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1956 Chevy Bel Air Vintage Race Car

Retro Racer: This ’56 was restored to its former glory with over 3,500 man-hours.

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Dorney Park Speedway was once a bustling three-quarter Midget oval track located in Allentown, Pennsylvania, that frequently filled the stands with spectators. Every Saturday night it was known to collect 3,000 to 4,000 fans. In my mind I can see Don Hoffman’s 1956 Chevy Bel Air race car crossing the finish line as these throngs of sweaty fans cheer on a hot summer night in the Lehigh Valley. Rick Karpeuk was the owner and builder when the car competed from 1977 to 1979, and won its only main event on July 9, 1977. Perhaps its thoughts like that which inspired mechanic Don Hoffman to bring it back to life after 24 years of sitting outside to rot.

1956 Vintage Chevy Race Car 318 87 03 2/9
1956 Vintage Chevy Race Car 318 87 09 3/9

With the help of Travis McIntire at Ken Schrader Racing, Don whipped the old girl back into racing shape. The body is all-original, with Crimson Red and Silver paint. Jerry Hoffman applied the DuPont basecoat and clearcoat, while Dennis Smith re-created the lettering by hand. The revived engine is a warmed over Chevy 350ci V-8 with a Holley two-barrel carb and Edelbrock intake manifold. A Mallory ignition system provides the spark, and Hooker headers help the engine breathe. A heavy-duty Muncie four-speed and rearend from a ’55 1-ton truck make up the driveline. The original Monroe shocks were preserved, complemented by AFCO coil springs up front and stock leaf springs in the rear. Frankland drum brakes at all four corners were a necessary upgrade yet still terrifying by today’s standards. Besides the exoskeleton rollcage, perhaps the coolest things about this car are the staggered wheels. The left side was 13-inches wide, while the right side was 15-inches with square Hoosier 27.5x11-inch slicks. The seats are custom built from aluminum by Richardson Race Products, the steering wheel was made by Schroeder, and the Lexan front windshield was homemade.

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1956 Vintage Chevy Race Car 318 87 08 5/9

Today, Dorney Park is an amusement and water park. The speedway was just another casualty of modernity. Goodbye racetrack, hello housing developments and strip malls. But when you fire up this ’56 Bel Air you can reminisce about a simpler time when a couple coins got you admission to the coolest show in town.

1956 Vintage Chevy Race Car 318 87 02 6/9

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