Cool Custom: 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Shorty

We’ve seen a few shorty conversions over the years here at Barn Finds, and owners have “taken the ax” to a wide variety of vehicles in a bid to create something unique. The results have varied enormously, with some being more successful than others. This 1957 Bel Air Shorty looks to be a good one, and it is ready to be driven and enjoyed by a new owner. Located in Great Falls, Montana, you will find the Bel Air listed for sale here on Craigslist. It could be parked in your garage for a mere $15,000. I have to say thank you to Barn Finder rex m for referring this beauty to us.

One of the most significant battles that an owner can face when wandering down the “shorty” path is getting a good fit with the panels. We’ve seen some conversions in the past that could best be described as pretty awful. The person who performed this custom build deserves a pat on the back. When you check the panel gaps, especially the critical ones around the doors, they are incredibly tight and consistent. That suggests that this person knew what they were doing and that the work has been completed to a high standard. Choosing to finish a project like this in Black is also brave. It is the one color virtually guaranteed to show any ripples, imperfections, or bad joins. In this case, it is hard to find anything of which to be critical. The paint shines beautifully, with not a ripple or issue to be seen. The owner doesn’t mention rust problems, and there is nothing visible in the supplied photos. The chrome and trim provide a striking contrast to the black paint, while the wheels fit the character of this custom perfectly. The only real flaw that I can see in this design is that there is no facility to fit a convertible top. It would be possible to have a bespoke one made, although I suspect that the reality is that this Bel Air is going to be a “fair-weather friend.”

One of the problems associated with a convertible with no top is that it is impossible to hide a shabby interior. That isn’t an issue here, because this interior presents superbly. I can’t see a single problem with the upholstery, while the dash looks perfect. The painted surfaces shine nicely, and the metal trim appears to be flawless. The owner doesn’t supply any engine photos, but the drivetrain combination does promise an entertaining motoring experience. Under the hood is a built 350ci V8, and this is backed by a 3-speed Muncie manual transmission. In a regular ’57 Bel Air, this would provide impressive performance. The fact that this one would be several hundred pounds lighter than a standard Bel Air should make it really get up and move. Care would need to be taken on twisting roads because short wheelbase cars with plenty of power can be pretty lively in the turns. The last thing that you would want would be for it to get away from you so that you finished-up looking back at where you just came from!

Performing a Shorty conversion is not for the faint-hearted, and there is so much that can go wrong. It takes patience and an eye for detail to produce a result that stands out for the right reasons. The person who performed the work on this one appears to have gotten it right, and this is now a real head-turner. With the world being such a serious place, now could be the right time to park this Bel Air in your driveway. After all, I’m sure that it would put a smile on your face. That can never be a bad thing.


  1. Bud Lee

    The owner smartly didn’t include any photos directly at the side . That’s where the looks of these fail . It looks great from these angles . and looks like they did a good job on the customization .

    Like 11
    • Ronald Chavis

      I’ll take it today where can I go get it call me 9102061134

      Like 0
      • NW Iowa Kevin

        What? BF isn’t selling it! Click on the red highlighted Craigslist link. And, get of your damn phone. Use a bonafide computer, cell phones and internet access together are a step backwards.

        Like 2
    • Ian C

      I submitted another one as a tip last week. It is a ’55 that when it was shortened, the builder looks to have taken into account the side profile.

      Check it out:

      Like 1
      • Richardd Adams

        Now your suggested vehicle is worth viewing Ian !
        I actually would consider it, partially because I like the 55s and secondly the profile is actually attractive.

        This black one featured here on BF? No comment.

        Like 2
  2. Dan

    It is priced less than half off what a non-modified car would be. Thats a good indication that making a shorty out of just about anything is not a good idea. If someone had a good body and needed these parts then this would be a good way of getting them.

    Like 3
  3. Neil G.

    Why in the world would anyone chop 57 Chevy Convertible? He not only chopped the car in half but chopped the value by 90%.

    Like 12
    • BK13

      It’s probably a 4 door that was chopped down and de-roofed. No sane person would do that to a convertible

      Like 11
  4. rextreme Member

    So much fun for 15k!

    Like 1
  5. Ralph

    Why? What is wrong with this? EVERYTHING!
    Stupid is as stupid does…
    God help us.
    Tree fiddy for this Loch Ness monster.

    Like 1
  6. BK13

    It’s probably a 4 door that was chopped down and de-roofed

    Like 2
  7. Martin Horrocks

    Why do people do this? So much work and have never seen one that looked ok.

    Like 2
  8. V8roller

    If it were in the UK, I would say he did it to fit in the garage. The standard garage here is 16ft which is a problem with most American cars.

    Yes, it would be interesting to see this side-on. Often the combination of front/rear overhang and short wheelbase just doesn’t work.

    A new top and frame for this would probably be <$5,000 over here. And with our weather, it would be needed.

    Like 3
  9. TinCanSailor

    A buddy of mine had one of these in the early 80s. It was a shorty 56. He cut the front and back doors in half and reskinned them. I would have thought you would just cut out the back door. His car was primer red… he never got around to putting the finishing touches on it as this car has.

    His car had a 396, 4-speed, and a 12 bolt rear with 4.56 gears. The car would pull the wheels with ease while just cruising around town – and I don’t mean pulling them just a few inches!

    He eventually had to put wheelie bars on it to keep it more or less on the ground. And when it got up to highway speeds and beyond, it was downright scary… Good memories!

    Like 2
  10. deak E Stevens Member

    Why would you ruin a beautiful car by doing this,makes no it to a piece of junk if you have to do it.

    Like 0
  11. V8roller

    Yes, that 55 on CL looks really good… leaving aside the modern seats. I wonder if he shortened the rear overhang to keep the proportions.
    If I’d done all that work, I wouldn’t be selling it.

    Shame it’s a left hooker. Swapping it over would be another $17k by the time I pay someone. Too many sweeties. Should be content with what I have.

    Like 0
  12. bobhess bobhess Member

    Lower the ’55 a bit and put smaller tires on the rear and you minimize the “shorty” look to come up with a pretty balanced look. No way to do that with the ’57. Sure don’t want to put a shopping day full of groceries in the ’57.

    Like 0

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