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Classic 1957 Chevy Bel Air - Lawn Art That Burns Rubber

The Danchuk '57 Has Classic Looks, But Rides And Handles Like A Modern-Day Champion.

By: Mike Harrington, , Photography by Mike Harrington

Yep, this car is a genuine piece of lawn art. Most days it proudly sits on the manicured grass in front of the Danchuk showroom in Santa Ana, California. But unlike a lawn jockey or yard gnome, this yard art roars to life and can pretty much tear you a new one.

Nearly every Tri-Five Chevy owner has heard of Danchuk Manufacturing and is familiar with its operation. Take a look inside the company showroom and several restored stock '55, '56 and '57 Chevys are on display.

But this '57 is different from the rest of the showroom resto queens. Face it, sometimes restoring is boring, and building a hopped-up hot rod is all that satisfies the soul. That was the mission with this particular Torch Red Bel Air.

Rather than go over the top and build a chopped and channeled ride, the planners decided to build the vehicle using parts available in their own catalog. The idea was to create a car that could be restored back to its OE specs should the owner decide he's had enough of life in the fast lane.

And while the Danchuk employees had the best of intentions for the '57, something always came up to delay or derail the project. To expedite matters, the work was farmed out in an effort to get the Bel Air done in time for the 50th anniversary of the 1957 Chevy. The project was turned over to D&P Classic Chevy of Huntington Beach, California. In a matter of months the vehicle was finished and the keys were handed over back to the owners at Danchuk.

As gorgeous as the paint is, the custom taupe leather interior designed by D&P is really special. The seat is remarkably comfortable and you can blare the rock and roll through a Custom Autosound in-dash stereo with a 10-disc changer mounted in the trunk. Classic Instruments "Danchuk Series" gauges monitor the vitals, and there's also a Vintage Air air-conditioning and heating system, power windows and Dynamat insulation to add to the luxo-tourer experience. Lokar "Midnight Series" pedals make you go and stop. The American Racing steering wheel matches the American Racing "Hopster" wheels (17x7 and 17x8, front and rear).

But a '57 that's all looks and luxury without sufficient grip and go? That's so 1958. In this day and age, no self-respecting hot rodder settles for stock. With hard parts like the Art Morrison chassis available, there's no reason to. This frame is like a work of art, but it's really art that works. Combined with the AME front and rear suspensions and kit-specific Strange coilovers (chromed) at all four corners, the Danchuk '57 rides like a new car and handles better than any 50-year-old car has the right to.

When this car showed up for testing at our West Coast facility, Editor Jim Campisano was more than a little excited to get behind the wheel-but not for the slalom, braking, and skidpad portion.

"I figured it would do well there, but I wanted to see how it felt in the real world," he said. "A lot of cars do well in track testing and beat you to death over the road."

Not the Danchuk '57. It was sublime on the streets of Fontana, California. The ride was properly firm, like a new CTS Cadillac. The steering was a little quick (the ratio has since been slowed down a hair), but quite linear. And when you bent the car into a corner, it took a nice set. Maximum grip was hindered by the Goodyear RS-A tires, but at seven-tenths, it was a revelation. Look at how flat it corners in the photo.

If all that matters to you is numbers, roll this around: Through our 420-foot slalom, it was a solid four seconds quicker than a radial tire-clad stock '57 we tested a month or so later. Think of the difference between a 9-second drag car and a 14-second daily driver and you have a fair comparison.

Motivation comes from an Edelbrock 430hp injected crate engine mated to a polished MPH TH2004R transmission and a Strange 9-inch Posi rear with 3.73 gears and Strange axles. A Vintage Air "Front Runner" pulley system spins the accessories, and a Be Cool radiator, fan and shroud system with custom stainless bracketry keeps the temps in line. On the street, the small-block provides plenty of punch. At the strip, it propels the near two-ton hot rod through the traps at 13.89 at 97 mph.

Classic '57 Chevy good looks, 21st century ride and handling, full-on luxury, and reliable 13-second time slips. Here's hoping the Danchuk '57 gets off the lawn often. It's too much fun to simply sit there.

SOURCES
Danchuk
3201 South Standard Avenue
Santa Ana
CA  92705
800-648-9554
http://www.danchuk.com
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By Mike Harrington,
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