1956 Chevy Bel Air Convertible - The Barnstormer

After Spending 20-Plus Years In An Oregon Barn, This 1956 Chevy Bel Air Was Completely Transformed.

Thomas J. Lyman Jun 26, 2007 0 Comment(s)
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Here we have another story of love, intrigue, and ... wait, no, that's not entirely true. Let me start over.

A long time ago, in a barn far, far, away ... that's a little closer to the truth. OK, OK, you're probably wondering what the hell I'm talking about now. Well, it's the '56 convertible that you see here in lovely digital color. Jason Schiller's Daytona Blue and Pearl White machine really did sit in an Oregon barn until he came across it about five years ago. Jason's plan then included taking the car to Lake Havasu, Arizona, where he left it in the care of his grandfather, Bert Parker. Schiller's grand scheme also included restoring the car side-by-side with his grandfather, one piece at a time at Parker's garage.

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The vehicle was completely dismantled, one piece at a time, until everything was lying around on the garage floor. Another interesting facet to the project was Schiller's desire to add some customization to the '56, including a totally radical interior and a more powerful setup under the hood. In many cases, as the pieces started going back onto the car, Schiller and his grandfather would have to put just a couple of body parts on, make sure the fit was perfect, and then move onto another area of the car. Attention was especially paid to the body gaps on the car, such as gaps around the doors, hood, and trunk lid. The modifications that Schiller planned also took some extra TLC, including the removal of the factory hood ornament, trunk lid and the side mirrors.

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The powerplant that was sourced is one of the flagship models from GM Performance Parts, the ZZ383 small-block. Putting out 425 hp and 449 lb-ft of torque in stock trim, this motor is a perfect fit for the '56 engine bay. Schiller added a GM single-plane race intake, and a Holley 750-cfm double-pumper. Everything appears to be mirror-coated under the hood, with other adornments like a Mattson's aluminum radiator, and Billet Specialties valve covers and air cleaner housing. The unused portion of the air/fuel mixture gets sent through a completely custom exhaust, with 1 3/4-inch headers going back to 2 1/2-inch pipes that end with Flowmaster mufflers.

The tranny is a Hughes Performance 4L60E street/strip model. The Bel Air also packs a torque converter from the same manufacturer, and a Denny's Drivelines polished aluminum driveshaft. That lovely piece sends the power back to a Currie rearend, with 31-spline axles and 3.70 gears.

The suspension also has some trick components, including Heidt's 2-inch drop spindles and tubular A-arms up front, and QA1 adjustable shocks. The rear has a 1-inch drop on the leaf springs, and a set of lowering blocks from Danchuk Manufacturing. The '56 rolls on Intro Twisted Vistas all around (18x7 front, 20x8.5 rear), wrapped in Nitto NT555 rubber (245/45/18 front, 265/35/20 rear).

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The stunning custom interior contains a plethora of outsourced items, including seats from a Lexus SC400, with exterior-matching Pearl White marine-grade vinyl upholstery, as well as Daytona Blue marine-grade carpeting throughout the cabin. Grandpa Bert was the man behind the immaculate instrument panel, a piece that retains some of the original wood material, covered in fiberglass and painted. The interior also contains Auto Meter gauges, an Alpine stereo (installed by Schiller and his grandfather, again) for those top-down cruise nights, and a Lokar center-console shifter. Add it all up and you've got one righteous custom '56 Bel Air.

"I think the greatest time I've had with the car was building it with my grandfather at Lake Havasu," Schiller said. "Between that, and the fact that it only took us two and a half years of a planned three, I can't see much else I would have done differently."

We here at the magazine couldn't agree more.

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