999 show points say this ’57 Bel Air Convertible is one of the country’s finest!
Owned by Dave Fletcher, Brentwood, CA Photography by Colin Date
Back in 1974, we purchased our first (my second) 1957 Chevrolet. We had decided to buy a classic car that we could fix up as a daily driver. We were in the hunt for a ’57 2-door Sport Coupe. Most folks don’t remember the days when a hardtop was harder to come by than a convertible. That was the case, and we found a convertible that was solid enough to build what we had in mind. However, after a month of working on the car and not getting very far, we bought a really nice ’56 4-door Bel Air. It turned out to be more in line with what we needed, especially since we were starting our family.
That being the case, we decided to build the convertible to a higher standard. Why not make it a show car? So, I started collecting parts for the eventual restoration. I started learning about the various accessories that were available in 1957 and got bitten by the bug to find one of every option available on a 1957 Chevrolet. With this quest and the dream of building the best and most correct car that I could, I had my work cut out for me. I had to find the best parts that were out there and meet the people who knew what was correct. For the next 30 years I did just that.
At this point, I could write an entire book about the lessons learned, parts found, information gained and especially the friendships that we have made. The list is long of those who helped me document and confirm what is absolutely correct for a 1957 Chevrolet. I was encouraged that I was on the right path when, on the passing of my (our) good friend and mentor, Tom Trainor, Classic Chevy asked me to take over the original tech help line position.
As many have experienced, life can be challenging balancing time, money and priorities. As the years passed, we kept upgrading parts and even bought other cars on two occasions. Upon my retirement in 2002, it was time to get serious on the restoration portion of the dream. My goal was to build the best car could– realizing limitations of finances and abilities.
I worked on finding the best resources to help with the areas I could not do by myself. The mechanical and chassis restoration had been done eariler by Joe Hrudka Jr. The body and paint was done by SRC in Southern California– some 500 miles away. The upholstery was done by the man that many know as the best in the USA for convertible tops– Ed Limanen. This entailed taking the car to his son’s garage in Minnesota– another road trip of over 4,000 miles. Ours was one of the last tops and interiors that Ed did before his passing. The chrome and stainless polishing was done by the best I could find– Sherm’s Plating in Sacramento, CA– just 100 miles from home.
With all the parts looking better than new, the final challenge of putting everything together with proper alignment and not scratching anything! This was no easy task for a novice like me.
I was able to attain almost every accessory, most of which were NOS parts. The rarest parts were seat belts, shoulder harnesses and an original front sway bar. The only reproduction parts on the car are rubber and upholstery items.
With the car completed, it was off to Classic Chevy Conventions. The first time out the car scored 994. After fixing a few items where points had been deducted, we scored numerous 997s. At this point I must also mention that the car did score a humbling 988 at Springfield, but the car and judges redeemed themselves this past year with a score of 999.
This car and the car hobby have been a significant part of my life and I look forward to many Classic Conventions to come. Thanks to all who have shared in this classic adventure.
I can end this by saying that my dream has come true.
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