Tri-Five Project: 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air

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With Tri-Five Chevrolets continuing to grow in popularity, promising project cars generally receive plenty of interest and spirited bidding when they hit the classic market. However, there can be exceptions to every rule, and this 1956 Bel Air appears to be one of them. It is an unfinished project that could be considered a blank canvas with plenty of choices for a buyer to make. That makes it surprising that it has received no bids since the seller listed it here on eBay. The Bel Air is located in Mandan, North Dakota, with the auction opening at $10,000. It’s unclear what the reserve is, but there is a BIN option of $16,500 for those wishing to bypass the auction process.

There’s quite a bit to unpack with this Bel Air as a project car, and its panels and paint represent a good starting point. The color combination isn’t original because there is some evidence it wore Pinecrest Green when it rolled off the line. I don’t dislike the existing look, and I suspect the car would still garner attention once finished. The seller is candid about the shortcomings, saying it looks good from twenty feet. They admit that the paint isn’t perfect, and the panels require some massaging. If the buyer seeks perfection, stripping the exterior to bare metal would seem the best approach. When we delve below the surface, there is rust in the floors that would eventually require attention. Patches may address the problems, but the number required could make replacing the floor and trunk pans the best approach. With the car dismantled to its current level, some may consider going the whole hog with a frame-off build to ensure the rust is consigned to the pages of history. The front and rear glass are good, although the side glass is missing. The bumpers and grille will need a trip to the platers, and some of the stainless pieces require attention. So far, there’s nothing out of the ordinary for a project build, but there’s more to consider moving forward.

The Bel Air’s interior is a case of what you see is what you get. The front seat isn’t original, and the seller sat it there as an interim measure. Most of the dash is present, although the buyer needs to source a few missing parts. However, there are no seats or upholstery, meaning the shopping list for the interior will be long. Once seat frames are located, they need to decide what they wish to achieve from an appearance perspective. Trim kits to return it to a factory appearance are easy to find, although custom upholstery is another option. Regardless of which path they select, the buyer faces a considerable capital outlay to return the interior to a presentable level.

The seller has performed some welcome upgrades to this Chevy’s drivetrain. They say that the car runs and drives but should not be considered roadworthy. It rolled off the line with a V8 under the hood, and that remains the case. It isn’t numbers-matching because a 350ci small-block occupies the engine bay. The seller backed this with a Turbo 350 automatic transmission. The combination is safe and sensible and should prove bulletproof once the car returns to active duty. They replaced the master cylinder and front brake hardware, but the rear brakes are inoperative. There is also a new fuel tank and straps, but the buyer must flush or replace the lines. Other tasks include sourcing a replacement wiring harness because there is currently only wiring that allows the engine to start and run. The shopping list will also include a transmission cooler, a cooling fan for the radiator, wheels, tires, an exhaust, a new shifter and linkages, and a complete windshield wiper assembly. Once again, that is an extensive list guaranteed to lighten the buyer’s wallet.

It is unclear why there have been no bids on this 1956 Bel Air, but it could be a combination of factors that have cooled interest in this project. The seller is candid about its needs, and with the panels and paint less than perfect, a buyer seeking perfection faces the prospect of stripping the car to bare metal to achieve that standard. The rust in the floors is another factor, which may lead many to believe that a frame-off process would be the best approach. So far, those issues alone don’t seem enough, but one further factor is worth considering. The list of parts required to complete the work is extensive, and sourcing them will cost a pretty penny. This project should not be regarded as a lost cause, but potential buyers need to decide if they could be biting off more than they can chew. I think it will eventually sell, but the owner may need to be patient or willing to compromise on their sale price to entice people out of the woodwork. Do you agree, or do you think the situation will change as the auction draws to a close?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Frank Goodfriend

    Hey. It’s a tri five Chevy. The bids will come. However the 56 was never as desirable as the 55 and 57. It may be a lot of work but somebody is watching and hoping to score a good deal.

    Like 0
    • wMotor

      It appears the only one looking to score a good deal is the seller as no bids were placed from what I can tell. Start the bids at 3K and see what happens.

      Like 0
  2. George

    Part of the problem is likely the fact the vin plate is missing and there’s no assurance the title represents the actual car being sold. A vin check on the frame beneath the front seat area may reveal the car and title don’t match.

    Like 9
  3. wMotor

    I think the restoration costs would exceed market value. Had one in HS – but much older and wiser now.

    Like 0
  4. Danny V. Johnson

    It’s too bad about the VIN plate missing. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a parts car now.

    Like 4
  5. Bill C.

    I’m tempted to believe that everyone who wants a ’56 Chev already has one. Too good for a parts car. Maybe a RESTOMOD! ( ack ack choke.. barf)

    Like 0
  6. Gary

    16,500 for a parts car?? Not in my future..

    Like 2
  7. George Birth

    To much $ for too little value.

    Like 0
  8. Bryan D McDonald

    One of the problems with GM cars of this era is that the VIN plate is stainless steel and is held in place by two small spot welds to a mild steel door post. They are very easy to pop off I have seen people sell these at swap meets. (very illegal) But sometimes they just fall off.

    Like 0

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