Old School Custom: 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air

The owner refers to this 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air as an old school hot rod build that has been parked for at least the last 20-years. It could benefit from a cosmetic restoration, but the next owner will at least be starting with a very solid base. This has the potential to be a striking custom if repainted, or the next owner might choose to drive it largely unchanged as a real eye-catcher. The Bel Air is located in Lakewood, Pennsylvania, and is listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has made it to $14,101, and the reserve has been met. Has it attracted some attention? Well, the fact that 165 people are currently watching the listing would suggest that it has.

This Bel Air represents one of those moments when you definitely shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. It has been sitting for the past 20-years, but that doesn’t mean that it has been rotting away. The panels look clean and free of any rust issues, while the floors and the frame are spotless. The trunk also looks quite solid. I initially thought there may have been some small holes in the pan, but I actually believe that it could be something that has splattered there. Take a look at the photos at the bottom of the article to see what you think. I suspect that when the Chevy was driven into the shed two decades ago, the intention was to provide a cosmetic refresh, which is why the trim has been removed and the paint looks the way that it does. This stalled for some reason, and the result is the car that you see before you today. Don’t be too fussed about the trim, because all of this is present, is said to be in good condition, and will be included in the sale. One of the items that really seals the vintage look for this ’56 is those Cragar wheels. In my books, they really need to be given a good clean and then left on the car. They just add to the character of this classic.

When I looked under the hood of the ’56, I have to admit that I did receive a bit of a surprise. I was expecting to find a 283, a 327, or more likely, a 350ci V8. What the person who built this custom actually chose was what the owner identifies as a 400ci small-block V8. These are an engine more renowned for producing a mountain of torque, rather than massive horsepower figures. The 400 is backed by a Powerglide transmission, and in all honesty, that is probably a fairly decent sort of combination. I believe that the inherent high torque would extract the best from the transmission, and make this a much more lively car than if a smaller engine had been chosen. What we do know is that the engine not only runs, but it is said to run quite well. In addition, the brakes and suspension are said to be good, which suggests that it might only take some basic maintenance and tuning before the Bel Air is in a fit state to hit the road once again. I would be inclined to give everything a good clean and detail, and if the retro theme of this car is to be retained, I would be tempted to source some appropriate cosmetic items to dress things up a little bit.

Everywhere that I look I find more good news with this car, and the interior continues that theme. There are a few minor issues that I can spot, but before I did anything, I would certainly treat it to a thorough clean. The cover on the front seat has a very minor tear and a single seam separation, but I think that both could be repaired quite successfully…and cheaply. The rear seat looks really good, while I don’t see any obvious problems with the carpet. The upholstery on the door trims is wrinkled, but as is the case with the seat, I think that this should be easy to rectify. The window crank is missing off the passenger door, but everything else appears to be present. Some of the plated surfaces have some minor corrosion blisters, but overall, it wouldn’t take a lot to return the interior to a very presentable state. If this work was completed, the style of the interior would be well within the character of the rest of the vehicle, and it would also be quite practical and easy to live with.

I would be willing to bet that someone had the intention of treating this ’56 Bel Air to a simple refresh when they parked it 20-years-ago, but something has caused the project to stall before it really got started. On face value, returning the car to the road doesn’t appear to be a big job, and if restored to its former glory, then it is a classic that would continue to attract plenty of attention today. I guess that this raises the question of whether to do that, or whether to treat it some updates as part of the process. Personally, I would like to see it given a cosmetic refresh but leave it essentially as it would have been in its glory days. For me, it provides a window into a particular era of car customization, and I think that it is as important to retain some examples of these vehicles as it is for any other part of automotive history. We can’t wind back the clock, but at least with cars like this, we can allow future generations to experience first-hand what the past was like.


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  1. Cadmanls Member

    Got that second brake pedal, pull that PG and put something under the hood that will rev. Add some binders and have some fun!

    Like 4
  2. Jimmy

    If I were to buy this car which I love the 56s I would clean it up do some bodywork and paint then get all mechanicals in order along with brakes then drive the wheels off it. It has the looks of the period I saw cars like this in the 1960s.

    Like 3
  3. Gaspumpchas

    Yea Jimmy the cragars nailed the look on this beauty. Looks like a solid older resto.I’d at least put a 4 or 5 speed in it, and a 327 would be the icing on the cake for a nice 60’s vintage cruiser. Considering some of the stuff we have seen lately, this boss 56 is breath of fresh air, something we could all use right about now! Good luck and stay safe.

    Like 3
  4. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    Agree. Keep it as is. Clean it, drive it and if you feel like it, paint it your color choice.
    God bless America

    Like 1
  5. Mark C

    ’56 is by far my favorite “tri five”, and this one looks great on the Cragars. Like pretty much everyone else said, add better brakes, some cleaning, and a decent paint job then roll! Love it.

    Like 4
  6. David Marquis

    So where is the 265 c.i. motor that should be in there and by the way, that second break peddle is probably called a clutch peddle.

    • Cadmanls Member

      Yes it is, 4 of my rides have two brake pedals. Anti theft as very few people today can use that third pedal.

  7. TimM

    I can’t ever understand why someone would put a power glide in a car with a clutch pedal!! Dump the automatic and put a modern LS with a 4or 5 speed and go have some fun!!

    Like 2
  8. Howard A Member

    Like Mark, the ’56 is my favorite too. Not sure why. And the mags just seem perfect for it. To answer Tim’s question, the Powerglide is the choice for drag racing today. We used to laugh at anyone that had a Powerglide. “Slip and slide with Powerglide”, we’d say. I remember, you could get almost 60mph in low and was a tough unit. With a bunch of hp, I bet you’d win everytime agin a 4 or 5 speed. I only hope someone paints it.

    Like 1
    • Cadmanls Member

      Power glide is still used today, but that 400 stock is a low rpm stump puller. They don’t rev stock. Connecting rods are weak link.

  9. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    SOLD for $16,500.

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