Pilot Dual-Quad: 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air

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Rarity can sometimes be a relative term because it is possible that almost any car can make that claim due to a combination of optional extras. However, this 1956 Bel Air lays claim to that status and features the documentation as supporting evidence. It is unique because it is a Special Order vehicle and the first Bel Air to roll off the line featuring the Corvette’s legendary Dual-Quad V8 under the hood. It is meticulously restored and would suit the most discerning owner. The Bel Air is listed here on Craigslist in Eagle River, Wisconsin. The price of such exclusivity doesn’t come cheap, with the seller setting a price of $109,900. I must say a big thank you to Barn Finder Pat L. for spotting this groundbreaking classic.

The listing suggests this Bel Air has only had two owners since it rolled off the line. As well as ordering it with a desirable engine, the original owner chose to grace its panels with the Code 700 combination of Sierra Gold and Adobe Beige. The Bel Air functioned as a daily driver until 1975 before being placed into storage. The seller purchased the vehicle, working through restoring it to as-new condition. Their cause was aided by the fact that it had been garage-kept since Day One, making it a rock-solid candidate. Its presentation is impossible to fault, although the paint shine is probably better than when the car was new. The panels are as straight as an arrow, the gaps are consistent, and rust isn’t a consideration. The tinted glass is flawless, and the chrome trim is the only item shining better than the paint. With a car of this type, whitewall tires were always the right choice as a finishing touch.

There are times when having friends in high places can be beneficial, and this Bel Air graphically demonstrates that. Its original owner was a GM Engineer, and he was encouraged by no less than Harley Earl to order this car. He had learned that the 1956 Corvette would feature a Dual-Quad 265ci V8, and Earl encouraged him to order a Bel Air with that option. Chevrolet placed some limitations on the order, meaning the original owner couldn’t add power steering, power brakes, or air conditioning. So secretive was the deal that the owner could only take delivery of the car direct from the Chevrolet in Flint, Michigan. The Dual-Quad produced an “official” 225hp, which fed to the rear wheels via a three-speed manual transmission. While Chevrolet quoted performance figures of 16.6 seconds for the ¼-mile and a top speed of 113mph, the first owner proved these to be conservative. Using a stopwatch over a surveyed mile, this Bel Air topped 124mph. He drove the car regularly before handing it to his mother in 1957. She used it as her daily driver until she passed away in 1975, with the vehicle going into storage. The seller purchased and restored the car but faced one significant challenge. By 1965, the original 265 was tired, and the original owner’s mother had it and the transmission replaced with a 327 and Powerglide. The original owner sourced some hard-to-find parts before selling the Bel Air to its current owner, who located another 265 and worked to return the car to its former glory. It once again features a correct engine and transmission and is in excellent mechanical health. They retain most of the original documentation verifying this car’s history and claim to fame and include it in the sale.

The spotless presentation continues when we examine this Bel Air’s interior. There is no evidence of wear on the vinyl upholstered surfaces, and I would question whether anyone ever sat in the back seat. The carpet shows no signs of wear, the bright trim shines as well as it did when new, with the same true of the painted surfaces and wheel. The original owner ordered the Chevy with a factory radio and rear-mounted antenna, but these were missed during the build. However, Chevrolet rectified the omission before he could drive it home. The padded dash and shoulder harness seatbelts are two interesting features inside this car. These were experimental items, with the original owner stating this car was the first produced with those items. If this is true, that adds further to its rarity and desirability.

Doing justice to a vehicle like this 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air is challenging because it has a unique history. It is a shame it is no longer numbers-matching, but the restorer has dedicated a significant amount of time, effort, and cost to recapture its glory days. The asking price is well above what Hagerty quotes and significantly higher than recent sales results. However, it is virtually impossible to place a definitive value on a slice of automotive history. I don’t know whether the seller will achieve their price, but with so many passionate Bow-Tie enthusiasts in our community, I wouldn’t rule it out. Would you?

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Comments

  1. JACKinNWPA JACKinNWPAMember

    What a beautiful restoration of an interesting car for sure. This reminded me of a time in the second part if the 70’s. I spotted a bunch of vehicles behind a farm in the woods. I and my friend asked the owner for a look around and he was more than happy to let us. it was the first time that I knew that a Model T truck weas a model TT. I also remember looking at a 1956 Belair convertible with a green padded dash. I figured at the time that it was an option and I had not seen a car this early with one. Too bad it is long gone. This restored 56 should bring the owner something very near the asking price.

    Like 9
  2. HoA Howard A (retired)Member

    2 things, ’56 was my favorite Tri-5, and Eagle River is home of the best snowmobiling in the ,,um,,,well, it just is. It’s pretty clear, this car spent it’s life far from Wisconsin, and almost blasphemous to see it on a snow covered road now. The story, ( rolling eyes) maybe, the 2x4s was something one never saw. For many, these all had 6 cylinders, a V8 was still pricey and misunderstood, and wasn’t until these cars became “back row” specials, that out came the 6, a 283 went in, and ABOVE ALL, put the shift on the floor. The ’56 Chevy 2 door became the standard 1st hot rod for many, and for maybe $300 bucks!Beautiful restoration, and now for the sappy side,,I saw once, as a tribute to their lost son in Vietnam, ( getting verklemfpt) a family took the kids toy puppet as a child, and mounted it on his ’56 Chevy hood. The kids 1st toy, and his last,,,

    Like 14
    • Will Fox

      By the way Howard, happy retirement if it’s something recent! ;-)

      Like 7
  3. Doubleclutch57

    Excellent write up Adam ! My oldest brother was an engineer with GM from 1962 until he retired in 2002. He was a big fan of Harley Earl and told me he thought that GM’S policy of mandatory retirement at age 65 was ill conceived as it had MR. Earl exit the company in 1958 after overseeing the design of the 60-62 models! Although he wasn’t as much of a fan Bill Mitchell who succeeded Harley Earl, he and Bill Mitchell had a good working relationship that lasted until Mitchell retired in 1977. I think my brother just preferred Harley’s more “flamboyant” style as it were! JUST SAYING !

    Like 10
    • Jack M.

      Age 65 retirement was not only a GM policy, but a lot of States and Provinces required it back in the day.

      Like 3
  4. bobhess bobhessMember

    Don’t know about the 6 vs 8 cylinder engines but do know that there were an awful lot of very fast ’56s running around in the ’60s and ’70s. Even had a pumped two door post come up on American Pickers a few years back. Nice looking cars with this one being a good representative for the breed. Beautiful!

    Like 7
  5. AndyinMA

    Beautiful car in a great color

    Like 13
  6. Cool Linage from Early Days

    Okay sourced a correct engine is NOM.

    A cool write up and history but mother swapped out original with dual carbs to 327 and old engine lost.

    Not sure how a good story equals cost 💲

    Good luck with sale …

    Like 7
  7. JohnD

    Nice car, but we are getting a little loose with “documentation.” To me, documentation, at least something I would buy a car from, is more than something typed up at home . . . .

    Like 3
  8. Vincent H

    Why a Florida dealer bill of sale if he had to pick it up at the factory?

    Like 4
    • Richard H

      I saw the VIN of the car in the add on Craigslist, the way I figure it the car was built in the 2nd week of March at Flint, Michigan then sold March 15th in Florida.

      Like 0
  9. Jack Quantrill

    ‘56, is the best of the tri- fives. Not boxy like ‘55, no radical fins like ‘57.

    Like 12
  10. Geraldo Fedrizzi

    I had a 56 the same model and color. It´’s the most beatiful Tri-Chevy. The side strip is fantastic.

    Like 4
    • David Nelson

      Closest I had to this car was a 6-cyl powerglide 4 door sedan in same colors. So oriignal, esp the mint cond interior – I should have kept it!

      Like 1
  11. Jeff

    The dealer invoice shows the suffix code (GS) for a 2×4 engine, but not the high-lift cam suffix (GT). The letter suggests this car had the higher horse engine, but the invoice (if real) shows that was not the case.

    The warranty pamphlet also shows GS, but that is some odd looking font on that document for a 1956 typewriter …

    And dual shoulder belts, from the factory, in 1956 ?? I don’t think so. Tri-5 forum suggests that regular Lap belts were not even factory installed in 56, they were a dealer-installed option.

    Ad says no emails, only phone calls. But no phone # is listed. Hard to sell something that way!

    Like 7
  12. Ken McClurgMember

    Don’t disparage the 6’s. Back in the late 50s we ran them in stock cars on quarter mile dirt track running on an alcahol mix fule and ran the wheels off the Chivy V8s.

    Like 0
  13. Mark P

    We see a sorts of comments about originality. Posts where there’s not an original radio and it’s game over. The only thing special about this car was the engine and the original is gone. What about the whole numbers matching thing? Which by the way I’m pretty sick of too but in this case it does mean something. Or did I miss something?

    Like 8
    • Mike K

      I don’t think the vin was on these engines anyway, didn’t that start in the mid-late sixties ?

      Like 2
      • Vincent H

        VIN on the engine started in 68

        Like 2
  14. Mountainwoodie

    First and most obviously, its a freaking gorgeous car.

    Secondly , I am confused. In reading the typewritten letter of “provenance” (that’s French, HoA :) ), the original owner states that the original ‘Corvette’ engine was removed by his mother and replaced by a 327. The “original” 265 was tired? So what block did he put in the car when he pulled Moms 327? What block is in there now? It appears from Mr Benners letter that the original engine used oil and had internal wear problems. All in all it was a problematic engine.

    Is this not THE Corvette engine installed originally? Is this a replacement block? Does it matter? Can anyone clarify this?

    I ask because if the ask value is not only in the beauty of the car and its restoration, but the originality ( to me at least) of the engine build, then if its not the factory block build, how does that affect its historical and monetary worth?

    What is in there now?

    Like 3
  15. Grant

    Can’t blame the seller for trying to cash in, but in a better world, a person wouldn’t care so much about it having the original engine or not. I guess a proper 265 adds “value” (if money is what you want), but in the money mans game, shouldn’t the non original engine subtract value? if that is the case, why not rebuild the fine 327 and add in the dual quads? It would look the part but be better all around. To me, value means a well running car that looks good and makes me smile when I have it one the road. Of course, some fat cat rich guy, it means having it in his air conditioned fancy garage with all his other trophies so he can show off. Outside of Leno, do these crazy wealthy hoarders (and drivers up of prices) really understand what they have? That is the sad testament to todays car hobby. Regular people who would understand, and love and cherish a car, can no longer afford one.

    Like 6
  16. TheOldRanger

    Back when I was teaching school, I needed a used car for me to get around since my wife was driving the “new” car. A lady in a town just north of us was in our church group and was fussing about having to get her deceased husband’s car “renewed” each year (registration and inspection sticker), so I asked if it were running and might I buy it since I needed an older car (this was 1973). My wife and I drove into her town, she opened the garage door and there was this car (well, not the same car) and she sold it to me for $250 (since I was in the same church and a poorly paid teacher :-) That was the best car deal I ever made. I had two young daughters at the time and they loved that back seat with all that room. I miss that old car….:-(

    Like 10
  17. jwaltb

    Beautiful car, but so many unanswered questions. Plus, when I see a $100K car on Craigslist, it always gives me the Willies.

    Like 7
  18. "Edsel" Al leonardMember

    Love the “Bat Wing” air cleaner assy……brings mucho bucks at any swap meet….

    Like 3
  19. Kenn

    My sister received a brand-new 1956 convertible with all options, including a v8 engine, on her 20th birthday. A few years later she sold it to me for a couple hundred dollars. I drove it for a few years until a neighbor kid side-swiped it while it was parked on the street. Traded it for another car, the make of which I don’t even remember. Wish I still had the 56!

    Like 2
  20. Mark

    We’ve all seen cars posted with comments (paraphrasing here) such as “Yeah, its $20-30k but it will take another $60-70k to restore it.” I agree matching #’s has its place and is a key factor to many folks (and rightfully so if an ad includes certain claims). But in the end, whether its all numbers matching or not, the quality and level of workmanship in the finished product should align with the asking price. Does it in this case?
    Any expert opinions out there on what $ amount it would take to replicate it? Would be interesting to know.

    If I were given the choice between spending $109k on this 56 or a BJ resto-mod version with an LS, oversized wheels, air ride and custom interior (with an all digital dash of course) I’d opt for this beauty.
    Anyone got any spare penny wrappers?

    Like 1
  21. Joe Machado

    I was a Chevy guy as a kid, then I had a few.
    The 265, both of them, one quart of oil at 300-400 miles at 44,000 original miles was bad.
    At 77,000 miles, a quart at each gas fill.
    The 265 did not have any place on engine for an oil filter.
    That would be an add on, extra $.
    In 1956, my Uncle ordered a 4 door hardtop in this color combo with factory Harrison air conditioning. What a nitemare.
    But, this two door does tick my interest and I am a real diehard Mopar family guy.
    My son and daughter and I do have cars that are either Pilot cars, first made cars, most optioned cars, and SO cars. Performance Show cars, Public Relation cars. One is a factory Wind Tunnel Test car. and yes, certain cars excell the $$ side of Hagerty, The Gold book, etc. This is one of those.
    I am very interested, but will not take that step.
    Replace that battery.

    Like 0
    • frank dorsey

      do you have a Dodge Daytona ?

      Like 0
      • Joe Machado

        Yes

        Like 0
  22. Tony

    This car is only worth between 55-60 thousand
    at most. One just like this in Turquoise/ White
    and numbers match completely restored just
    sold a couple of months ago at a Carolina auction with no reserve for $55,000. Car only
    had 320 miles on it since restored.

    Like 3
  23. TMK

    My father had a black and white, 56 Bel Air that had the 265 power pack engine in it . To bad he wreck it drag racing a 59 Pontiac Bonneville out here in Ohio.

    Like 0

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