1957 Chevy Bel Air - Back To The Fifties In Triplicate

1957 Was A Red Letter Year For Loretta And Steve Conway, Their Matched Set Of Toys Is Proof That There's More To Enjoying A Vintage Car Than A 100-Point Restoration

Richard Truesdell Feb 1, 2004 0 Comment(s)
Sucp_0402_08_z 1957_chevrolet_bel_air Matched_57s 1/8

First off, this is not going to be another feature on another perfectly restored or restified Tri-Five Chevy. No it's a lot more than that. It's an interesting story about a couple of baby boomers who not only enjoy their '57 Chevy Bel Air two-door hardtop but have built around it a truly wonderful lifestyle that includes recreational passions directly related to the enjoyment they derive from their seeming obsession to the year 1957.

Loretta and Steve Conway live in Canoga Park, California, northwest of Los Angeles. Steve is about as traditional a car guy as there is, having worked his way up the collector-car food chain starting with a '57 Chevy 210 in high school followed by a fuel injected '57 Corvette. Then he met Loretta, got married and followed this up with a custom '40 Ford pickup and a '39 Ford sedan. But after that, all of a sudden, there were no more hot rods for a while. Kids probably had something to do with it.

Sucp_0402_09_z 1957_chevrolet_bel_air Front_grille 2/8

But as the '80s drew to a close, he got back into the car scene again, starting off with three '62 Corvettes followed by two '57 Chevys. But again, he lost his enthusiasm as the shows no longer were fun; it all got a bit too serious. "In the mid-'90s I was tired of car shows," says Steve. "The cars were basically art and really not useable. Finally I decided to build another '57, but this time not go crazy and have a car that when I was done, would be able to take other people with us on runs and attend events.

I came across our '57. It was decent without needing a lot of work. Again, I started having fun, just driving and not worrying about dust, dirt, and the occasional rock chip. Of course I couldn't completely leave it alone. Because I wanted it driveable I installed air conditioning and after that came mags, headers, a manifold and carburetor, MSD, disc brakes. . .well, you know the story."

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It took a trip up to Famoso Raceway, in Bakersfield, California, to really turn things around for the Conways. "When we went up for the drags, I noticed many people camping for the three-day event," say Steve. "I thought this would be fun and even better in an old classic trailer. After discussing it with my wife, I thought about maybe a teardrop trailer. After I showed Loretta what a teardrop was she said no way. If we were going to do a trailer, she wanted to be able to stand up inside. What followed was that we started looking for a trailer with a look that matched up well with our '57 Chevy."

"We found our Shasta in the local paper," says Loretta. "And we just bought it. We paid more than we wanted because the owner told us that this trailer is a classic, thus the price goes up. But I think he knew we had to have it because it was a '57, the same year as the Chevy."

"To say that the trailer was very rough, that's an understatement," says Steve. "But it was fun fixing it up because my wife got involved. It's like a little house, a home away from home. Fixing it up was like part auto repair and part home remodeling. She picked out material for the curtains, floor and upholstery. We had fun shopping for everything we would ever need at Camping World." To make trailing the Shasta safer, Steve upgraded the Chevy with power disc brakes and the trailer is equipped with electronic brakes as well.

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Following behind Steve as we traveled up Interstate 5 through Los Angeles it was fun watching other drivers moving around Steve to get a closer look. In car culture crazy Southern California, that's saying a lot when even a slammed H2 riding on 24-inch wheels hardly garners a passing look. "The Chevy has no problem towing the trailer," says Steve. "But at much over 55 miles per hour, you start to know that you're pulling it. It starts to wander a bit. Yet you have to feel great when people driving by give you the thumbs-up, as if you're driving some exotic hot rod."

The Conways use their trailer for many car events. It makes a great alternative to staying in motels. They have even put it in some car shows, as a combo. While their '57 Chevy is by no means a concours restoration, when parked next to their Shasta, it's easy to overlook its flaws. In reality, the white on red combination typically garners more attention and bigger crowds than most of the megabuck restorations parked next to it. It's not a show car, as Steve likes to say, it's basically a daily driver. But that has not stopped it from winning awards as at the latest car show they attended, in Burbank at Johnny Carson Park, they were awarded the Best of Show.

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