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READERS' PROJECTS

1956 Chevrolet BelAir Car Restoration Project - A First Look

Steve Nicholson has over 20 years' experience in the body and paint field and started Classic Body Works in 1992. He and his crew will be working through the restoration of this 1956 Chevrolet BelAir and has agreed to share their experience with Second Chance Garage readers. For car restoration tips, be sure to visit Steve's tech tip blog, AutoRestoration101.com

We are beginning a full, ground-up restoration of this 1956 Chevy BelAir. It's not going to be a 100% original restoration, though. We want the car to maintain the original look, including the original paint color scheme and trim. But we will be making some modifications that will make the car more enjoyable as well as safer on the road: upgrading to disc brakes, adding seat belts and air conditioning.

1956 Chevy BelAir Car Restoration Project
The 1956 Chevy BelAir was last tagged in 1999.

The car is in good shape and is very complete.
The car is in good shape and is very complete.

The engine is not original to the car. The car's current owner was told that the engine came from an early sixties Corvette. We will check the numbers to find out. The body of the car is in very good shape considering that it's 52 years old. The stainless trim is in excellent condition and is almost dent free.

The right side floor brace under the seat
The right side floor brace under the seat.

We put the car on the lift to look at the underside and the floorboards are in good shape. The car has obviously been kept in a garage for most of its life. It does have the typical rust in the floor braces and in the front fenders over the headlights. The shock mounts in the trunk floor show no signs of stress cracks. Both doors still shut very easily with just the slightest push.

Possibly an early sixties Corvette engine...we will verify.
Possibly an early sixties Corvette engine...we will verify.

After going over the car carefully, it became obvious that some body and paint work had been done at some point in the car's long life. It appears to have had some repairs made to the quarter panels in front of the rear tires. The repairs seem most likely to be rust repairs and there was no evidence of collision damage. Overall the car is very complete and in good shape.

The interior is complete. There are seat covers over the original seat upholstery.
The interior is complete. There are seat covers over the original seat upholstery.

A padded dash was a rare option for a 1956 Chevrolet BelAir.
A padded dash was a rare option for a 1956 Chevrolet BelAir.

Left rear door brace.
Left rear door brace.

The aftermarket condenser. The car has an underdash AC unit which will be removed and replaced with a newer combo air/heat unit.
The aftermarket condenser. The car has an underdash AC unit which will be removed and replaced with a newer combo air/heat unit.

The left quarter panel shows some previous body work. You can tell from the large cracks in the paint and also the way the quarter panel bulges past the door. Most likely from body filler.
The left quarter panel shows some previous body work. You can tell from the large cracks in the paint and also the way the quarter panel bulges past the door. Most likely from body filler.

The floors are in good shape.
The floors are in good shape.

Rust in the fenders over the headlights is typical for 1956 Chevrolets.
Rust in the fenders over the headlights is typical for 1956 Chevrolets.
The car still has the original trunk mat. There has also been some work done around the rear window drain tubes.
The car still has the original trunk mat. There has also been some work done around the rear window drain tubes.

The stainless trim on the car is in great shape with very few dings.
The stainless trim on the car is in great shape with very few dings.

We think this car will be a great car to own when we're finished and we are anxious to get started. We'll keep you up to date as we progress. Stay tuned!





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