Welcome to this week’s FC Throwback, where we take a look back at some of our favourite previous feature cars. This week it’s Steve Holmes jaw-dropping ’59 bagged Chevrolet Bel Air…
We don’t know about you, but we are absolutely fascinated by old school American cars. The beautiful bodylines and the huge change in design between model years is both challenging to remember and massively exciting. Owning and driving these cars back in the 50s and 60s must have been incredible.
Sometimes we lose ourselves on Wikipedia reading about all the cool American cars. The mind-bending engine sizes these machines possess and the mad speed at which the models evolved is super-interesting. Trawling through the different model years on Google Images is like watching art in motion – the crazy fins on the rear wings and incredibly cool looking lights are one thing. The sweet interiors with beautiful dashboards are another.
We don’t know a huge amount about American cars, but we do know one thing: we absolutely love them. Steve Holmes knows a whole load more about these rides and it’s fair to say he is fully living the American dream here in UK, driving this lovely ’59 Bel Air and running his own business, along with his friend, restoring classic cars.
“I think American cars have always been in my blood,” he says. “My parents have always been into them and I have been brought up surrounded by US car culture.” So how do you find a car like this? The answer is simple: eBay. Steve says: “I was looking through US eBay one lunchtime at work and came across this example. It came from Cleveland in Ohio.
“There has been a lot of work undertaken to get the car roadworthy and that took around two years, so it has been on the road for around four years here in the UK,” our man explains.
So what have you done to it? “Well visually I bought the car as it looks today. It was running and driving, but needed a bit of work to get it through the UK MoT,“ Steve smiles. When he says ‘a bit of work’, what he really means is ‘quite a lot of work’ to mere mortals like you and I.
“The car needed all of the interior and boot floors replacing which was fairly simple since I sourced the pattern parts from the States. I also had to do some further welding work on the rear wheel arch and upgrade the cooling system.”
The 350 cubic inch (see what we were saying about mind-bending engine sizes?) or 5.7-litre motor sounds so sweet and the dialed stance, brought together by 18-inch and 20-inch wheels front and rear respectively, all dropped using custom air suspension makes this a sure-fire winner of a car!
Owning a car like this is an emotional experience. Things don’t always go to plan, but one thing is for sure, every journey is an adventure. “The smile this car puts on my face every time I drive it is incredible,” says Steve. “The V8 engine delivers smiles per gallon, not miles per gallon!”
It’s for this reason alone that he doesn’t drive the car more often. Although this isn’t a show vehicle – the patina paintwork leaves the car with a real weathered character and ensures that it can be used whenever Steve wants – it’s not a daily either. Although we guess driving a car like this everyday might take some of the excitement out of the whole experience.
Either way, we’re just glad that there are people like our man Steve in the UK, really living their very own American dream…
Tech Spec: Bagged Chevrolet Bel Air
350 cubic inch (5.7l) V8; exhaust tuck for extra ground clearance with custom exit position in front of rear wheels.
Esajian Wingnut wheels 8×18 (front) and 10×20-inch (rear) with 235/45×18 and 265/40×20 tyres respectively; rear airbag suspension; front is dropped spindles with 6-cylinder springs (engine was originally a 6 cylinder so keeping the 6-cylinder springs with the extra weight of the V8 engine helps lower the car more).
Stock with a couple of rips!
My parents for giving me what I see as good taste in cars! Stateside Autoparts in Atherstone, Manchester, who were really helpful in finding any bits I needed.