I grew up in the ‘70’s car culture. We loved fast cars. American iron was the only thing there was because foreign cars were small, slow and not cool. Big V8’s, four speeds and a throaty rumble from the exhaust got my attention.
During my formative years, my dad regaled me with stories of his youth, street racing fast cars. There was never a story of losing one. Every time we ran across a cool car, he would tell a story of when he had one like it, or almost bought one. With the sedentary lifestyle of home and family and his racing days behind him, his eyes would light up when he told of pulling ahead of a contender. More than once, at a light, he would floor the land yacht and pull ahead of the car next to him if the guy glanced over. I could tell that racing was still in his blood.
That was when the Tri-Five Chevy’s became popular. There was a real revival of interest in the ‘55 through ‘57 Chevy’s and everybody had to have one, including my uncle. Uncle Bill was famous for going to a junkyard and buying some old wreck for $20 and building it into a daily driver. But when he towed home two “57 Bel Air’s, he created a lot of excitement.
Bill’s plan was to build the better one and use the second car for parts. Of course he spent some more time in the junkyard and parts store, but the majority of what he needed, he already had. He didn’t have a shop and a crew like these guys on TV. He worked in his backyard and his help was my aunt and a neighbor.
When we arrived for a family picnic, there it was, finished, in all it’s glory. He had painted it silver and it was sharp. He restored it to stock condition with the factory three speed on the floor and a 283 under the hood. Although it looked finished, he still had plans for a four speed and a four barrel carb, heads and a cam for the little small block. What was left of the parts car was still in the yard, and my uncle joked that he built a ‘57 Chevy around two doors.
Later, he became dissatisfied with the silver paint job and painted it a dark gray. The chrome and white insets really popped with that darker color. One evening, I went with him to pick up some Cragar SS wheels on raised white letter radials.
I loved riding in that car. Later, my mom told me that my father brought me home from the hospital as a newborn in his ‘57 Belair.
That explains my obsession with tail fins!