Luxurious Wagon Survivor: 1954 Bel Air Townsman

Bel Air is definitely a buzz word in the collector car world, but what about Bel Air Townsman? Not so common to see, the Townsman is a sleek Chevrolet wagon that offers some nice features for its time. After spending the past 40 years in southern California, this wagon has been revived to a runner, but still needs some work to be a road goer once more. With a couple of days remaining in the auction, this sweet desert wagon is bid up to $12,600. Take a look at it here on eBay out of Hawthorne, California. Thanks to Matt W for this posh 50’s wagon submission!

Chevrolet 235’s are nearly indestructible, and that theory holds true with this engine after nearly 40 years of hibernating. While the engine does run,  fluids and routine maintenance likely need to be done to have this one in tip top shape, even though the seller claims it runs wonderfully. This 1954 Townsman fell under the Bel Air name, and boy does this thing have some features for 1954. Packing an automatic transmission, power steering, power brakes, power windows and even a power seat, this wagon is decked out for it’s time. While it appears that this wagon cannot be driven, one would hope that a few weekends and some elbow grease could get this thing moving on its own once again.

I have to admit that I share a similar excitement with the seller on the interiors condition. Considering this wagon spent 40 years parked in California, this interior is remarkable. I would even dare to say this interior could be enjoyed as is, if the car wasn’t going to be concourse level restored. The dash has a lovely layout, with a harmonious copper and cream appearance. There appears to be no major damage to the upholstery, and some magical way the steering wheel resisted cracking after all this time. Seeing the clean and rust free key in the ignition is a wonderful feeling as well. It is unclear how this car was stored the last 40 years, but it would seem it was in a time capsule, a climate controlled garage, or some other miracle of clean and dry storage.

The exterior is charming and looks to wear original paint with only a few areas of surface rust to see. I really like the fenders skirts, as well as the rear vents windows. I am sure those windows were well appreciated in the hot summers back in the 1950’s. While there is some rust to be found on this wagon, the rockers and quarters are rock solid, and the seller claims the floors to be as well. There is some surface rust around the body trim just below the windows. Some of that rust is a bit thick where a little investigation may reveal a pin hole or two. Overall the body appears straight and quite manageable with the exception of a small dent on the driver rear corner just below the taillight. The dent appears to be of minor concern other than the surface rust that developed from the paint that popped off. Not so common to see, this wagon would be wonderful to see restored, or for myself, I would gladly clean this one up and enjoy it as is with its cool 1960’s surfer sticker on the window. Would you restore or preserve this deluxe 50’s wagon?


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  1. Fred w.

    I scoffed at the headline of “luxurious wagon”, but have to admit when I saw the option list, was very impressed. This is about as loaded as a car could get at the time.

  2. jw454

    At some point I would restore it. However, for the time being, I’d find the correct hubcaps for it and enjoy it as it is. Once all the drive ability issues were addressed IE: tune up, fluids, brake inspections etc., it should be good to go.

    • Scot

      ~ That’s exactly what I would do.

  3. Scot

    ~ What a car!

  4. Gaspumpchas

    Breathtaking you guys said clean it up and drive it.I could hear the jaws dropping here in new yawk!! They really knew how to build them back then!

  5. CCFisher

    Power front windows only? How European!

  6. Maestro1

    A big yes on this one. Give it what it needs, put the correct hubcaps on it and drive/restore it. It’s wonderful!

  7. Rock On Member

    I’m pretty sure that I submitted this wagon within the last two weeks when it was listed on C/L as there can’t be too many of these left. I believe that the price was like $6,500. Good for the seller to make some extra Christmas money!

  8. shawski

    the tires appear to be low profile compared to the origional shipped from the factory or is it just my overworked imagination!

  9. aminfla

    My first memory of family car was a 53 Chevy wagon crossing Kansas in the hot summer with the windows down on highway 36~~~~~~
    Dad would put in 2 quarts of reclaimed oil at every gas fill.

  10. craig

    I’d get that baby roadworthy and drive it as is. Nice nice car.

  11. Andy

    Didn’t J.C. Whitney used to sell a 4 barrel manifold for this engine? That would be the cherry on top for this car.

    • Blyndgesser

      Clifford Performance may still sell them.

  12. Miguel

    Why does the write up say the car has been in southern California for 40 years.

    The plates on the car were new in ’65 or ’66. I think that is more like 50 years, no?

    • Miguel

      I see. The Ebay ad says the car was in a garage in Southern California for the last 40 years, not that it was in Southern California for the last 40 years.

  13. Mark S. Member

    I’d do a simpathetic restoration only repairing and and cleaning. But I would address any rust while it’s still small and repaint the car, single stage about 5 coats deep. This car is a rear jewel very much worth keeping I’d be hard pressed to sell it if it were mine.

  14. Tim A Householder

    I think I might leave it alone,other than all fluids,brakes/lines, fuel/lines/pump,etc. Detail /clean everything. But then I’d like to see it with the original hubcaps, hubcaps with wide whites and maybe just a set of old gen. MT wheels ,lay a surfboard on the roof or out the back window. And thoroughly enjoy!

  15. Steve H.

    Well it’s sold… nice car, would love to own one like it!

  16. RicK

    What a great find and how neat that its so original. I’m on board with those of you that want to leave it original and drive as it (after the necessary repairs and service) About the only thing I’d add would be a visor. But what a neat survivor – wagons of this vintage were already mostly off the road by the mid ’60s – the ones left were driven by poor folks (at least in our town) And it knows its special and is happy to be going to a new home, look at the license plate (LOL) so happy it’s laughing!

  17. JimmyinTEXAS

    Ended without a bid. 5.5K minimum.

  18. MrF

    I once had a 53 wagon and 54 sedan as daily drivers and thus follow Chevrolets of this era fairly closely. I have NEVER seen one with power windows or the reported power seat. I believe this was also the first year for power steering, which apparently not included here. It would be welcome, since the wagon would be far from luxurious despite the unusual options.

  19. charlie Member

    ’54 had an oil pump, ’53 and before had splash lubrication which is why the ’53 engine wore out, especially if driven much more than 55 mph for a long time. Neighbor had a ’54 convertible with automatic transmission, power top, power windows, seat, brakes, and steering and a Wonderbar (seek or scan on your modern car) radio, actuated by a push button on the floor or on the radio. And electric windshield wipers.

    • Marty Parker

      ’53 Powerglide had full pressure oiling system.

      • Norman Wrensch

        All of the powerglide engines had full pressure lube starting in 1950. 1953 started full pressure on all 235’s. And all chevy sixs had oil pumps just not pressure to the rods, they had squirters that sprayed oil into a catcher on the bottom of the rod, but that was a small part of the revolution of the rod.

        merry Christmas

  20. Gay Car Nut

    Sweet looking wagon. The price is a bit steep, particularly given its condition. I’d pay $5,000 for the car, provided it’s driveable, and everything on it works like it should.

  21. John C Cargill

    A little overpriced but how many Chevies of this era had power window.

    • Gay Car Nut

      I agree, and assuming they work like they should, it should be worth close to the amount asked for.

  22. Bill Owens BillO Staff

    My mom had a 1954 Bel Air Townsman, dark brown with this color (tan) top. It was 3 seats and I remember pretty much always riding in the 3rd seat, and it faced forward in those days. If I remember correctly, it didn’t fold, it was always up. It had the strip of wood at the top of the doors. There is a road near us that has some quick hills and I would always enjoy riding the “hilly road” while in that back seat. Ours had the fender skirts but I don’t think it had power windows or seats. Must have only been the front two windows since there are only two switches. That was the only station wagon we had growing up except for a 1959 Rambler American my dad had for a short while.

  23. tommy

    WOW what memories. I will date myself and say that in 1970 I bought one of these for a dollar in Whippany New Jersey. 215 blue flame special engine. I was 14 years old and drove it up and down my mother’s driveway for weeks! Finally sold it and got a 1962 rambler wagon!

  24. Pete

    The condition is pretty remarkable for the age of this car and it having spent some time on the beach. I am chomping at the bit to get in that car with some 409 and semi chrome polish. Then hit those few rusty areas with some TLC. That engine bay would get a thorough cleaning as well. No armoral either just a good scrubbing. Replace a few worn parts, change the fluids and just enjoy it like it is. Oh yeah and correct hubcaps. Gotta have them. Pretty much what everyone else said. This car is just honest, Pity we don’t see more like this in this condition. So many are already restored and not always well. That or it is a tribute car. ( I hate those ) Not every car needs to be a top of the line muscle car. Not a thing wrong with a Lemans, Tempest, Malibu, Biscayne etc if it is honest.

  25. hank

    With the exception of modern paint, I’d put in the cash to make this bad boy showroom new again. Gorgeous!

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