1956 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible - SOLD
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If you want the most authentic Tri-Five experience I can imagine, all wrapped in a fantastic color combination with a Power Pack V8 to make it go, this handsome ragtop is a fantastic choice.

After decades of looking at perfectly restored cars parading across auction blocks and at car shows, savvy car collectors are realizing that original cars are truly special. You can always turn an original car into a restored car, but not vice-versa, meaning that there’s a very finite number of cars that are largely the way they were when they were built. Original cars also offer the perk of security to a buyer: original paint means no shoddy bodywork hiding underneath, original mechanicals mean that no hack mechanic has been reinventing the wheel under the hood, and original upholstery means that it’s right, not someone’s best guess. With all that in mind, it shouldn’t be any surprise that high-quality survivors remain very much in demand. And “survivor” doesn’t just mean some hunk of metal that has managed to survive for 60 years, but rather a car that has always been cherished and properly maintained, leaving it in fully operational condition even today. A car that gets all those things right is truly special.

Which brings us to this fantastic 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible, a survivor in almost every sense of the word. Things that we know have been done to the car over the years are few: the front fenders and hood have been repainted, the top has been replaced, and it has been converted from a column shift to a floor shift. Otherwise, it is all vintage-1956 hardware and materials. And that comment about original cars just working better isn’t a joke—this car runs and drives at least as well as any restored ‘50s Chevy I’ve ever driven, and better in some ways. It isn’t deteriorated or neglected, but it isn’t perfect, either, so if you’re expecting showroom fresh, well, you’ll be disappointed. But if you want the most authentic Tri-Five experience I can imagine, all wrapped in a fantastic color combination with a Power Pack V8 to make it go, this handsome ragtop is a fantastic choice.

Obviously code 687 Onyx Black is this car’s original color, and it was not two-tone like so many of its siblings, giving it a more subtle look than so many other ‘50s cars. But it’s hardly a wallflower with all that chrome and a traditional continental kit out back. As I mentioned, the hood and front fenders were painted in the ‘90s, and the match is extremely good—the only tipoff that it’s not original paint is that the original paint on the rest of the car is perhaps just a bit glossier. Yes, that’s right, the original paint might just be better than the recent. Sure, there are a few thin spots, most notably on top of the rear deck at the base of the rear window, but it’s not noticeable from even five feet away and it would be a crime to consider erasing that kind of authenticity. The doors and trunk lid are exactly where Chevrolet line workers bolted them on more than 60 years ago, and you’d better believe they fit right. The doors close with precision and it’s worth noting that a lot of the weather seals were just replaced, so they don’t rattle and shake, either. The chrome and stainless is entirely original, and that’s where you can really see how well-preserved this car really is, because even the cast parts have almost zero pitting and the stainless still shines as brightly as the chrome. There’s some minor discoloration in the nooks and corners, but again, nothing worth spending money to remedy. Even those impossibly ornate taillight housings are in spectacular condition. You’ll note that it carries accessory fender skirts in addition to the continental kit, making this modest Chevy look luxury car large in comparison.

The code 604 Charcoal and Yellow interior is just as nice and just as original. The contrast of the bright yellow and black paint is extremely attractive, a ‘50s pastel that is far less common that basic red or white. There are a few popped seams on the seats that could probably be remedied by an expert upholstery shop, but nothing that needs replacement (the worst of it is the driver’s lower cushion where there’s a 1-inch split). The back seat is excellent and even the passenger’s seat shows minimal use. We suspect that the carpets have been replaced at some point simply because they’re so nice, but the door panels, dash pad, and other soft parts are unquestionably OEM. Even the steering wheel is uncracked with a bright chrome horn ring. All the gauges are operational, the signal-seeking AM radio pulls in stations like it should; the clock seems to be the only inoperable piece of equipment. You’ll note that the car has a Hurst shifter on the floor, which manages the original 3-speed manual transmission (with working overdrive!), but it would be easy to take it back to column shift because the hardware is still in place on the column. Overhead you’ll find a brand new black power convertible top that folds easily and stows under a new black boot, but the original yellow boot is also included with the car. The trunk is neatly finished with a correct mat, and with the spare tire moved onto the rear bumper, there’s a remarkable amount of space in there!

The engine appears to be the original 265 cubic inch V8 outfitted with the Power Pack 4-barrel Rochester carburetor and dual exhaust. The stamping pad shows F56GL, meaning it was built in Flint for a ’56 Chevrolet and GL means it is a 265 cubic inch, 205 horsepower Power Pack V8 for use with a 3-speed manual transmission, which is strong evidence for this being the car’s original engine. It has probably been dressed up and detailed at some point, wearing bright Chevy Orange, a correct heavy-duty air cleaner, and simply stamped valve covers, so it looks right. Turn the key and it starts easily and settles into an almost imperceptible 500 RPM idle with a light murmur from the twin tailpipes out back. Wick the throttle and you get a wonderful V8 rumble and it feels plenty punchy out on the open road. Other nice details include a fresh radiator, correct GM-stamped hoses, a rebuilt carburetor, fresh tune-up, and a modern Saginaw power steering system that’s just effortless (the original power steering system, including the factory generator/pump unit, is included with the car). This car also came with power brakes from the factory, and that unit is intact and operational on the firewall.

As I mentioned, the original 3-speed transmission has been converted to a floor shift, and it does indeed shift nicely. There’s a fully functional Borg-Warner overdrive unit behind it which is seamless in operation. Push in the handle and at about 30 MPH, lift off the throttle for a moment and wait for the shift. When you slow down, it automatically drops out of overdrive until you’re up to speed again. Nice! Chevrolets with overdrive received 4.11 gears out back, so it feels very punchy around town, but cruises easily at 75 MPH thanks to that overdrive. A great combination. The recent dual exhaust system sounds just about right, not aggressive but not invisible, either, and the suspension feels tight, smooth, and well-assembled, which is a hallmark of good unrestored vehicles. It’s grimy and dirty underneath, as you’d expect, but perfect undercarriages are not what original cars are about and if that’s what you’re seeking, this isn’t the right car for you. However, it tracks straight, rides smoothly, shifts beautifully, and just works like a car should—it certainly doesn’t feel 62 years old! Factory steel wheels with simple hubcaps are the right choice, and they’re wrapped in some older G78-15 Remington wide whites, but a set of modern radials would make this one heck of a highway cruiser!

There’s a pretty good stash of spare parts that comes with this car, including the aforementioned original power steering system, top boot, a few pieces of stainless trim, and some other little parts.

Everyone has their favorite Tri-Five Chevrolet, but you don’t see as many ‘56s simply because they built fewer of them (there was a strike in ’56). Add in the great color combination and nice preservation, and this is a car that brings joy to the driver first and foremost, but we’re betting that there’s nobody who doesn’t fall in love with this car when they see it. Call today!

Vehicle: 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible
Price: SOLD
Stock Number: 115010
Mileage: 10,769
VIN: VC56N079771
Engine: 265 cubic inch V8
Transmission: 3-speed manual with overdrive
Gear Ratio: 4.1100000000000003
Wheelbase: 115 inches
Wheels: 15-inch steel wheels with hubcaps
Tires: G78-15 Remington whitewall
Exterior Color: Onyx Black
Interior Color: Charcoal and yellow vinyl
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