1956 Chevrolet Belair


1956 Chevrolet Belair sedan

Jim's restoration of a 1956 Chevrolet Belair is documented in photos with captions on this page. Click the photos for an expanded view of each.


See the youtube tour of Jim's 1956 Belair here.

NOTE: To see the video in high resolution and/or full screen. First start the video. Once the movie starts, click the icon (HQ) at the lower right of the screen. This will switch the movie to High Quality. To the right of the HQ button is the "FULL SCREEN" icon.

In the USA in the year 1956

Entertainment: Marilyn Monroe marries Arthur Miller. Popular films were: The Seventh Seal, The Searchers, The King and I, and Friendly Persuasion. Still reeling from his untimely death the previous September, fans are watching James Dean in the movie "Giant". AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS won the academy award for Best picture. Record of the Year: "WHATEVER WILL BE, WILL BE (QUE SERA, SERA)" by Doris Day. Album of the Year: Calypso - Harry Belafonte. "As the World Turns" and "Edge of Night" premiere on the TV set. Wizard of Oz first aired on TV. Elvis Presley makes his television debut on CBS Dorsey Brothers' Stage Show. On the Air! You'd find 2,790 AM radio, 540 FM radio and 442 TV Stations.

In the news: 80% of U.S. households have refrigerators. The first commercial videotape recorder is introduced. The device is intended for industrial applications, and it quickly revolutionizes the way television programming is produced. Engineers begin the race to produce a practical VCR for consumers. Choosy mothers can now choose the new Jiff Peanut Butter. The U.S. Department of Agriculture formulates the four basic food groups.

In the automotive world, 107,675 "foreign cars" will be imported into the USA, with most of them coming from Germany, Italy, or England.

Politics: President Eisenhower (R) is re-elected defeating Adlai E Stevenson (D).

Sports: Bob Cousy (basketball), Bobby Lane (football) and Duke Snider (baseball) get their own Wheaties boxes. In the NBA Championship, the Philadelphia Warriors defeat the Fort Wayne Pistons (4-1).

USA cost of living: Gasoline was selling for about $0.30 per U.S. Gallon. The after-tax income of the average American is $1700, up $63 from 1955. The average weekly take-home for a worker with three dependents is $74.04. Due to inflation, a dollar buys only as much food in 1956 as 41ยข bought in 1939. The cost of a first class stamp was $0.03.

In 1956 Jim isn't born yet, but his car is already rolling down the road.....

3-year-old Jim in front of his grandfather's 1955 Chevy.

Photo from January 1961

1956 Chevrolet Belair. Purchased by Jim in June 2005. 265 CID V8 engine, with automatic transmission. 45,000 actual miles. Original color scheme of Sierra Gold, and Adobe Beige. A very professional paint job, in the original colors, on a solid original car! Sherwin Williams acrylic enamel. In storage and under restoration since about 1990. Garaged most of it's life.

We've all heard the stories.... This car really was sitting in a garage in a back alley in small town Indiana. It really is what it is, and Jim really did find it by accident...

Photos from June, July, and August 2005.

She was purchased in "rolling" condition, with a pile of NOS, and reproduction spare parts. The previous owner did a fine job of "bagging and tagging" all the hardware and small parts. This made the reassemble go much faster as everything was so well organized. Thanks Ron!

Inside the windshield is a 1979 Indiana inspection sticker stating miles at 41,000. Also inside the windshield is a vintage AAA sticker offering a $200.00 reward for the arrest and conviction of anyone caught stealing this car.

On the back side, it says:

"In case of an accident with injury, immediately call a doctor."

After about six months at the body shop in the winter of 1998-1999, she came home and just never quite got finished. The original color repaint was done at one of Lafayette Indiana's most respected restoration shops. The car then sat for about six years. When restoring an antique car, it is easy to take it apart. It is always much more difficult to find the time and motivation to finish the project. It is common for projects like this to sit for long periods. "Turning the corner" is what some restorers call the moment in time when one realizes that the project can, and will be finished.
A nice job of painting in the engine compartment also.

The reassembly process begins in June 2005.

This was Jim's first "Tri-5" restoration project. Special thanks to the great people on the "Chevy Talk" forum for helping Jim to make all the connections with the right sources on these popular collector cars..

Original rust free trunk floor.
The dash is original paint, and in superb condition. Note that the original paint on the steering wheel, and the rubber on the brake pedal show almost no wear. This is an indication of the low mileage of this car. The car has the original radio, and working factory clock.
Working in a well lit area with room on all sides makes for a more pleasant task of assembling an antique auto. Having the car up in the air allows the worker easier access to the underside, resulting in less bending and overall fatigue.
Generally speaking, it is best to paint automobiles with metallic finishes in an assembled form. This insures correct color match at panel joints. The front fenders are then carefully removed to complete the engine compartment restoration. This way, the worker is not bending over the fenders, and has more direct access to the mechanical components. After the engine is test ran, and is found to be satisfactory, the front sheet metal is replaced and these components are adjusted and aligned for final fit.
Rust free original floor. Rear view.
Rust free original floor. Front view.
The original 265 V8 is numbers matching, and is being saved in storage. A 1965 283 V8 has been prepared to install in the car. This engine will appear very much like the original. Very minor differences will be evident only to the trained eye of a knowledgeable collector. In this photo, the 283 engine is in place. An aluminum TH350 transmission conversion has been made as the original cast iron automatic is very heavy, and somewhat primitive. This transmission conversion is popular on Chevrolets of this era.. The rear differential ratio is the original 3:55/1.
Reassembling the pieces. Tail lights are installed, new rear body wiring loom, and all lights are working. A new headliner is being installed in this photo. Clean, grease, and adjust the window mechanisms. New felt "fuzzy whisker" seals in the window channels, new rubber seals and gaskets in the body openings, installation of the stainless moldings around the window frames.
The 1965 283 V8 engine has been completely rebuilt. Hardened valve seats have been installed for unleaded gasoline. The 283 is fondly remembered by many as a smooth running, powerful, and reliable little engine. "sweet!"

Final assembly of the engine components in preparation for it's first test run. The stock Rochester 2 barrel carburetor with automatic choke will work just fine...

The windshield wipers have been converted to the optional two speed electric. This car originally had the one speed vacuum wipers. Some of you may remember how the vacuum wipers would slow down when the accelerator was pressed or while climbing hills.

A new fuel tank and sending unit complete the mechanical restoration.

For GM, the 1956 model year is when the driver's side taillight was hinged to allow access to the fuel filler. Many 56 GM owners loved to play games with the young gas station attendants while enticing them to "find the hidden gas cap".

August 22nd 2005. Three months assembly work and the 56 Belair is finished. The original interior is in excellent condition for being 50 years old. The new headliner and carpet have been installed. A vintage 1950s J.C. Whitney aftermarket custom grille is the only body modification...

The front bumper, and most of the chrome pieces are original. Further evidence of an always garaged automobile.

The vintage cast aluminum AAA license plate "topper" is a garage sale find. It is from the Lafayette Indiana AAA motor club. The town where Jim was born and raised.

Spring 2006

She is ready for a summer of car shows and cruise-ins.

Future plans are to replace the interior seat covers, and door trim panels.. For now the 50 year old interior is just fine.

The 283 runs great! A NOS brake master cylinder purchased on Ebay, and DOT5 silicone brake fluid is used. The original oil-bath air filter will accept a paper type filter element. The original exhaust manifolds are used with single exhaust in the stock configuration.

Many people convert to an alternator, but the original type generator system works well when kept in proper working order.

The 283 engine with TH350 automatic is averaging about 13 mpg.

The radiator has the original tanks with a new center core. The cooling system works great. An original 7 psi AC radiator cap, and 180 degree thermostat are used. The heater core received a replacement water flow control valve assembly and a clean and pressure check at a radiator shop.

May 2006

The first time out from a winter in hibernation..

May 2006

Jim doesn't want to turn this one into a trailer queen.. It drives like a new car, and is a lot of fun....

May 2006
May 2006

A reproduction trunk mat enhances the original look.

Radial tires give a better and safer ride.


September 4th 2005. She is off to a good start! Won a trophy at her first car show appearance. 2nd overall in the 55,56,57 Chevy class!

Thank you: Marty Snell, Tim Snell, Mike Pavuk, John Boyce, Ron Bannon, Shane Mundell, Late Great Chevys, Danchuk, Fellow enthusiasts on "Chevy Talk", Mutton Hollow, Fowler NAPA, Auto Body Supply, The guys in the DeFouw Chevrolet parts department, and EBAY!

September 21st 2005.

Jim and the 56.

She has been road tested for 500 miles and pronounced complete.


October 8th 2005.

Jim's 56 Belair at the Rochester Indiana Fall car show and Chili cook-off.

Newport Indiana Hill Climb auto show. October 1 2006

Jim's '56 with Vintage American Racing wheels

Click on photo to enlarge.

Late summer 2006, Prairie criusin' on old US52. The Swanington Indiana elevator in background. This old road connected Chicago and Indianapolis before Interstate 65 was built in the 1960s. US52 follows the old Big 4 railroad all the way into West Lafayette Indiana. Passing the towns of Fowler, Templeton, Otterbein, and Montmorenci.

The big four was once famous for it's high speed passenger train.

The "James Whitcomb Riley"

This railroad right-of-way now belongs to the KB&S (Kankakee, Beaverville and Southern) railroad company and is used to haul grain to market and connects to rail yards at Lafayette Indiana and Kankakee Illinois

November 26th 2006.

American racing torque thrust wheels.

Almost time for the winter sleep

Jim's '56 in the Spring of 2008. NOTE: Indiana passed a law allowing the display of an original license plate on vintage autos that are at least 25-years-old. The vintage Indiana License plate must be from the same year as the car, and in good condition.
Jim's '56 has a fraternal twin right here in Indiana. This one is on loan to the Kokomo Automobile Heritage Museum. Jim's car has vintage American racing wheels, this one has Crager five spokes.
1956 Chevrolet Belair 2 door sedan