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1957 Chevy Bel Air & 1971 Chevy Camaro - The Generation Gap

A Side-By-Side Street Machine Buildup Between Father And Son.

By Bob McClung, Photography by Bob McClung

Texas body and fender man Joe "J.L." Sanders raised his son Mark right. Not only has Mark taken over the family business, Caliber Collision Centers, Inc., the younger Sanders also shares the same love for high performance cars as dear old dad, and specifically those with the Bow Tie insignia on them. Of course, the matter of vehicle preference is decidedly different. In old dad's mind there's nothing finer than a classic Tri-Five-in this case, a bright red '57 Bel Air. On the other hand, son Mark prefers something a bit more contemporary, like this orange pearl '71 Camaro RS. Given a choice, it would be a difficult decision to pick between the two.

Joe purchased his Bel Air as a retirement project but first he had to build a new workshop at his home. "I built the shop large enough to be able to build two cars at a time. It was great fun working side-by-side with my son, Mark. I helped him, and he helped me."

Initially, the elder Sanders thought his new acquisition to be in fairly good condition, but a post-purchase inspection revealed a multitude of sins hidden underneath that bright red paint job. Joe also discovered that the Tri-Five's chassis had also been cobbled by a number of previous "experts," so rather than compounding the problem, he elected to order one of Art Morrison's high tech Tri-Five chassis.

Front suspension consists of a coilover shock, A-M unequal-length tubular upper and lower control arms setup using a set of A-M dropped front spindles, a pair of Wilwood Engineering six-piston front disc brakes, and Art Morrison-Flaming River rack-and-pinion steering gear.

Out back, Joe's chassis uses a 3.70:1 geared, Strange Engineering-equipped 9-inch suspended by an A-M four-link/coilover rear suspension. Rear braking is accomplished by a set of Wilwood Engineering four-piston brakes, master cylinder and proportioning valve.

Wheels and tires on Joe's '57 consist of a set of 17x8 front, and 18x9 rear Billet Specialties Vintecs rolling on P245/45R17-inch front and P275/40R18-inch rear Nitto 555 radials.

"Those are the biggest rear tires you can get to fit inside a stock '57 Chevrolet wheelhouse," says Joe.

The motivational source for Joe's '57 comes in the form of a 510-cid Ron Shaver Specialties crate engine rated at 600 horses and 600 lb-ft of torque. Internally, the big-block is crammed with a set of 9.5:1 compression hypereutectic pistons, Shaver/ARP-prepared connecting rods, a Shaver-prepared crank, and Shaver-specification hydraulic cam. Bolted up top is a set of Shaver-prepped GM Performance Parts, Chevrolet cylinder heads, Edelbrock Performer intake and 850-cfm Edelbrock carburetor. Other goodies include a Mallory HEI ignition system, Street & Performance engine pulleys and accessory drive, and a thermal-coated Art Morrison "through the chassis" custom exhaust system.

Backing all of this up is a Hobart Performance-built GM 700R4 four-speed-overdrive transmission. Engine cooling is handled by a polished Be Cool Cooling Module.

Joe, Mark and the crew down at Caliber Collision Center smoothed out, and in some cases, re-skinned the '57's sheetmetal prior to paint. In the process, the rear license plate was frenched into the deck lid. Then Joe had painter Mike Reed spray the Bel Air in Spies Hecker 2006 Lexus "Absolutely Red." Upon re-assembly, all new Danchuk Industries chrome and trim was used along with a "California" one-piece front bumper.

Inside, Colleyville's John's Upholstery covered the modified Cadillac front and rear seats in soft tan leather. Interior upgrades also include a Flaming River six-way-tilt steering column, and leather wrapped Billet Specialties steering wheel, Electric Life power windows and vent window, Classic Instruments and Sony DVD touch screen entertainment system.

By Bob McClung
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