My wife Jane, my family and many of my friends were sure I had lost my mind when I bought my ’57 Chevrolet restoration project car. Every one admires these beautiful old cars, but who in their right mind would spend years, three in my case, restoring one just to drive? The answer to that question is, “Many people would.”
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My wife Debbie and I first got hooked on classic cars about ten years ago. We had a Chevelle at that time, but I had always wanted to own a ‘55 Chevy. After a considerable discussion with my wife Debbie, we sold the Chevelle and went looking for a ‘55.
By the time we attended the 2006 Winter National event in Orlando, Florida we had only been looking for a ’55 to buy for a few weekends. While viewing all the great Tri-Fives at the show, we noticed a ‘55 Be1 Air 2-door Sedan along a fence with a For Sale sign in the window. I asked my mechanic friend, Larry Hays, who was with us, to check out the car. After crawling under, on, in and all around the car, we decided to purchase it and start a frame-off restoration. We learned that the previous owner was from our home state, Virginia. Debbie later found out the car came from her hometown, Staunton, Virginia.
In the fall of 1999, my husband Dan was looking for a 1956 Chevy to restore. The type of car he wanted to have was one that looked stock from the outside, but when the hood was opened or when you heard it running you knew it wasn’t stock. This car would definitely be a driver, but be of show quality. In short, he wanted to build a 1956 sleeper.
After months of looking on eBay and reading various magazines, he found the car he was looking for. The car was located in Sacramento, which is only 60 miles from our home. He arranged to see the car and Dan knew immediately that this was the right car for our project. The car wasn’t running, but it had straight sheet metal and no rust. In doing some research, we found that the car was originally built in Oakland, California in January, 1956 as a Bel Air two-door with a Crocus Yellow exterior and two-tone ivory and black vinyl interior.
My interest in American cars started a long time ago. At the age of seventeen, I bought my first U.S. car. It was a 1964 Chevrolet Bel Air and the year was 1984. Due to Danish law, I was not able to drive it before I turned 18. In the meantime I got the car fixed up and ready for the road.
About the same time clubs for American cars were starting in Denmark, in Holstebro (where I live) we also started a club and named it after the famous boulevard in LA; Van Nuys. Lots of fun began for 10-15 young members of Van Nuys Car Club, and the hobby grew fast over the years. Today the club counts about 160 members and over 125 cars. www.VAN-NUYS.DK
The 1950s saw some of the most radical and progressive automotive styling ever. Across the pond, Europeans were building sleek, curvaceous sports cars, but in the U.S. auto styling began to take cues from machines of flight. After World War II leading into the Space Race, American cars began to develop aviation inspired attributes like fins and cross hairs. The Chevy Nomad fell directly into this category, but it also had a lot of unique features making it instantly recognizable. The Nomad was designed to have the sporty look of a hardtop combined with the utility of a station wagon. This concept, combined with the unique styling features like the forward swept B-pillars and the wrap-around rear side glass helped turn the Nomad into the icon it is today.
1955 Chevy: The Chameleon. One day while I was driving my ’57 Chevy, a fellow classic Chevy enthusiast driving a ’55 asked me if I would be interested in trading cars. He sweetened the deal with a Wonderbar radio and some cash, and the deal was made.
Since then, the car has gone through a number of phases. Back in 1993 at the Winter Nationals in Orlando, the car, then with candy apple red paint, gray tweed interior, and a smooth firewall, won first place and best engine in the driven modified class.
Two weeks later the car was completely dismantled. I had a lot of ideas and changes I wanted to make. So I started at Holtz Welding with the chassis and suspension. Bill at Holtz fabricated a full cage, custom headers, rear tubs, a full racing suspension, a nine inch rear with a 4:10 Posi gear, and motor plates for a supercharged small block.
The Lonestar XXXI Classic Chevy Convention was held in San Angelo, TX on June 25, 2013. We expected about 70 cars, but unfortunately the weather was threatening and some folks stayed home – giving us 49 registered vehicles.
Even though this was a smaller show, we were pleased to see cars come from Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Angelo, San Antonio, and Waco in Texas and from as far away as San Diego, CA, and even Western Australia. Thanks to all who attended!
Imagine awakening to find that it’s 1959! Wow, what would it be like to open your eyes to such a sight? Though such a discovery may conjure up many thoughts, the minds of most of us reading a publication like Chevy Classics drift quickly to our favorite topic…old cars. Well, I recently had just such an experience.
A near absolute ban on travel from America to Cuba has existed since 1959 and the Kennedy administration. In an attempt to ease relations, in 1999 President Clinton implemented “People-to-People,” an initiative designed to allow Americans to travel to Cuba as part of an educational exchange. Under special license, agents would be allowed to offer a fully-scheduled cultural exchange program to a limited number of travelers. However, due to various roadblocks, licenses were seldom issued and the initiative went nowhere.Recently that closed door was opened, if only just a crack. In October of 2009, an amendment to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations eased the Cuban travel requirements paving the way for license issuance, and the race to Cuba was on.
I was twelve years old when my oldest brother Walter "Speedy" bought a new black ’57 Chevy Sports Coupe. It had a 283 c.i. engine and 3-speed transmission with overdrive. I learned to drive using this car. I didn't know at that time that I would become addicted, but I couldn't escape the influence of Tri-5 Chevys. At seventeen, and a senior in high school, I bought my first ’57 Chevy. It was a four-door Bel Air sedan, painted Tropical Turquoise with a 265 engine and 3-speed transmission. It had 58,000 miles showing on the odometer. I dated my wife in that car and we traded it in on a ’64 Chevelle in 1965. In 1972 I bought my dad's black ’57 Bel Air four-door sedan and kept it a few years. In the mid ’70s, I had a craving for another ’57. I found a two-door Sports Coupe from a club member in Warner Robins, GA. It needed paint, interior and a transmission. I had this Chevy repainted Tropical Turquoise and the transmission rebuilt, and installed some ’66 Chevelle bucket seats. As a side note, the seller gave me a Classic Chevy World magazine. This was my first knowledge of the club.
If you go onto the Internet Movie Cars Database to check out Tri-5s at the movies, you’ll be there all day! (We've provided a link at the bottom of this story, just in case you've got the time!)
We’ll share the 4 most memorable ones here (in our humble opinion anyways). Feel free to let us know your favs!
1973’s American Graffiti starred (among others) Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Harrison Ford and Suzanne Somers. The black ’55 Chevy in this film was a re-work of the same car used in Two-Lane Blacktop.
Two-Lane Blacktop from 1971, starring James Taylor, Dennis Wilson, Warren Oates and Laurie Bird. One tough ’55 that sports the meanest hood scoop of all time.