Fresh 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air!

Now here’s a good, honest project car, a 1956 Chevy Bel Air two-door post sedan that’s been sitting for ages in a barn in New Canaan, Connecticut. The two-owner car, with just 38,000 miles, is for sale here on Craigslist for $7,500. The story goes that the first owner sold the car to the second in 1957, with just 300 miles on the clock. It became a member of that second owner’s family during a sojourn in New Jersey but was put into storage there sometime in the late 1960s. When the family moved to New Canaan, into a house with a barn, the Bel Air came along and went into another long hibernation (as the barn was converted into a garage). “It was a project that never gathered enough steam to make it back onto the road,” the seller says. “The car was repainted long ago, probably in the late 1970s, but that paint is now cracking.” And peeling, too.

The ad makes the car sound nicer than it actually is, but the owner does attest that the “body and frame are all straight and original.” There is copious amounts of surface rust on the undercarriage, and tin worm around the rocker panels, the tops of the rear fenders, and lower parts of the doors. Some parts are missing (or in the trunk), including the rear window and driver’s side rear glass, one front turn signal, pieces of trim. The windshield is badly cracked, and I think the driver’s glass is too. What we can see of the interior (not much) is a mess, too, with stuffing spilling out of the bench seat.

This is a low-spec Bel Air, and the original six-cylinder engine is backed by an automatic transmission. The engine (minus the air cleaner) is all there (even the Exide battery!), but hasn’t run in decades.

The saving grace of this car is that it was stored inside all this time, and there’s no evidence it was ever hit. Most of the panels, including the bumpers, could be reused. A good cleaning might even get it looking shiny again. And just about anything you might need for this car is readily available.

It seems likely that somebody will snap this up and turn it into a street rod, leave the body alone for a rat rod, or maybe even go full restomod with Wilwood brakes, modern air conditioning, and a 700-horsepower V-8 under the hood. It would look rad, no doubt. I can’t see much incentive in trying to keep it original. What would you do to this survivor Bel Air?


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  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    Still my favorite of the Tri Fives. Like your last comments Jim. Modern running gear and body repair and paint would turn this one into a gem of a street machine.

    Like 5
  2. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Snow tires. 30 some thousand miles and 10 years of living in New Jersey. Be nice to see a photo from the rear. Back bumper looks caved in to some degree, also you can see the right side end of the bumper is pushed up in the front. The windshield break looks like its from a head wound, maybe rear ended? Just a thought. Restomod gets my vote also. I could never do $7500 for this.

    Like 3
    • Jeremy

      is that where this car is new jersey?

  3. Steve R

    The amount of pitting on the steering wheel and dash suggested it was exposed to high levels of humidity and moisture.

    It’s too rough for most builders of high end resto-mod builders to consider. Those tend to be expensive, it’s less expensive in the long run to start with a nicer car. This is the sort of car where the eventual buyer will likely be doing a budget build, they won’t be able to see past a relatively low entry price. I think everyone has made the mistake of putting too much emphasis on initial purchase price without factoring the amount of time and associated costs that would be saved by starting with a better car.

    Steve R

    Like 7
  4. Bob S

    This is my favourite year of the tri-fives, and the fact that it is a 2 dr post, makes it a good candidate for a high performance street machine. Most of the running gear would get swapped out anyway.
    I have owned a few 235 powered cars from that era, and it would be an enjoyable driver, even with the original powertrain.
    I would believe 138,000 miles, but it wouldn’t matter as much to someone that is going to make a driver.
    I would be surprised if it fetches the asking price.

    Like 2
    • David Ulrey

      I probably would prefer a V8 transplant for a stock new crate engine but like you mentioned, I think I could live with that 235 if it was sound and solid. 56 has always been my favorite. Maybe because it’s got the same basic classic style but it’s the underdog of the 3 years?

      Like 1
  5. Classic Steel

    I agree as it’s a possible low price but its a rusty car with much work to do. The front windshield is broken and the left front tail light is missing along with No Rear Windshield as in the rear pix on Craigslist you see the chrome windshield trim gone and the
    rotted headliner with bad seats due to elements.

    The underneath frame shows much pitting from sweating and even though low mileage its in bad shape and requires frame separation.

    The engine is probably a boat anchor and frozen and would would sell off what i could (maybe the head and other pieces and drop a V8 crate with trans and swap rear end with the six cylinder gears.

    As others have said when your done you could of bought a better mint running finished 56 With probably ten grand in your pocket

    Like 2
    • GP Member

      Classic Steel, I always read and enjoy your comments. Not to be a butt head, but I have to ask what is a ” left front tail light”. I make mistakes everyday, just haven a little fun. GP

  6. Ken Carney

    I’ll bet if you offered him $3K for it, he’d
    probably help you load it on your trailer
    too. Sure, it’s gonna need a lot of work
    but I see some potential here. Since I’m
    old school, I’d be building with what I had
    available to me. I see it running a GM 3800 V-6 and a 700R4 tranny mated to
    the stock ’56 rearend. Both the engine and tranny are still plentiful and the prices for these are still fairly cheap.
    Add a dual circuit master cylinder and
    disc brakes up front to increase your
    stopping power by 50 to 60%. Here again,
    these parts are still cheap enough to do
    what you need to do without breaking the
    bank. The only real expense I see is
    replacing all that damaged glass, repairing the rust, and getting a new
    interior. The best thing is that you can
    stretch your build time out over several
    years to allow you to keep peace with your wife and put your kids through college. That’s how we built “em in the
    ’70’s. Just sayin’….

    Like 3
  7. Bob C.

    Windshield and back glass would have to be sourced. Side windows can be cut.

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