Preservation Not Restoration – 1955 Bel Air
18,000 Mile 1955 Chevy Bel Air Classic
To say Chevy’s relaunch of the Bel Air in 1955 kick started an automotive revolution would be a understatement. As the first entry into what would become known throughout the world as the “shoebox Chevy”, the 55 Bel Air became one of the most iconic Chevrolets in history, right up there with the Corvette and the Camaro. Highlights for the model year include the first year for a 12V electrical system and the timeless “eyebrows” over the front headlights. Designers extended the front fenders just over the headlights giving the remodeled Bel Airs what appears to be a raised eyebrow when viewed from the front.
Features in films such as “Two-Lane Blacktop” and “American Graffiti” increased the mystique surrounding the 55 Bel Air ten-fold. And when Harrison Ford’s character Bob Falfa staged his 55 Chevy against “The fastest thing in the valley”, Milner’s coupe, you could easily argue the car helped launch his career.
The 55 Bel Air’s popularity stretches across the gamut of auto enthusiasts. Its sleek accents and generous use of chrome captured the attention of customizers just as the lightweight and easy acceptance of late model big blocks drew drag racers to the 55. Attend any car show, cruise night, or drag strip and it’s a safe bet a ’55 will be in attendance. So what makes Al Lindgren’s so unique? What makes it different from other meticulous, frame-off restored ’55′s? How about the fact that it’s not! Not restored, nope, this one’s an all original, unrestored specimen, with only 18,800 original miles. If It Ain’t Broke…Don’t Fix It
Usually a conservative man, how Al acquired the ’55 was a bit of a gamble. With the exception of a few mediocre pics, Al bought the car sight unseen in 2007. A broker clued him into a pristine, very low mile, Bel Air in West Virginia but the story sounded too good to be true. But the thought of missing out on a true gem outweighed the risk, so he rolled the dice and a few days later the coupe arrived on the back of a trailer. Pay dirt – the rumors were true and the Bel Air was in better condition than Al could have hope for.
Unfortunately shortly after Al acquired the Bel Air, he would fall somewhat victim to the economic downturn that has swept our country the past few years. Business at his machine shop slowed and he knew he would have to part with one of his vehicles. This is where the story will become the subject of debate amongst classics enthusiasts…the other vehicles in his stable were a ’41 Willy’s coupe and a ’34 Willy’s coupe. How do you decide? It’s like picking your favorite amongst your children.
So the decision boiled down to which was the least rare, and before feeling too sorry for Al keep in mind – when your least rare car is an original ’55 Bel Air, well life cant be too bad. Luckily his friend and neighbor, Ron, expressed interest in the ’55 so while still reluctant to let it go at least it wasn’t going too far.
While in it’s new owners possession, a chance occurrence of exposure to the rain led to an interesting find that would reveal some clues to the elusive history of the ’55. Draining the water from the trunk the Ron found some paperwork with a name and information to track down what he hoped might be a previous owner. He notified Al and the search would lead them to a woman’s name and a phone number in Ohio. When he called and inquired about the car, the lady on the other end replied “No, that’s not my car… that was my grandma’s car.”
Engine and Interior shots (and more Doris) on the next page:
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