1957 Chevrolet Bel Air - With a Little Help From His Friends

It May Be a Little Worn, But This True Street Chevy is What Hot Rodding’s All About.

Rod Short Jun 30, 2014 0 Comment(s)
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When Joe Cocker’s raspy rendition of a Beatles’ song talked about getting by with some help from his friends, speculation was rampant about what those “friends” really were. In the case of many hot rodders, however, those friends are your buddies that turn wrenches with you, stay vigilant for the parts you need, and provide moral support when things aren’t going well. It’s all a part of being active in the hot rodding community—and that is just the case with David Reustle and his street-driven Chevrolet.

As with many pitside participants at Super Chevy shows, we found David with a cluster of others working under the hood of his ’57. With a carburetor in his hand while getting ready for True Street qualifying cruise, David told us the story of his car that, in many ways, is the story of us all.

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Drag Strip 2/9

“It all started during my teenage years,” David began. “We all used to hang out at the local Burger King and everybody was into muscle cars and hot rods. I had a friend named Roger Slate who had an Army green 1957 Chevy that we cruised in all the time. It had a 283 in it with a tunnel ram, dual Holleys, and a Muncie four-speed.

“I used to tell him all the time that I was going to buy his car someday and all he’d say was ‘I hear ya,’” David laughed. “Years passed and he went on to buy a 1969 Camaro Z/28 that I helped him with while the ’57 stayed parked in the garage. When I was 24, I finally called him one day and announced that I was ready to buy his car. He was buying a new house at the time and the garage only had space for one car, so I knew that the Camaro would be the one going in there. We talked a bit and I was able to take the car home for $1,500, less engine and transmission.”

After storing the car for about a year, David and his friends built a 327 together, bolted in another four-speed, and got the big Chevy back on the road. It wasn’t long, however, before everyone realized that the Army green color had to go. David and Paul Coswell worked together on replacing the rocker panels and massaging the rest of the bodywork before Coswell sprayed the car. After careful reassembly and final detailing, the car debuted at a local show where it won a first place award. It was a day to remember for all.

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Front Grille 3/9

Leaving things as they are, however, is a virtue that hot rodders rarely possess. A 331-cid small-block found its way into the car with a steel crank and Manley rods making up the bottom end. Double-hump heads, a Lunati cam, and a Scorpion intake with a Holley double-pumper followed. With that done, David soon found himself making regular trips to the local dragstrip with his friends.

“I broke an axle while racing up in Princeton, West Virginia, and had to put the car up for a while,” David recalled. “My friend Tim Terry actually sold the engine and tranny out of the car without my knowledge. I thought I’d kill him—until I saw how much money he’d gotten for everything.”

Once David overcame the shock, he began to realize what those funds could mean in terms of upgrades for the Shoebox. A mini-tubbed rear for larger tires, ladder bar rear suspension, an NHRA legal rollcage, a 358-cid roller motor, front wheel disc brakes, and an automatic tranny all put David’s Bel Air in another league. David and his friends began racing throughout at Super Chevy and other drag events throughout the mid-Atlantic.

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Engine 4/9

As the price of gas skyrocketed, however, David listened to some good advice and changed engines once again. Out came the 358 race engine and in went a milder 400 pump gas motor. This allowed his venerable heavy Chevy to return to the street world while still being potent enough to produce some mid-12-second timeslips. Super Chevy’s True Street class began to seem like a perfect fit for David’s car.

As it is today, David’s Tri-Five runs with an essentially stock front suspension that uses components from Moroso, Chassis Engineering, and others to provide a full 3-inch drop. The rear still uses a three-link suspension with a braced 12-bolt rear with Carerra shocks. Monocoque race wheels mount 315/60R15 Mickey Thompson drag radials to provide plenty of traction on both the street and strip.

Under the hood sits a 406-cid pump gas motor that was built by fellow True Street racer Phillip DeLong. Goodies include a Dart Iron Eagle crank and I-beam rods with Speed Pro 10.5 flat-top pistons, an Edelbrock Air-Gap intake, and a Holley 750. Other classic upgrades include an MSD 6AL ignition box, ceramic-coated headers, and Flowmaster 40-series mufflers. Inside the transmission tunnel is a Turbo 400 with an ATI 3,600-stall converter.

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Interior 8/9

Although the Amber Flint paint is approaching 30 years old, it still holds a shine and garners compliments. A Danchuk gold grille, N.O.S. GM front/rear bumpers, and a 4-inch scoop molded onto the stock steel hood provide just the right look and bling. Vinyl clad RCI seats, Ultra-Lite liquid filled gauges, and a Turbo Action shifter provide all the evidence necessary that there’s more to this Chevy than meets the eye.

Despite some flaws and imperfections, people are quick to appreciate that David’s car is one of the very few ’57 Chevys competing in True Street today under any sanction. (Its best run in its current guise is 12.31 at 108.9 mph.) What’s also appreciated are the many friends such as Jimmy Moore, Ross Jackson, Gary Richards, Gary Beckner, Dicky Wilson, Eddy Kirk, Eddie Farris, and sons Brad and Kevin that all had a hand in this car.

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Rear Quarter 9/9

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