'55 Bel Air: A Well Traveled Story

This spectacular ’55 Bel Air was destined for Brian and Robin Ische’s garage.

By Brian and Robin Ische   Glendale, WI

Our '55 Chevy Bel Air began its life in Baltimore, MD, and somehow found its way out to California. It is believed that in 1972 the original owner of our car was stopped by the California Highway Patrol and arrested for drunk driving. The car was impounded and sent to the Mojave Desert Auto Wrecking Yard. There, it would be abandoned and parts taken from it for the next five years.


In 1977, Mr. Donald Gaylord was searching that wrecking yard for a 1956 Chevy 2 door hardtop to restore. As he walked through the yard, he found “our” ’55 sitting there, and thought this diamond in the rough would make a really nice car because it was solid and had no rust. He made the decision to purchase the car, and much to his surprise he would have to purchase the body and the chassis separately because it was a police impound. Donald would own the car for the next twenty years with the hope to restore it when he retired. As it is with life, ideas change. He moved to Arkansas to pursue a career in politics, and made the decision to sell the car to his cousin Vernon Gaylord. Vernon and his wife Verna purchased the car from him and brought it back to California. They decided to have the car restored to factory original after rounding up many of the parts.


The restoration process began by taking the car and the many boxes of parts to Bell’s Classic Auto Works in Lodi, CA. Stennett Bell, owner and operator of the restoration shop did a complete frame off nut and bolt procedure. The car was restored to perfection, wearing a two tone color combination of India Ivory over Regal Turquoise. Motivation comes via a 265 ci V8 with the Power Pack. The car has won many awards, having scored 993 out of 1000 points– earning a platinum certificate. The ’55 has been featured as a cover story in the April 1999 Bow Times issue as well as featured in the 2001 February issue of Classic Chevy World. After owning the car for ten years since its restoration, Vern and Verna decided it was time to sell it. In 2006 they brought the ’55 to the Barrett Jackson Auto Auction in Scottsdale, AZ. This is where I would see our car for the first time, and only dream of owning it. I have always liked the 1955 Bel Air, and have wanted to own one since my first car show as a teenager.

My search began in early 2010 for a 2 door hardtop that met my expectations. My wife and I had a budget in mind and decided it was better for us to buy one that was already restored. My searches on the Internet for the perfect Bel Air lead to many possibilities across the U.S. I found one in particular for sale at a classic car dealer located in southern Illinois. However, the price was more than our budget would allow. The pictures I copied from the dealer’s web site I would later use as a benchmark for the cars we would look at within our price range. After many disappointing leads and trips across the country with our dog Stanley, we decided it was time to look for our car a different way. In 2011, after a long break, I started looking again on the Internet. I noticed the car that was for sale in Illinois had not sold and they had dropped the price. I decided to call the dealer and make them an offer that was well below what they were asking. Much to my surprise, they accepted my offer and we made arrangements to meet so we could inspect the car and make sure it was what we expected.

The car was better than I could have imagined, and it had all the features I wanted: Power brakes, power steering, 265 ci V8 Power Pack and a Powerglide transmission. It was in the right colors, too: India Ivory over Regal Turquoise. This car looked as though it was pulled off the Chevrolet assembly line. My wife and I decided to purchase the car and we arranged to have it delivered to us later that spring after the snow melted. We returned to Wisconsin later that day with such excitement, but with only the title and a lot less money. During the next few weeks, I did some investigating as to who had owned the car prior to us as well as the dealer we purchased it from.

My research would lead me to Vernon Gaylord in California. I called him after locating his phone number and left him a message to call me. He returned my call later that evening and expressed yes, he had owned a Bel Air, and verified that the car we now own had been his. The most unbelievable part of our conversation was the discovery that this was the same car I had seen at the Barrett Jackson and dreamed of owning in 2006. The car was now delivered and we decided it needed a little tender loving care. We have replaced the old tires with the correct Silvertown wide white walls and added a new Delco tartop battery. The car underwent a complete tune-up which included period correct sparkplug wires and distributor cap. The four barrel carburetor also needed rebuilding, along with the replacement of the treadle vac power brake booster. This was a small list of things to do, considering the car had been restored over fifteen years ago.

Our ’55 continues to win best of show trophies, and we share our stories with Vern and Verna. I would like to extend a special thank you to Vern Gaylord and Stennett Bell for restoring our car into the masterpiece that it is.

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