Gasser Style 1957 Chevy Bel Air

By Nick Licata   –   Photography by Chris Shelton

Every hot rod and muscle car has history and, more often than not, an interesting story to accompany it. As time marches on, many of those stories get lost or are forgotten once that car is sold to another bright-eyed hot rodder who has his or her own vision of the car’s future to start a new journey while hopefully preserving much of the car’s original history. Fortunately, a good chunk of the history regarding Dennis and Marcie Williams’ ’57 Chevy Bel Air remains just as intact as the car itself.

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Oftentimes, us writers go to great lengths to dig in and find an interesting backstory on a vintage hot rod and the connection to its owner, but this one tells itself. Well actually, Dennis being the car’s co-owner and a lifelong hot rodder, tells it better than we ever could, so we’ll let him take it from here.

004 Vintage 1957 Chevy Bel Air Gasser on Empty Street

Read More: Mike Schultz’s 1965 Corvette Grand Sport Tribute

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“It was 1972, Marcie and I were in our teens with one baby on the ground and another on the way. At the time I was working at a grocery store with my good buddy, Eric, who had a ’57 Chevy Bel Air as his daily. One day the car broke down in the parking lot of our grocery store gig. I helped Eric tow the car home 15 miles with a rope (not recommended). A few days went by when I inquired about the car and Eric informed me it had a broken crankshaft and that he was taking it to the junkyard–he’d had enough. I couldn’t see this happening, so I took the Bel Air off his hands and towed it 20 miles to my house (same rope, still not recommended). I wasn’t about to turn down a free car.

005 1957 Chevy Bel Air Gasser Head On Sunset Backdrop

“Marcie’s brother, Ray, offered to help me get the Chevy back on the road. A hot rodder through and through, he had a ’55 straight-axle Chevy and ’59 Anglia so he knew his way around cars. Making $2.50 an hour and now with two kids, money was tight, but with Ray’s help we scraped a 283ci small-block out of a ’64 Impala, we also found a Saginaw three-speed floor shifter, some Keystone wheels, and bought a set of $59 headers; the car was really coming around. With the car running great, I drove that thing almost daily. A few other upgrades made their way onto the car over the years, and I even traded a cord of wood for a black lacquer paintjob, so now the car was not only running great but it was also looking good, so we were driving and enjoying the car for quite a few years. Unfortunately, Ray [died] in 1989 and with him being such an integral part of the car, things just weren’t the same. We parked it in 1990 and it sat for 31 years.”

007 1957 Chevy Bel Air Gasser Rear Angle Near Trees

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A while back, Marcie had some work done on her ’57 Chevy pickup by a local hot rodder, Doug Schultz, who lived nearby and worked out of his home shop. What Dennis and Marcie didn’t know was that Schultz was an accomplished hot rod and muscle car builder who in 2001 built a ’67 Nova that won the Goodguys Street Machine of the Year. He followed that with a ’62 Impala in 2002, and in 2007 built an amazing ’66 Ford Fairlane.

014 Close Up 1957 Chevy Bel Air Gasser Tachometer

Read More: Eric Mead’s 1955 Chevy 210

Learning about [Schultz]’s stellar hot rod résumé, Marcie and Dennis told him about their ’57 Chevy and how they were interested in getting it back on the road and asked if he’d come to their place to have a look at it. Schultz was impressed with what he saw and how it reminded him of building model cars just like it since he was 10 years old. Needless to say, Schultz was on board to help bring the stagnant Bel Air back to life. They trailered the car (no rope this time around) to Schultz’s shop and he got started by tidying up the engine bay and dropping in a fresh 383. Next came a Muncie four-speed and fenderwell headers, followed up with disc brakes, a total rewire, and some period-correct StewartWarner gauges to accompany the Bel Air’s factory-style interior.

008 Detailed Chevy Bel Air Gasser V8 Engine Chromed

“While at [Schultz]’s shop, I spotted an Edelbrock 7525 dual-quad Air Gap on the wall and thought that would be perfect for the car,” Dennis says. “We then found a matching set of Carter AFB’s off a 409 and had them rebuilt by United Automotive in Londonderry, New Hampshire.” More period-correct parts made their way on the Bel Air along with a set of E-T Mags five-spoke wheels and BFGoodrich tires. Dennis and Marcie spent the next summer racking up miles on the car and were just enjoying the ride.

012 Interior 1957 Chevy Bel Air Gasser Custom Dash

When fall came, the ’57 was back at Schultz’s to have a Ford 9-inch rearend installed. Schultz brought up the idea of a Winters quick-change and how cool that would be under a straight-axle ’57 Chevy. Dennis was on the fence regarding the quick-change and asked Schultz what he would do. Schultz’s response: “I would use rent money, live on Ramen, and sell the kid’s toys to put a quick-change under my car.” That sealed the deal, only it didn’t come to living life with a noodle-only diet, but Dennis knew it would make the ’57 stand out , so along with the quick-change in went a set of custom ladder bars, modified Comp Engineering floating housing mounts, new leaf springs, disc brakes, and KYB gas shocks. The Bel Air not only looked the late-’60s part, but it now had improved streetability and safety for a better overall driving experience.

020 1957 Chevy Bel Air Gasser Rear Differential and Suspension

Read More: Mike Kraemer’s 1955 Chevy Embodies the Fulfillment of Childhood Memories

After 31 years, this old ’57 carries some great history and enables Dennis and Marcie to hold onto some fond memories of working on the car with Ray back in the early days. Today, this ’57 Chevy is a time capsule–a true street machine from a bygone era. A car that created a great friendship with another enthusiast who just happens to be one of the best car builders on the West Coast.

017 1957 Chevy Bel Air Gasser Polished Alloy Wheels

Building cars and building friendships. That’s how this hobby works and what makes it so special.

006 1957 Chevy Bel Air Gasser Side Profile on Roadside

TECH CHECK:
Owner: Dennis & Marcie Williams, Federal Way, Washington
Vehicle: ’57 Chevy Bel Air

Engine
Type: Chevrolet small-block
Displacement: 383 ci
Compression Ratio: 10.8:1
Bore: 4.040
Stroke: 3.750
Cylinder Heads: World Products Sportsman 2
Rotating Assembly: Scat crankshaft, Scat rods, Wiseco pistons
Camshaft: Schneider Racing Cams solid roller (0.564/0.564 lift, 296/296 deg. duration at 0.050, 108 LSA)
Induction: Edelbrock 7525 Performer RPM Air Gap intake manifold, dual Carter AFB carburetors
Assembly: Auburn Auto (Auburn, WA)
Machining: Auburn Auto
Exhaust: Doug’s 1¾-inch fenderwell headers, 3-inch custom exhaust by Street Machine Builder (Doug Schultz, Bonney Lake, WA), Spintech mufflers
Accessory Drive System: Stock
Ignition: MSD 6A
Water Pump: Weiand aluminum
Radiator: Engineered Cooling Products (ECP) aluminum
Ancillaries: Finned aluminum valve covers, chrome 6-inch air cleaner, MSD spark plug wires
Output: 500-550 hp (est.)

Drivetrain
Transmission: Muncie four-speed
Clutch: Centerforce single-disc
Shifter: Hurst/Doug Schultz
Rearend: Winters quick-change, 3.45-4.11 gears, Winters axles
Driveshaft: Inland Empire Driveline

Chassis
Chassis: Stock, ladder bar mounts, transmission crossmember, driveshaft loop by Doug Schultz
Front Suspension: ’58 Chevy Suburban dropped straight axle, KYB gas shocks
Steering: Custom by Doug Schultz
Rear Suspension: KYB gas shocks, flipped rear differential, custom-built ladder bars/modified Comp Engineering floater mounts
Brakes: Right Stuff 11-inch rotors, single-piston calipers, rear; Master Power 12-inch rotors, single-piston, GM master cylinder

Wheels & Tires
Wheels: E-T five-spoke 15×6 front, 15×8 rear
Tires: BFGoodrich Radial T/A, 215/70R15 front, 295/15-R15 rear

Interior
Upholstery: Original
Carpet: Black loop
Installation: Doug Schultz
Seats: Stock
Steering: Stock
Steering Wheel: ’72 aftermarket
Shifter: Hurst/Doug Schultz
Dash: Stock rebuilt by Doug Schultz
Instrumentation: Stock, dash-mounted Dixco rpm gauge, StewartWarner under-dash multi-gauge pod
Pedals: Stock
HVAC: Nope
Entertainment System: Kenwood head unit, Cerwin-Vega amp, Cervin-Vega speakers (5-inch front, 6×9-inch rear)

Exterior
Bodywork and Paint: N/A
Body Modification: Shaved front fender vents
Paint: Black lacquer
Grille: Stock
Front Bumper: Stock
Rear Bumper: Stock
Headlights: Stock
Taillights: Stock

 

Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of Gasser Style 1957 Chevy Bel Air.

acp march 2024

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