Tri-Five Under $4k! 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

I was pretty surprised to see this classic Chevy for such a low price, but then I started reading further, and there are good reasons. There are some good reasons that it may be a bargain as well! This Bel Air is located in Sparks, Nevada, and is offered here on eBay for a buy-it-now of one cent under $4,000 or best offer.

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air 4 Door

This picture shows the first reason the car is priced as low as it is. 4-doors are simply not as desirable to most enthusiasts as two-door models. As a matter of fact, the difference between the low end value of the two-door at $13,250 in the NADA value guide and the four-door’s at $7,625 is huge. The missing fender trim and general appearance aren’t helping the value either. Apparently part of the dash is missing and the trunk floor is not good, although the seller has one you can cut out of another car. The trunk actually doesn’t look too bad in the picture of it. The posts between the doors means this is a regular sedan, not the “hardtop” sports sedan, which also makes the car worth less.

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Engine

But hang on a minute! This is a rare factory air-conditioned car, something that was not fitted to many cars of this vintage at all. The compressor is the only missing component, although I’m sure some of the others would need replacing. There happens to be a used 1957 compressor here on eBay right now for $475. Can any Barn Finds readers tell for sure that this is a factory A/C system rather than an aftermarket one? I can see that the engine is a small-block, but I cannot tell if this is the original V8 or not.

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Interior

The interior is, well, horrible. I’m guessing the vents at the ends of the dash are for the air conditioning? I can’t quite see the HVAC controls, but it looks like it could be the one pictured here in the 1957 owners’ manual.

1957 Chevy 4 Door

Stationary for more than the last 25 years, it does roll now but has no brakes. Despite the general poor appearance, there are some real positives about this car. Almost all the stainless steel and aluminum Bel Air trim is present and appears to be in pretty good shape. Bumpers are present and are certainly good enough to be re-chromed. Even the original “dog dish” wheel center caps are in place (or at least the three of them we can see in the pictures). How do you feel about this find? Does the A/C and relatively low cost outweigh the additional pair of doors? Or would you look for a better car and perhaps install aftermarket A/C? Let us know in the comments below.


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  1. Vince Habel

    I would pass on it. It is a money pit for a model that is not that desirable.

    • charlesmdoc

      not too bad if your a 57 enthusiast factory air is a big plus and 4 doors are becoming more popular because they are lower priced. parts are plentiful

  2. Jason Schreiber

    It’s really too bad, and pretty discouraging, to hear all the negativity and ‘dollars worth’ discussion in 2015 regarding old cars. I know many people who cannot afford ‘desirable hardtops and convertibles’ and have a ball enjoying and preserving the old car hobby with their four-door sedans. Why not enjoy it for what it is? This 57 would be a great project for a family that loves the hobby, and would like to restore a tri-five, but can’t start out with a 15k hardtop needing everything. Just my opinion, but these cars are disappearing; save them now before they’re gone, and enjoy them!!

    • MikeH

      Jason–you said what I’ve been thinking for a long time. Most of us don’t restore old cars for the money. I doubt that any of my cars are worth what I have in them–and I don’t care.

      Like 1
    • geomechs geomechs Member

      I sure agree. All the cars in my collection are 4-door sedans. I’m into them for the love of preserving memories in vintage iron. I don’t intend to sell them; I want to enjoy them. And I’m not concerned about cost vs possible returns.

  3. Dave Wright

    Looks like a retail price to me…………

  4. geomechs geomechs Member

    I actually like this car. But then, I kind of like 4-doors. That looks like a factory AC unit which I didn’t think was available on Chevrolet until ’58. If I had my slate clean, I’d be tempted to take this project on. It would be worthwhile, and I’d be the only one on the club tour with a 58 year old car with AC.

    • Vince Habel

      I saw a 57 Nomad that had factory air. It was in better shape that this but needed a total restore.

  5. jim s

    has power steering pump running off the back of the generator. sure is a big a/c unit in front of radiator, i wonder if that causes overheating. seller is right to list ” for part ” but someone might want to get it running again. great find

  6. The Walrus

    Every dollar ‘invested’ in restoring this car would lose about $0.66 in value the second it was spent. Restoring an undesirable car is a far worse idea than driving a new car off the lot. This is true whether the restorer does the work themselves or hires someone. Unless the restorer has an emotional reason to do so (an heirloom car, or ‘we had one just like it’) it’s a bad decision. Turning it into a street rod might regain some of the value, but restoring it to original would be a fools errand. If so compelled as to start with a ’57 basket case, it would be better to save up and search for at least a 2-door post (even a 150 or 210). The cost of restoration is basically equal amongst models of the same relative condition. Why would one knowingly venture to ‘invest’ more than a car is worth through restoration when the same model could be bought already restored for less money? The internet is loaded with half finished ‘project cars’ where the restorer realizes half way through that they are in over their head. Often you’ll see an ad for a half way completed car read ‘over $XX,XXX invested’, and the number they list is higher than the value of the completed car. And you know that number is pure dollars and not time. I’m not a financial adviser, but I don’t think you need to be in this case.

  7. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    Interesting discussion here, folks…I can see both sides.

  8. Rancho Bella

    Ever drive these? Gigantic steering wheel piloting a 1300’s wooden sailboat

  9. MH

    I would rather have a 4 door over a 2 anyday. I have kids that also love going to car show so we need the room. I would pass on this car only because I want a project that requires a little less work and $. Im sure someone will save it.

  10. Evan Allen

    Interesting, mine was even cheaper and running at the time. I like the factory(looking) AC it’s got, I wouldn’t mind that for mine. At least he’s got a floor, mine’s a bit breezier than that.

  11. Dolphin Member

    I’m with Rancho…..Yes I have driven one, back when these were still on the road as cheap drivers. A buddy had one with a triple duce intake and a cam. It was just a 265 but it revved real good. And it was a 2-door.

    BUT….it was so heavy that it had trouble maintiaining much acceleration above 40 or 50 MPH. And navigation? Let’s just say that it might just make a 1300’s wooden sailboat seem pretty nimble. That was the first time I really understood the need for power steering and a lower steering ratio, which that baby didn’t have, and also the need to add lightness.

    Now, I love the look of the Tri-Fives and hang around them at every Show ‘N Shine, but they are really pure cruisers.

  12. Vince Habel

    I had a 57 Bel Air 2 door sedan. The steering wheel felt like it should be in a truck.

  13. JagManBill

    I get a kick outta folks that the first thing they do is go out and buy a new set of tires for their “project”…

    • Jim

      Factory air was an option from 1955.
      No big blocks (348) until 1958 all small blocks are interchangeable up to 400cubic inches.
      Four door sedans in good shape are usually more solid than two doors.
      Hardtops always have poor weather sealing, nasty in cold or rain. (You wouldn’t drive in rain anyway, would you?.
      All parts are available from Danchuck.
      Best luck, Jim Parker, Brampton Ontario Canada.

  14. DT

    I get a kick outa people that want thousands of dollars for a parts car ,and wont put a couple of tires on it to at least get it up on to a trailer.

  15. JPapa

    Snow in Nevada? What else is false about this one?

    • Andrew

      Sparks is 4,000 feet in elevation and gets about 7″ of snow a year.

  16. John

    My family had a new one like this when I was a kid. Mostly turquoise and white with a big aluminum colored “swoosh” on the rear fins. I remember when my Dad brought it home he told me to find its gas filler. As I remember, it was a noisy and hard riding car but My Dad liked it better than his 55 Buick Super. He said it was faster. I spent many long hours in the back seat heading across HWY 36 to Colorado. Ours was not air-conditioned, and my Dad bought clear plastic seat covers to protect the upholstery. Truly wonderful. But it never caused a problem and it climbed Pikes Peak many many times (back when it was mostly all unpaved). I wish I were younger and had a space, I’d be all over this thing. I truly hope someone saves it. I’d just like to know there’s one out there.

  17. Woodie Man

    At the risk of getting flamed to death…..and leaving aside whether any and all cars are worthy of being saved, it is a 4 door post sedan. Period. Bottom of the barrel in model terms even if it’s not a 150 which is the basement of the model.

    As to Rancho’s comment maybe I expect less but I drove a canary yellow ’56 4 door hardtop for most of 1972. I didnt find it hard to drive at all. In fact is was a blast. Would have been better had it a 3 speedon the column even.

    I love the Tri-5’s

  18. Wayne

    I doubt that it is factory air.( Look how the hoses run OVER the radiator support panel). Those dog dish hubcaps are off a 210 series. Bel Airs had full wheel trims. Most cars look better in four doors. IMO. The Bel Air 4 door hardtop ( sports sedan ) is the best looker that year. IMO

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