A COPO Bel Air? 1956 Chevrolet Post Sedan

We’ve all heard of the COPO Camaros, but how about a COPO Bel Air? This 1956 Chevy was apparently special ordered with a Corvette 265 V8 and was rated at 225 horsepower! The seller states that it’s a 245 horsepower engine, but the Central Office order form shows the engine is an RPO 469 which is the 225 horsepower dual quad engine. As a matter of fact, I’m not sure where they are getting 245 from, Duntov Cam equipped Corvettes were rated at 240 horse. We can get into that more later though, but first take a look at the ad here on eBay in Kerrville, Texas with a current bid of $50,050 and reserve not met.

It looks like the seller has quite a few documents that go along with the car, but they aren’t legible in their photos. Perhaps there is something there that explains the seller’s stated horsepower? They provide decent images of the sales invoice and the letter from the General Sales Manager of GM for the request to get the motor for the car. If you take a closer look at this letter, you see the engine’s RPO number, the car’s VIN, that the engine was shipped to the dealer for installation and that it would be covered with a full factory warranty. If you wanted to have the fastest Bel Air in town, but still have a full warranty, this was the way to go!

Here’s the dual quad 265 V8 that was originally destined for a Corvette. This car had to have felt like a rocket ship with so much power under the hood. Journalists of the day claimed a similarly RPO 469 equipped Bel Air was capable of reaching 60 in 8.9 seconds. That might not sound terribly quick by today’s standards, but in 1956, that was impressive for a sedan capable of hauling the whole family!

When the seller states that this car was given a no expense spared restoration, they mean it. Someone spent a lot of time and money making sure this car is perfect. It’s so nice it’s almost to the point of being overly restored. I’m not a huge fan of the color combo, but it is definitely eye catching.

I sure wish the seller would have provided more of the car’s history. It would be fun to know who owned it, it had to have taken a certain kind of driver to want a Corvette engined two tone green Bel Air! I’d also love to know where they got the 245 horsepower number from, but perhaps they will see this post and let us know more of the story!

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Comments

  1. Andrew Tanner Member

    Somebody knew what they wanted and ordered it! The color combo wouldn’t have been my first choice, but I’d be a liar if I said it didn’t look great on this car.

  2. stillrunners lawrence Member

    There’s a letter….must be true…..

    • Wm. Michael

      There was no Sunset Chev. until much later.It was Altman Chev. on Central Av. till 1965 then moving to Bay Rd. and still called Altman Chev. I worked there from 1958 till 1968, therefore the letter must be fake.

      • rdc

        Wow. If this letter is a fake, then every claim about the car should be questioned. I know you have personal knowledge but this information could be found fairly easily these days.

      • Mountainwoodie

        well……..now this is interesting . In our present political climate of a fact free president a reader claims that the letter has to be fake because the dealership wasnt called that at the time………velly interesting…………maybe someone else can weigh in, as it seems absurd to gin up a letter for such a car. Seems unlikely that someone would decide to put a Vette engine in a post sedan just to fake it. Makes no sense.

      • mario

        I agree the letter must be a fake. Altman Chevrolet was the only Chevy dealer in Sarasota from 1948 to 1979. It then became Sunset Chevrolet and remains that today.

      • Dickie F.

        The letter just reads perfectly – except – “Respondsible” not responsible.

        Processed “no later than” I have only seen used in lieu of processed “by” when an error is being promised to be rectified… just saying.

  3. Gunner

    Wow. One of the finest ’56 Belair’s I have ever seen. I am not a big fan of the exterior color, but I could live with it no problem. Never knew you could special order an entire engine back then. Man, that engine shot is sweet! I too, would have liked to hear the story behind the sale of this special car when new. I knew you could get a Dealer installed Dual-Quad setup in ’57 for the 283, but was this done in ’56 for the standard 265, or was this one if the reasons for this special order?

  4. R.hernandez

    That interior would be sweet to someone who is a Pittsburgh Steelers fan or piguans and or pirates…just sayin.

  5. Ron Bunting

    I need money…anyone want a kydney? <3

  6. Rex

    245 was 1957 dual quad hydraulic lifter—270 HP with solid lifted and dual quads

  7. DRV

    The digital colors are a little off. In person they are much cooler….

    • ACZ

      Mustard and custard

  8. Bobby Member

    I’ve seen a lot of tri-fives but never before saw one with a remote operated side view mirror. Never knew that option existed. I like the colors. Kudos to whoever made the decision to go back bone stock and original with this one. Stunning.

  9. Jay M

    And here I always thought COPO meant a special factory order with option(s) not available via a regular dealer order.
    This seems like an overly complicated dealer installed option after the fact.
    Interesting if true, but a COPO Corvette motor installed on the assembly line would be more valuable I think.
    So, this car has 2 VIN correct engines?

    • gbvette62

      No, there was no VIN stamp on any engine in 56.

      GM first started VIN stamping Corvettes engines during the 60 model year, and all GM engines in 68. Between 60 and 68, high horse engines (409’s, 396’s, L-79 327’s, etc) installed in full size Chevys, Novas and Chevelles, usually got a VIN stamp, but not always. 6 cylinders, 283’s and most 327’s, never got a VIN stamp when installed in regular Chevrolets. This changed in 68, when Federal law mandated engine VIN stamps on all engines.

      • John Newell

        That can’t be right because AMC never stamped any VINs on their motors. AMCs had an aluminum tag on the right front of the valve cover on all V8s and that number was the engine number but it didn’t specify which car it went in. And it was held in place by a special phillips head screw that occurred nowhere else on the car but of course the tag was easily swapped.

  10. Alan Brase

    Pretty cool. There were 2 -2×4 Corvette engines. 225 and 245hp. I do not know the difference, but I thought the 245 came out later in the year, maybe. Perhaps referred to as “Duntov”, but I kinda think it is not the same cam 0997, as used in 1957-63 HP engines, 270, 283, 290, 315. 340 and 360 hp. That was a solid lifter cam that had a bit more duration and could run 7000 rpm . I fitted one once to a 283. I know at redline it would pull the clutch pedal to the floor when you went to shift. That why all the Corvettes were equipped with Borg and Beck coil spring style pressure plates. Sweet car. Serious money. A street version of that would be a lot of fun to pretend to be a teenager again. I actually got out of a ticket once, telling the officer: “temporary insanity.” He laughed.

    • Andre

      The difference between the 225 and the 240hp 265ci was the cam. 1957 the 283 began.

  11. John VanPelt

    It pulled the clutch to floor because of the motor mounts

  12. jdjonesdr

    If the documentation is to be believed, that would make this one rare vehicle. It’s doubtful, (but not impossible) another exists.

  13. 68 custom

    They way I read the letter it states that the engine was modified by the dealer to include the parts that make it the equivalent to a RPO-469 265 engine which was a 225 horse power engine. this car is all over the internet, just search RPO-469 chevy.

    • Alan Brase

      68 custom, I don’t think that is what it says. It says the dealer will be credited back for the original engine FOB Flint Plant. IOW the dealer had to send back freight the original engine to get back the $172 credit. Further the Dealer was responsible for the freight of the new engine to the dealership. You are correct in believing that it was to be dealer installed. but it was the WHOLE engine they were switching out. Wow. I wonder how much the complete RPO-469 setup was?

  14. Bob Hess

    Talking colors, remember that the mid ’50s were the era of 3 color exteriors and interiors. Saw a pink, white and black ’55 Buick Roadmaster with matching interior once. This car’s mild compared to most of the cars then. Nice car.

  15. whmracer99

    Weird combo of options — big buck motor and fully loaded but with heater delete?

    • Steve

      Power steering with that engine I understand – even though the turns from lock-to-lock were no different than standard steering. But no power brakes? That was the start of the era where the ability to control what the engine could dish-out was woefully inadequate. I grew up in San Francisco, parallel parking on very steep streets. Between gravity, brake fade, and automatic transmissions, you couldn’t sell a car in the city by 1960 without all the power assists.

    • Cy Galley

      A lot of Florida Cars had Heater delete. One of my fellow students from Florida at Northwestern Had a similar Chevy without a heater. Froze us on the way to get Beer from Chicago.

    • ACZ

      Heater was an option.

  16. 86 Vette Convertible

    That color would not have been my first choice but I sure wouldn’t pass it up just for that. Too bad it looks like they selected a powerglide for it but even that can be forgiven.

  17. rdc

    Very interesting car.

  18. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Looking at the window sticker, the radio is a $105 dollar option and those beautiful wire wheels are only $39.50. Wow! And I see no mention of the RPO 469 on the window sticker. The biggest option on the car and it is not listed on the sticker? I gotta agree with Gunner, that engine shot is sweet!

    • ACZ

      The engine would not be on the window sticker. It was Dealer installed.
      RPO is Regular Production Option. COPO is Central Office Production Option.
      This is neither. The engine, according to the letter, was obtained as a “part”. The original engine was returned to the Flint Engine Plant. Therefore, a Dealer Installed Option.

      • leiniedude leiniedude Member

        Hello ACZ, I know about the RPO and COPO cars. What confuses me with all the documentation is the price of the motor is not on any documentation. I am well aware of Dealer installed options also. I would think the price would be somewhere on a document. Being only one year old at the time not sure how everything shook out. The sticker does show a price of $2812 total with no mention of the upgraded engine. I always liked a good mystery! Take care, Mike.

  19. Andre

    I love the colour. Nice change to the sea of blue/red/black tri-fives

  20. Dolphin Member

    I definitely would want to drive this car before buying either the car or the idea that it makes big HP.

    I remember driving a friend’s ’57 Chevy 2-door with triple Strombergs on a 265 CI V8 with the 3-speed std. transmission back in the day, and it ran out of breath and revs very quickly. And this car has an auto transmission, probably the 2-speed Powerglide that Chevy used back then. Definitely drive it before you buy with this one.

    And you have to wonder why someone would special order a Corvette V8 with dual quads in a sedan with the 2-speed Powerglide.

    LOTS and LOTS of hard sell going on in this listing.
    This screams BUYER BEWARE to me.

    • Andre

      Cast iron powerglide to boot. Eat your wheaties before attempting trans work.

      • ACZ

        Or buy a trans jack

  21. ruxvette

    I would like to have seen this car before restoration. Perhaps it was a “survivor/driver quality” car.
    Taking the documentation at face value it appears to be a very rare car. It has the three bolt exhaust manifold so presumably the better 225/240 heads. Curious as to the rear end ration. With the bigger “Duntov” solid lifter cam it would have virtually no low-end HP/torque unless the standard gear was changed to, perhaps, a 3:55.
    Also, because nobody knows what the original transplant looked like when it rolled out of the dealer’s shop, I would put on 7 fin aluminum valve covers and the chromed Corvette air cleaners. Just me.

  22. Coventrycat

    Nice looking car, but the dealer installed engine doesn’t mean anything to me; if it was factory installed that’s a different story.

  23. Chuck Turner

    Fantastically beautiful restoration. Beautiful car. Especially since it isn’t “resale red”.. As far as engine configuration-much ado about nothing.

  24. Philip Bregar

    Most states have a division of corporations showing when corporations are started and when they are ended. Sunbiz.org for FL states that Sun Chevrolet filed for corporation on 10/22/1979, and Altman Chevrolet filed for dissolution on 9/25/1980. Just throwing it out there.

  25. John
    • John

      Also VIN indicates a car build date of 25 May, well after the letter/order dates. (This according to some sleuths on the Tri5 forum!)

  26. P T Cheshire

    Wonder how they forged the dealer order form , looks harder to do than the letter IMO

  27. Frank Stanko

    I just looked through the 1956 Sarasota, Florida city directory on ancestry.com.
    There is no Sunset Chevrolet listed as a business, and no such business advertised in the directory.

    There was also no listing for a resident named John Reynolds.

    I am not making any claims, just an observation.

    • 68custom

      Sunset Chevy is still there today!

  28. TONY Gauntner

    The letter certaInly appears suspect. The letterhead lacks an address & phone number, zones (used prior to zip codes) has spelling errors and is dated 1/5 order must be processed by. 1/9 only 4 days later?

  29. Beeper

    There is no window sticker ,that’s purchase order from the dealer. 225 horse was the highest horse for 56. And those are 283 exhaust manifolds. There was never a 240 horse in a small block. In 57 the dual quad engines were 245 and 270 . 283 horse with injection. The exhaust tile are not the factory ones. It is still a beautiful 56.

  30. Jay E.

    The car invoice has the same letterhead. If fake someone is going through a LOT of trouble for not much additional reward. Wouldn’t the car go for about the same money without the signboard full of ephemera? Perhaps it is just window dressing that was offered as entertainment and someone took it to be real and now it is difficult to undo? It seems anything can be faked and photoshopped these days. A couple years ago Carson Helicopters flying S-61’s faked complete performance documents, overloaded it and killed a load of firefighters. I’d be seriously suspect about this cars documentation if it changes the value much.

  31. David Wilk Member

    About that order form….in 1956 the general sales manager of Chevrolet would have had a secretary or clerk type this sort of letter. It would never include typos like the ones shown here (there are many). And even more telling – the 1956 letter does not appear to show L.H. Averill’s actual signature. Autolit is currently offering for sale a document signed by Mr. Averill in 1940, when he was Zone Manager and the signature shown in the 1956 letter does not look at all like the one on the 1940 factory document. So it seems unlikely that the engine in this otherwise lovely Chevy was actually factory-supplied in 1956. If you’re buying this car, you should buy it because you love it, not because of some ginned up story about the car.

    Like 1
  32. Dickie F

    I have so much respect for you guys – really, your knowledge is nothing short of awesome.
    If I could I would drag that seller into this courtroom, to unleash the wrath of the Barn Find classic car members on him.
    His skin would be a lot thinner……but he would gain knowledge he only dreamt about.
    Nice car thou …. just saying.

  33. Kevin W

    Another cookie cutter.

  34. George Soffa

    SERIOUS caveat emptor !!

  35. Frank Stanko

    Looking back through that city directory in more detail, Altman Chevrolet was the only Chevy dealer listed, and it was at 645 Central (and this was pointed out early in this thread).

    The address for “Sunset Chevrolet” on the letter, 1800 Bay Road, did not exist as best I can tell. The address numbers jumped from 1775 Bay road to 2043 Bay Road in one section, and from 1712 to 1811 in another.

  36. JohnD

    Incredible work guys! You may have saved some unsuspecting soul some money and heartache!

  37. Gabby

    So it appears not to be a documented car. But it’s still very clean and desirable combo. If you wanted to pay 💰💰💰💰

    • whmracer99

      Agree — just up to you (and your wallet) if the bogus “documentation” together with the car is worth the price or not. If you buy it to drive and enjoy then it doesn’t matter. If you’re like me and figure to resell it sometime in the future after enjoying it — then the “documentation” definitely throws a damper on the deal. As others have mentioned, a high HP small block with a powerglide in a heavy car may not be as much fun to drive as you imagine.

  38. Jon Sherman

    Makes me wonder what else is fishy

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