The most likely reaction when anyone sees this car is to ask, “what is this?”
Its proud owner, Dennis Brown, is more than happy to provide the answer of how it became the only one of its kind.
And, if you have a few minutes, he’ll explain the remarkable skill and engineering that went into its transformation from the original version introduced by Chevrolet 72 years ago.
We’ll get to his comments in a couple of minutes but, first, a little history of the car’s importance when it made its debut.
The excitement that occurred in 1950, when Chevrolet introduced the first top-of-the-line Bel Air, made it the year’s best-selling car in the country.
The post-war Chevys were already popular as the transformation was taking place from the cars of the late 1940s. But the Bel Air mark would identify the company’s most luxurious offering for the next 31 years. Chevrolet’s slogan declared it to be “Finer than ever for ’50!”
It was the first pillar-less coupe in the low-priced market. Their sales brochure promoted it as “open to the summer breeze” yet “snug against the wintry wind” with “the coziness and permanence of an all-steel top.”
There’s still plenty of the original versions around today of the “new” model that would not undergo significant design changes until the introduction of the 1955 model year, but there’s only one like Dennis has.
You will have to examine it closely to even find evidence of the original 1950 body, the car’s interior, or any of its redesigned features. Dennis and I both found it hard to imagine the skills of the technician who could completely cut and reshape the sheet metal that today provides the look of a modern sports car.
The exquisite leather alone, that extends even through the trunk, comes at a price that exceeds the original cost of the entire car.
The high-tech instrument panel, front and rear bucket seats, LED lights, and invisible door handles are all examples of designs never imagined nor even possible in 1950.
Neither would there have been “suicide” doors as they were regarded as unsafe even though they dated back to the days of horseless carriages.
Dennis first discovered the car when it belonged to a life-long friend who he got to promise to let him know when he was ready to sell it. That happened just after he had acquired a new motorcycle as a birthday present for himself.
“It didn’t take more than a minute for me to decide to sell my birthday present – it’s out the window, it’s gone – and sold another car and made the Chevy mine,” he declares with a big smile, “I’ve always wanted to own this really special car.
“It set up a whole year during the Covid pandemic, and as soon as I got the car home, I rebuilt the carburetors, and it ran like a top!
“The original engine that produced about 92 horsepower and a top speed of maybe 60 to 65 MPH was replaced with a 425-horsepower Chevy small block, and it will go lots faster than that now!”
I then asked him about his future plans for the car.
“First,” he says, “I’m going to drive it. I love to get it out and just take a ride in it. It’ll be in parades, car shows and stuff like that. There’s one coming up right away not far from me, so that’s next. I just love old cars – always have and always will.”
Readers may recall that we featured his 1938 Chevy in this space about two and a half years ago and found that his love for classic cars began as a kid at Arlington’s Roark Elementary in the 1960s.
While his enthusiasm for his latest acquisition featured here may be at the top of his automotive experiences for now, we’ll stand by to see what comes next.