DACC Feature Car

April 2005 - 1957 Bel-Air Hardtop
Dean and Audrey Schmidt

I had to have a car like this....

My search began after the 1996 Houston Autorama for a classic 1957 Chevy after missing out on a “For Sale Car” that won the class for modified cars that year.  After contacting several members of the local Houston club I was referred to a private party who might have a 57 For Sale.  I located my car in far south Houston sitting in a barn/garage for the previous 23 years and made an offer and bought the car that day. 

The car had 2 previous owners and the only change from original condition had been the installation of a 327 V-8 many years back.   The mileage was 58,000 and the interior and paint were original to the car.  It took 2 days to get the car drive-able after doing a brake job, replacing the hoses and belts, and some minor carburetor and fuel line changes and adjustments.  The inaugural road trip to Austin to visit my son was an unforgettable ride. 

My wife Audrey hid inside the car as best she could because there was no way she wanted to be seen in public in this horrendous excuse for a car.  The color of the car, the style, and the raw exhaust (from leaks not found on the initial inspection) combined with an engine that consumed over 10 quarts of oil on the round trip was almost too much for her. 

I did have a plan though, and that included the installation of a ZZ4 crate motor, replacing the transmission with a TH700R4, the addition of Power Steering, and Vintage Air A/C.  These plans mind you only developed after the car was bought and paid for.  I drove this car for several years in this condition until I decided to do some more “upgrades”.    In the fall of 2000 I contracted with Global Restorations in Houston to make the car right.

We started out by doing what I thought was going to be “just” a paint job but somehow the body came off the frame and of course that frame had to be powder coated to match the new body.  After blasting the body, several areas needed to be touched up including rust inside the inner wheel wells and some damage in the right rear quarter panel.  The car became more right each day and I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend visitation rights.

I don’t regret having done the full body off restoration as the final product turned out real nice and I got my car back in about 9 months which I understand is a relatively short period of time when I compare “stories”.   The transformation did wonders for Audrey’s attitude towards this thing I bought 9 years ago and we have enjoyed many Saturday night car shows together and club activities with the car.   We are regulars to the Saturday night car shows and enjoyed an awesome Hot Rod Power Tour in 2004 driving the complete tour (Arlington, TX to Green Bay, WI)   

The car now has about 23,000 miles on it and the big plan for this year is a drive to Minneapolis for the “Back to the Fifties” event this summer in June.   Stop me someday and I will share my other story on why a “57”.  See you soon.