Preservation Not Restoration – 1955 Bel Air

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Could the extremely low mile Bel Air really be the quintessential “lil old lady’s car, that she just drove to the grocery store and back” story? Short answer – yes, that’s exactly what it was!

During the conversation, Ron would learn the name of the very original owner, Mae Schmitt. Mae  purchased the car new, late in life, from long time defuncted Brandenburg Motor Sales in Washington Court House, Ohio. And although unknowingly at the time, her short trips and meticulous care (the car was covered with sheets while parked in the garage) would lend to one of the best preserved, unrestored cars (not just Bel Airs) around from the fabled ’50s. Many thanks to you Mae Schmidt! You’ve made the day of plenty of car enthuisiasts for several years.

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Did I mention this car is an original?

Even down to the 235 Blue Flame Inline 6 engine.  One of Chevy’s most iconic engine, the Blue Flame, was a popular choice for early hot rodders due to its performance and durability. It’s use in the original Corvette had already made the Blue Flame a legend. 1955 also introduced the legendary Chevy small block V8 in the form of the 265. Although when equipped with the 265 the ’55 Bel Airs are more attractive to collectors, it would be an amazing feat to find an unrestored Bel Air with a 265 in the condition of Al’s. Coincidentally, Al happens to own a 265 V8 from a ’55 Del Ray he drove in high school, but he has no intentions of alerting the original condition of the car.

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Interior trim in the Bel Airs serve as a reminder of American style and grace at a time when American superiority in car manufacturing was unquestioned and unchallenged. Symmetrical “V’s” on each side of the dash add just the right amount of class and the Bel Air badging in cursive is sheer elegance. Interior options in ’55 varied across the model lines. Al’s preference, the two-tone blue interior was only available in the post cars which influenced the decision to buy a two door post instead of a hardtop.

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Early in 2011 the friend Al had sold the ’55 to 4 years ago decided to get into the market for a muscle car and so the ’55 would have to go. Al jumped at the opportunity to own the Bel Air again and bought his Bel Air back; now with the documented history on the car. Although he rarely drives it, each time he does he’s transported back to his high school days and the ’55 Delray he drove as a teenager.

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In speaking with Al about the ’55 he wasn’t short of words. Ironically he reiterated several times that he “hoped this was what we were looking for” as its not a “$100k restore or pro street build up”. Yes Al, this is exactly what we were looking for – an owner with a passion for his car, an owner who’s taken the painstaking steps of tracing back over 50 years of history, and owner who can truly say “my ride is me”.

Photos By Trent Sherrill
Model: Doris May Day

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