By Ian Jones & Karen Steer, South Wales, UK
1957 Bel Air in the UK
This beautiful ’57 Bel Air is the first in Ian and Karen’s Tri-5 collection!
Photography by Jenny Wren
Our 1957 Chevy Bel Air Sport Coupe DSU 258 (our British registration number) was imported into the UK in 1987. She was based in Essex and we purchased her in September of 2012 from Steve Feathers, who had owned her for the previous 13 years.
We had decided to buy a classic American car some two years earlier, but couldn't decide which make or model we wanted. That was until we attended a local classic car show where we came across Ron Steven's ’57 Chevy. After that there was no competition– a ’57 Chevy it had to be! We eventually bought DSU 258 via eBay from Steve, and so the obsession began…
The car was looking a little bit tired and needed some TLC. The first job was to cut the paintwork, get all the years of grime off, and get it shining back to its former glory. It took weeks of cutting and polishing, but it was well worth it in the end– the car looked like it had just been re-sprayed.
Next job were the bumpers; they were dull and tarnished, but structurally good. We found a chrome plating company, Chromefix, who were based in the Midlands, UK. Two trips to Birmingham and six weeks later, both bumpers had been quadruple chromed and they looked good as new. We then coated the back of them in red lead paint and covered that in black enamel.
The 57 Bel Air 's 5.7L V8 small-block, along with the TH350 gearbox were both good, so not a lot to do there.
A secondhand wiper motor was sourced from the U.S., and we bought a heater off eBay to stop the windscreen misting up in our lovely UK wet weather.
This 57 Bel Air was a drag racer!
The car had previously been used for drag racing, so a few modifications were needed to get her back to normal. The diff in the rear axle was replaced to give the car a faster 'top end'. We also needed a new fuel tank, as the current one was in the boot (we wanted to put it back where it should be). Once the new fuel tank was fitted, the exhausts wouldn't fit because they were straight pipes. So a replacement exhaust was called for.
The front end had been lowered, but the wheels rubbed the arches on tight lock. New front springs were fitted to slightly lift the front and counteract the problem. The rear springs had seen better days and, on looking at the car from the rear, she leaned slightly to one side. New rear springs that came with 2" lowering blocks were fitted and the car now sat perfectly square.
Our 57 Bel Air 's InteriorThe interior of the car was not original but had been reupholstered and was in excellent condition. However, the door handles, window winders, gearstick and interior light were tatty, so replacements were ordered from the U.S. We also ordered a retro radio/iPod player to fill the not-so-glamorous hole in the dashboard. New door rubbers were also sourced from the U.S. and were an absolute nightmare to fit.
Next was attention to the exterior of the car; new headlamps, headlamp bezels, hood rockets, light bar, gold grille, bullets, wiper arms, hood bar and extensions, every badge and emblem, door mirrors and exterior door handles. The quarter light window rubbers were renewed along with the flipper seals.
DSU 258 was now holding her own, and with her American Racing alloy wheels having been polished to within an inch of their lives, she was looking good.
In September of 2014, Shakespeare County Raceway in Stratford-upon-Avon, UK, hosted a '57 @ 57 Chevy Event to celebrate the 57th year of the '57 Chevy.
We travelled from South Wales, along with three friends in their '57s, to attend this one-off event. It was a tremendous weekend, bringing together most of the '57s that had been imported into the UK over the years.
It was here that we met Jenny Wren of Jenny Wren Photography. Jenny took amazing photos of all of the cars at the raceway over the weekend. Our favourite one of our car was taken on the drag strip from the rear passenger side of the vehicle and the photo has appeared in several magazines, including the April 2015 issue of Chevy Classics!
Early on in 2015, Jenny contacted us to ask if she could use our car for a photo shoot for an article in Chevy Classics and we were only too pleased to accept. We travelled to Tewkesbury, UK, and met Jenny at Tewkesbury Abbey, which she used as the backdrop.
We had a brilliant day! The weather was reasonably good for British summertime and the venue was stunning. The photo shoot attracted a lot of attention from the passing public with Jen having to stop several times for people to take their own photos of the '57.
The American classic car following in the UK is huge with many groups having been set up on Facebook, where we have made so many friends. Help and advice is always available and we have taken advantage of this on many occasions. We have also become friends with many people in the U.S. via the classic car scene and we are proud to be part of it.
We are smitten with the 1950's Chevys, so much so that we have now acquired a '56 Bel Air 4-door, recently imported from Miami. Maybe a '55 will be next!
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