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1957 Chevy Bel Air - The Red Ball Express

Always on the Move and in the Groove

Mike Harrington Jul 1, 2006
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Labor Day weekend 2004, the sweltering Texas summer heat is radiating off of the blacktop highways that crisscross the Lone Star State. As the long weekend approaches, automobile aficionados Mac and Shelley Bernd adjust the climate control of their vehicle, and settle in as they leave the Dallas-Fort Worth area. In front of them, I-20 stretches off into the distance. On the horizon, the radiating heat creates an illusion of an oasis. It's this very horizon that the Bernds are headed straight for. The oasis at the end of their horizon lies in Birmingham, Alabama, and it is no illusion they are chasing (or so they think), for it is in Birmingham that a yellow '57 Chevrolet Nomad awaits their arrival.

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Upon arrival, a closer inspection of the Nomad is made, and after careful deliberation between Mac and his wife, they reluctantly decide that this Chevrolet Nomad is just not for them. All is not lost, however. They soon learn of another Tri-Five Chevrolet hiding in Dunlap, Tennessee's hill country. The highway beckons to them once more, and the Bernds mount up and hit the blacktop for Tennessee. How many members of the common citizenry would end the trip at this moment in time? Not Mac and Shelley; they were on a quest. We soon learn that there is no state line that they are unwilling to cross in order to achieve their automotive utopia.

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Dunlap, Tennessee-Mac and Shelley are staring at the newest love of their life: a fiery red '57 Chevrolet Bel Air. All the attractive qualities they were hoping for are present on this car: a razor-straight body, perfect chrome trim, PPG Fiery Red paint, and a built-to-the-hilt, fire-breathing Street & Performance 502. In its current state of construction, the Bel Air is still far from completion. However, none of that matters; they are under its spell and have to have it.

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Where one man gives up on an automotive build, another takes the torch and continues the race. A deal to purchase the Bel Air was made, and the Bernds quickly planned a return trip to Tennessee to pick up their new prize.

Fast forward in time. The Bernds have once again made the journey from Texas to Tennessee to bring home their adopted Bel Air, only this time the '57 isn't going all the way to Texas; it's on its way to Oklahoma City. There, Steve Cook installs a new radiator, custom core support, wiring, brake lines, fuel lines, water lines, and an air-ride suspension. Soon thereafter, the '57 is on the move again. Next stop: San Bernardino, California.

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Mike Face Auto Body in San Bernardino was entrusted with the final task of color-sanding and buffing the '57 to a fine mirrorlike finish. After the final fit and finish of the paint, the car found its way to Rialto, California, where Ron Mangus took on the task of stitching up the upholstery. After receiving more attention than a tantrum-throwing movie star, the Bel Air was back en route to its new Texas home for detailing and debugging. After resting for a few months, it was back out to California again for the Grand National Roadster Show, where our lens captured the '57 in front of the NHRA museum.

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After covering more ground than Patton's Third Army, Mac and Shelley Bernds aptly christened their new ride "The Red Ball Express." For those not familiar with the Red Ball Express, it was a fast-paced trucking convoy system that kept the allied army supplied. No doubt the Express racked up mile after mile in their ever-moving convoy. It would seem Mac and Shelley plan to do the same with this '57 Bel Air.



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