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Dry Stored For 30 Years: 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible

I was recently asked to compile a list. The question was, if I could pick one car from each of the last five decades of the 20th Century to park in my garage, what would those cars be? The 1960s posed a challenge, but the 1950s was a no-brainer. It must be a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible finished in Matador Red. There are undoubtedly other worthy candidates, but to me, that car epitomizes the style and confidence of that decade. This Bel Air ticks those boxes, having recently emerged from thirty years in dry storage. It is a solid classic that would make an excellent restoration project. The first step in that process is to find it a new home, with the seller listing the Bel Air here on eBay in Assonet, Massachusetts. Frantic bidding has pushed the price beyond the reserve to $25,900, and I suspect that figure will climb further before the hammer falls.

Chevrolet planned to release an entirely new Bel Air for 1957, but ongoing delays forced it to perform a cosmetic update of its existing range. This proved a fortuitous move because the ’57 Bel Air struck an immediate chord with buyers. However, its impact was more profound than Chevrolet intended, with these cars remaining a staple of the classic scene for decades. Our feature Bel Air recently emerged from hiding, and three decades hidden in a barn hasn’t taken a high toll on this drop-top. The paint is tired, and the panels sport a selection of bumps and bruises that aren’t severe enough to justify steel replacement. The seller describes the body and frame as in good condition, and the only visible penetrating rust is an area in the bottom of the spare wheel well. There are no other known issues, but considering this car’s history, it would be fair to expect a few minor problems. The soft-top is intact, although replacing it and some exterior trim pieces would be essential for a high-end result. There are no glass issues, and while this looks like a straightforward build, many readers will probably agree with my belief that a car of this caliber deserves a frame-off restoration to return to its former glory.

The Bel Air’s interior is complete, but like the rest of the vehicle, it screams for a total refresh. The Trim Tag will prove invaluable because it allows the winning bidder to perform a faithful restoration using one of the many excellent interior trim kits available. These cost around $2,000 but will enable the buyer to achieve a factory-fresh look. The bright trim pieces look surprisingly good, with those on the dash needing little beyond an attack with a high-quality metal polish. The original owner didn’t order this Bel Air with a factory radio, and it is refreshing to find the original blanking plate intact. These typically disappear as owners install aftermarket radios or stereos, but the presence of this one is a genuine bonus. I would probably maintain the status quo because it provides an interesting conversation starter.

I don’t feel I am going out on a limb by suggesting the original owner may have been on a relatively tight budget when ordering this Bel Air. The lack of a factory radio is one sign, as is their decision to specify this Convertible with the entry-level drivetrain combination. That means the winning bidder receives a Chevy powered by the legendary 235ci “Blue Flame” six-cylinder motor producing 140hp and 210 ft/lbs of torque. The power feeds to the rear wheels via a three-speed manual transmission, while there is no power assistance for the steering or brakes. Outright performance was not the aim of the exercise, but cruising on the open road at 70mph would have been effortless aboard this classic. The seller indicates they have coaxed the engine back to life after three decades of hibernation. The Bel Air runs and drives, but the lack of brakes makes stopping challenging. However, it appears the new owner will start with a sound foundation if they plan a faithful restoration.

The 1957 Bel Air was one of the happiest accidents in Chevrolet’s history, and it is worth sitting back and reflecting on how profoundly the classic scene would be impacted if this car had never existed. I have always admitted a passion for Ford products but wouldn’t hesitate to park a ’57 Bel Air Convertible in my garage under the right circumstances. This one even wears my preferred paint shade, but I am not in a position to give it a new home. If you are and become the successful bidder, I admit I will envy you. I take comfort in knowing that if one of our readers gives it a home, it will be treated with the respect it richly deserves. There is some comfort in that thought.

Comments

  1. Gary

    Theres something seriously wrong here

    Like 20
    • George

      Right on Gary. Plenty of indicators that this car has had a rough history and amateur repairs. Buyer beware.

      Like 5
  2. Bob

    Why are there V8 emblems on this car. For some reason both front fenders are hanging down a bit. You can see it in the lining-up stainless trim. I’d be looking this one over very carefully, especially being a New England car.

    Like 14
    • al

      plus says 3 speed manual but only 2 pedals gas and brake no clutch

      Like 4
      • zak

        There is 3 pedals there. The clutch is sitting lower than the brake pedal but you can see the two arms coming down from under the dash. It’s just not a good photo and the angle kind of blocks the clutch pedal but it is definitely there.

        Like 2
  3. bobhess bobhess Member

    The bulge in the right door is interesting. Makes you wonder if the front fenders weren’t replaced after a front collision that bowed the door. Admit that most of the ’57s are overpriced but this one might be the ultimate example, especially with a rusty 6 under the hood.

    Like 9
  4. AndyinMA

    From Assonet, one of my favorite towns in MA along with Athol, Belchertown, and Ware.

    Like 3
  5. John Phillips

    I was told by an old guy before I WAS one, that the gold V means it has a 283 and the silver V means it has a 265. No V indicates the six. The ’55 and ’56 also put the emblems on the rear corners if it had the V-8.

    If that is incorrect, would someone please tell me the difference between the gold and silver V’s?

    Like 2
    • al

      no only 1955 had v8 emblems under tail lights starting in 1956 was on trunk and hood a v under Chevy sign was a v8 all 1957 signs where gold on the belaire plus you couldn’t get a 265 in a belaire only the new 283

      Like 2
      • Wayne from Oz

        Belair was available with a 6.

        Like 0
      • Glenn Schwass Member

        It isn’t driving anywhere with the clutch pedal stuck to the floor. Is a cheap price for a Convertible but I know where theybrust so bring a magnet. Might have more plastic than an 89 Pontiac…

        Like 0
    • Bryan D McDonald

      What Dean said The gold V , script and grille were only on Bel-Air’s, 150’s and 210’s were silver. V-8’s got the V on the hood and trunk, 6 cyl. just the script.

      Like 1
    • Wayne from Oz

      Gold V= Belair V8. Silver V= 210 or lower V8

      Like 3
  6. David A Sanford

    One would have to look at the tag to see what engine it originally came with. Either the engine or the hood and trunk lid were replaced. It is hard to imagine someone ordering Chevrolets highest end car with only a six but it is not out of the question as in the 60s , some Impalas and SS Impalas had sixes. Some folks like the trim, appearance of the high end car and at the same time the economy of a six. My money is on that the car originally had a V8, and it got swapped for whatever was handy that would fit. That said, 25k is not bad for the greatest 50s automotive icon with a presentable and not completely rotten body. I’d go for it if I had the budget and yen for a 57 chevy, then drop in a period correct 283.

    Like 0
    • Dean Lauterbach

      gold vs on bel air, silver on lesser model v8s

      Like 1
    • al

      I had a 1956 belaire convertible in 1962 in high school nice two tone blue 6 cylinder power glide no power steering but had power brakes remember in the 50s you didn’t buy off the lot there was no dealer inventory you most always ordered just what you wanted

      Like 0
  7. Upchucked

    Hope whoever buys it has very deep pockets!

    Like 0
  8. Azul

    This is a perfect car for a non-car guy, to drive and enjoy; not as an investment, not for car shows, nor even to show off. Nope, to just tool around in.

    I have a good friend that has a 68 Vette with a 350 fuel injected crate engine, an auto, and a big block hood that originally had a 4-speed. Wrong wheels, modern tires, Recaro seats, and about 19 other wrong things. He loves it.

    Like 2
  9. BlondeUXB Member

    Buyer be(careful)…

    Like 3
  10. Steve

    Poor interior, kick panels missing, hiding floor with piece of indoor/outdoor carpet! Rust?

    Like 3
  11. Jack Quantrill

    It’s got the rubber titties in front bumper!

    Like 1
  12. Russ Ashley

    It’s at $30K now. That makes me wonder if the bidders really looked at the car or just heard “57 Bel Air convertible” and went into BJ mode. There is so much this car needs that even with the price that a restored one brings I can’t see how you could break even on this one. An easy pass on this one.

    Like 7
  13. Jerry Johnson

    There is nothing straight on the body. Drooping front, doors bulge, left front fender replaced with non-Belair piece. Notice three hash marks have no gold trim pieces, or holes where they were attached. Rear bumper bad fit. Like to see the frame. No Thanks.

    Like 5
  14. David A Sanford

    Lots of folks bashing on this poor car. I still think it might be a good way to get into a 57 if one was so inclined, I’d just make a good inspection in out , and under and offer accordingly.

    Like 2
  15. Kent

    6 cyl? No thanks.

    Like 0
  16. Skystone Jim

    Misaligned fenders, buckled doors, wrong hood indicates this car was in a wreck. Looks like they cobbled together whatever parts were at the local junkyard.

    Like 3
  17. Don Page Jr.

    I have to agree with Adam Clarke on the 57 Chevy. After all these years, it still remains an icon. For me, Oldsmobile would be a close second. A 2-door hardtop would be my choice. The lack of brakes wouldn’t make stopping challenging for someone with the last Flintstone.

    Like 0
    • al

      yes a all black 1957 olds 2 Dr hard top with the j2 option which was tri power nicier looking and faster than the 1957 Chevy and with the 3 windows in back

      Like 1

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