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1956 Chevrolet Bel Air - In The Eye Of The Beholder

A Classic Beauty Lives in Las Vegas

Mike Harrington Jan 17, 2007
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Is the '56 Chevy the coolest of all the Tri-Fives? Now that's a question that can be debated for hours, or even days, and still an answer may never be found. Let's think about it for a minute. The '56 Chevy is the middle child in a family of three siblings. The older brother '55 gets all the glory for being the firstborn, and the younger '57 gets all the attention for supposedly being the baby, and possibly the best looking one of the three. Truthfully, it's all a matter of aesthetics, for beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. For the beholder of these eyes, the '56 Chevy has to be the best of all three. The stance, the style, and the trim-it's got it all.

For owner Richard Crane, the obvious answer to his classic car search was obviously a '56 Bel Air. His earliest and fondest memories in life stretch back to his childhood. He remembers sitting on the lap of his grandfather while steering granddad's '56 Bel Air. There's no doubt that impression lasted a lifetime because decades later, life has come full circle for Richard.

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Like many of us, he found his car just after someone else had given up on it. At the time, it was an unfinished project car and was waiting for the right owner to complete the job and give it the look. The dream started when Dean Chapman, of DTR services, agreed to scoot the project along. Dean tore the car down to its bare essentials and started from the ground up. Heidt's 2-inch dropped spindles, Danchuk springs KYB gas shocks, SSBC brakes, and American TT-IIs were among the front suspension components. Out in the back, more Danchuk springs and DTR lowering blocks give the car its ever-important stance. From there, Dean moved the windshield wiper components out of sight and under the dash. The brake booster and master cylinder were also moved out of sight and hidden under the car. Once Dean was satisfied, the firewall was completely smoothed and filled. Finally, a new ZZ4 crate motor was installed, and if you look into the engine bay, it has a smooth, clean look to it. There is nothing to distract the eye, no ugly wires or ill-fitting hoses.

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The Bel Air was taken to a Las Vegas local known simply as the "Legendary Magoo." It was there that Magoo shot the car in a pearl candy, platinum white base, with a pearl candy white/mint over the top. The color scheme of the car was also reversed. Instead of making the candy green the main color, the Bel Air now wears pearlescent mint. Finally, Tom "The Stitcher" crafted the interior and draped the Bel Air with suede and leather, colored to match the rest of the car.

There is far more to the craftsmanship in this Bel Air than can be told in the pages of this magazine. Suffice it to say, quality and skills ruled the day during its reconstruction. Make no mistake in thinking that this Chevrolet is an old man's trailer trophy. Richard will happily bench race with you and tell you tales of some of the all-night wrenching sessions he spent just to fine-tune the Bel Air before a show.



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