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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.

As for the F-body, it was purchased in 2006 and father and son built it alongside the '57. A Hotchkis/QA1 coilover front suspension was installed, complete with Flaming River rack-and-pinion steering, as was a set of 13-inch cross-drilled and vented rotors and six-piston calipers from Baer (that company's four-piston calipers are employed in the rear).

Out back, the Camaro makes use of a Strange Engineering-equipped, narrowed 3.73:1 geared Dana 60 using Cal Trac four-link suspension and sprung by QA1 coilovers. Wheels consist of a set of 17x8 (front) and 17x10 rear Budnik billets wrapped with P245/45R17 (front) and P275/40xR17 (rear) Nitto Extreme 555s.

Powering this beast is a Curtis Peters-built 12.5:1 compression 0.030-inch overbore 454 Rat now displacing 468-cid. Cam choice is Competition Cams solid roller with 0.680 lift and 265 degrees duration. The cylinder heads are a set of milled Dart Pro-1 models outfitted with 2.25-inch stainless-steel intake, and 1.88-inch stainless-steel exhaust, while the intake is an Edelbrock Victor Jr. sporting a Barry Grant 1,100 cfm Demon carburetor, and Aeromotive recirculating fuel system. Other items include a set of March pulleys, a Power Master 140 amp alternator, Billet Specialties valve covers and air cleaner, an MSD Pro Billet ignition, and a set of thermal coated Hooker Super Comp headers with Flowmaster mufflers exiting into a 21/2-inch system. Backing all this up is a B&M 700R4 trans.

Caliber Collision Center's Reed was responsible for smoothing out the Camaro's sheetmetal. Modifications include removing the side marker lights, filling in the body seams, smoothing the radiator core support, fabricating a custom cowl cover, smoothing the firewall, shaving the door handles, and molding a set of '69 Camaro parking lights into the front valance.

A Goodmark Industries three-inch cowl induction hood was also added. Then with all body mods completed, Reed sprayed Mark's '71 in Spies Hecker Orange Crush.

Inside, the '71 features a John's Upholstery interior slathered in two-tone-gray leather. Other upgrades include a B&M shifter, Auto Meter gauges, a Billet Specialties steering wheel and Alpine audio system.

"Both the Camaro and my dad's '57 Bel Air were finished in time to be entered in the 2008 ISCA-Dallas Autorama. Would you believe, both cars ended up in the same class? I took a lot of heat from my friends when my father's '57 won "Best in Class." However, I had the last laugh when the Camaro won Super Chevy magazine's "Big Bad Bow Tie" award.

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By Bob McClung
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