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Four Door Tri-Five Convertible Conversions - Re-Creation & Restoration

C.A.R.S. Shows There's More Than One Life For A Four-Door To Live

By Barry Kluczyk

Four doors are two doors too many. Many enthusiasts will agree with this axiom-except for one of our editors, whose fondness for four-door Biscaynes makes us wonder if he hasn't been sniffing too much octane booster!

The fact is that four-door cars aren't as popular as two-doors and convertibles. Whether it's that they're perceived as family cars, the not-so-graceful style, or the implied weight penalties on performance, they're just not cool. (Yes, we know old wagons, which are heavier and slower than a four-door model, are all the rage. Go figure.)

One of the clearest examples of the chasm between the desirability of a two-door and a four-door can be found with the '57 Chevy. A rusted-out parts car convertible is worth more than a show-car four-door any day of the week. In fact, we've seen many a straight and clean four-door go begging at swap meets for no other reason than those two extra doors. It's a shame, really, because the four-door represents a great bargain in the vintage Chevy market.

But something has quietly happened in the classic Chevy restoration world that may greatly change the way enthusiasts view that cheap four-door that's for sale in the want ads. That's because it's now possible to transform a lowly four-door into a true '57 convertible. Not only is it possible, it's been done already-to the rolling shell you see on these pages. Classic Chevy restoration giant C.A.R.S. Inc. built it strictly with replacement parts off its shelves.

"It's really a new day for classic Chevy enthusiasts who've always wanted a convertible," says C.A.R.S. President Bob Chauvin. "All the parts needed to build a true convertible can be ordered out of our catalog."

That wasn't always the case, but in the 25 years that C.A.R.S. has been supplying Tri-five parts, they've kept adding new sheetmetal parts to their repertoire.

"It's been a natural progression of manufacturing more and more parts that restorers have needed," Chauvin says. "We started with floor pans and now we make or sell just about everything to construct a new car."

Starting From Scratch
Or, at least, re-create one in the owner's image of what he always wanted.

C.A.R.S. had its turquoise and bare metal roller built from a common and inexpensive '57 four-door sedan. (The turquoise-painted parts represent what's left of the original donor car, while the bare metal parts represent the C.A.R.S.-supplied replacements.) Luckily, all the '57 body styles share a 115-inch wheelbase.

In a nutshell, the conversion requires the removal of the roof, doors, doorposts, and rear quarter-panels, and the substitution of the convertible-spec parts. Of course, it's not as easy as all that. For one thing, the top of the windshield frame must be cut off and replaced with a convertible-style frame (which C.A.R.S. has). There are several small components that go into the frame, but they're all incorporated into the replacement part-simply hack off the old frame at the appropriate location and weld in the new piece.

Since the car will have longer coupe or convertible doors (either will work for the swap), the center doorposts between the front and rear doors must go also. But that's pretty easy once the factory spot-welds are drilled out. At press time, C.A.R.S. was still working on reproducing complete doors (right now they offer only outer skins).

One of the major steps in a convertible conversion involves fitting a factory-style X-member reinforcement to the car's frame, along with some other reinforcing skid plates. These parts are necessary to strengthen the car's now-topless personality, and C.A.R.S. has them available in reproduction form, too.

By Barry Kluczyk
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