1956 Chevy Bel Air: this Tri-Five Chevy initially was just a dipping project for us. At MetalWorks Classic Auto Restorations we have set ourselves apart from every other restoration facility in the nation by having our own acid dipping (metal dipping) division of our company. There is not other restoration business or facility anywhere that you can take your Tri Five Chevy for a complete restoration and they can acid dip it themselves.
The owner called us because he heard we did acid dipping on cars and wanted to ask some questions. He told us he had a Tri-Five Chevy he was thinking about getting acid dipped and wanted to know about the process and the costs. Our first questions where to find out about his car. He let us know he had a 56 Chevy Bel Air that he had purchased a few months prior. The story we got on the car is that the guy he bought it from had owned the car for more over 25 years and it had been sitting untouched for most of that time. The previous owners had purchased an Art Morrison Tri Five GT Sport Chassis as a major starting place to begin his restoration with. For one reason or another the last owner had to give up on his plans and sold the project off to our customer.
Acid dipping is the best and most economical way to clean the body, doors, hood, fenders, deck lid, and a ton of smaller parts. Our acid dipping process takes a week from start to finish. With the number of parts he brought for cleaning we needed to run them in two separate batches. After about 10 days time everything this for this Tri-Five / 56 Chevy was all clean and shiny.
The owner of this 56 Chevy Bel Air restoration project had planned for another shop close to Salem, Oregon do the restoration for him. We where just finishing up a 55 Chevy Two Door Post renovation that included an LS3 conversion, complete two tone paint job, mini tub, power bucket seats, and all leather interior. He was very tempted from the quality of workmanship on display throughout our shop, our access to and savings on parts, and our ability to complete a full restoration from start to finish in well under 12 months time. However, he was in a little bind because he had family ties to the shop his car was headed to. So off they freshly acid dipped 56 Chevy went. Where it went is where it sat. And sat, and sat. Watching is project sit with minimal progress and knowing we have all the tools in place to make his restoration happen kept eating away at his patients. Finally after several months passing, a few more trips to our shop, watching another 56 Chevy & the 55 Chevy Two Door Post projects wrap up, he knew he had to get tough and pull his project from this other body shop. A few weeks later the called and said his 56 Chevy Bel Air was on the way. A few days later he pulled in with his trailer full of, the acid dipped car body & parts, Art Morrison Tri Five GT Sport Chassis, tons of old mechanical parts, and a bunch of dull old chrome trim.
With the Art Morrison Tri Five / 56 Chevy Bel Air GT Sport Chassis already in hand we had a great starting point for this project. This cut a bunch of the normal decision making and time required in the build process. With this out of the way the main huge decision was the power plant. What Chevy engine to go with. For us here at MetalWorks Classic Auto Restoration it's a very simple decision, Chevy LS3 Crate Engine by GM Performance is the perfect match for any Tri Five Chevy including this 56 Chevy Bel Air. Having already watched us do an LS3 Conversion on the 55 Chevy 2 Door Post the owner was easily convinced this was the right thing for his 56 Chevy Bel Air. With the LS3 Chevy Crate Engine selected it was time to start the build. The first steps involved sheetmetal repairs and basic assembly to fit the LS3 430hp GM Performance motor and the 4L65E GM Performance transmission. We needed to make sure that the fabrication guys made the correct modifications so the LS3 and the 4L65E GM tranny fit perfectly. Along with the sheetmetal repairs we got to work on the mini tub of the rearend. While doing the mini tub we found even more cancerous areas that need work. As the sheetmetal repairs began to wrap up we started mocking up the front end with the engine, radiator, and all the supporting components. Once engine bay fabrication and modifications were complete it was time for a final fitting of all the body panels before sending the Tri Five / 56 Chevy Bel Air over to the bodyshop.
With the fabrication work and sheetmetal repairs behind us it was time for body and paint work. Our projects page shows the 56 Chevy Bel Air going from bare sheetmetal to the bodywork steps and then the paint process. The amount of work involved in the process of painting a 56 year old Chevy is amazing. Potential customers call all the time to find out what the cost of a paint job for their 56 Chevy is without any idea of what a high quality paint job takes. Straightening the body panels, block sanding, epoxy, sanding, guide coat, more sanding, filling the low spots, shaving the high spots, slicksand coating, more sanding, primer, base coat paint, clear coat, zero rust paint for hidden interior metal, and undercoating. It's no quick and simple process. With all the bodywork and prep behind us it's time to roll the body and parts into the paint booth and make them beautiful with color and shine. We started with painting the Art Morrison Tri Five 56 Chevy GT Sport Chassis. The chassis, rearend, control arms, fuel cell, and support/mounting pieces all needed to match the main body color. After everything is painted the next step is moving the entire project to the assembly shop.
Assembly: step one is the Art Morrison 56 Chevy GT Sport Chassis and all the suspension and running gear. Beginning with the suspension and Wilwood brakes components. Having the suspension and Wilwood brakes on meant we could mount the wheels and tires and have the chassis actually sitting on the ground close to where it would be. It also allowed us to bolt in the engine and 4L65E GM transmission. Also at this time the painted rearend and driveline where bolted on. With all the running gear installed, the fuel cell in place, and prep for exhaust and wiring done we could set the body in place. Once the body was mounted on the GT Sport Art Morrison Chassis the real assembly got underway. Body panels, wiring, steering, windshield, rear glass, power bucket seat fitting, side windows, trim, gauges, brake master cylinder, pedals, and the list goes on and on. Seeing the project come together during assembly is really exciting. After main assembly is completed the car was moved to the lift so exhaust could be installed. After the Flowmaster exhaust had been installed it was about time to start up the new LS3 engine.
Starting a new LS3 for the first time is something we all seem to enjoy here at MetalWorks Classic Auto Restoration. The moment of truth at last. The initial start was flawless just like everyone of these new Chevy Crate Engines. Not to say there isn't a little fine tuning with the computer control system. But the main startup was smooth as butter. Cranked over and fired right up!!
Some final interior dash & console fabrication, stereo and Vintage Air control installation, and it was time to send the car over to Jim Valenzuela the owner of V34 Custom Interiors. Jim and they guys at V34 Custom Interiors also in Eugene, Oregon do an awesome job on the inside of these 56 Chevy Bel Air's. Full leather throughout, power seats, dash / console trim, headliners, and trunk lining are all amazing.
With the car back from V34 Custom Interiors we had just minor finish work and it was ready to go. Complete the stereo installation, final polishing & cleaning, safety check, and it was ready to be picked up.
Whenever an owner is coming to pickup their project it's always a day of added excitement for us. On this day it was even a little extra because both the Mr & Mrs. had intentially stayed away during assembly so they could just see it finished. The Mr part of the ownership had come by a few times but the Mrs. side hadn't seen any progress since it was first painted. She even made sure to avoid looking our our website so she didn't see the progress. When the two of them arrived that sunny afternoon it was just awesome to see the look on their faces. Total joy and excitement!!!! It has been a long haul as every total restoration project is but so well worth all the hard work to finally have their dream 56 Chevy Bel Air.