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Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible: Lust-Schiff - kit for professionals

Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible
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If you really want something, you don't always act reasonable. This is the only way to explain why Rolf Stöß from Nuremberg bought a car without seeing it, checking it or driving it for a test drive. Something like that rarely goes well as anyone can imagine. But Stöß in no way regrets his act. On the contrary, he is happy about it - because now he finally has his dream car.

The 56 Chevy Bel Air Convertible is owned to the most sought-after US cars

'I've been looking for it for at least 20 years,' says the US car Fan. Ever since he saw a '56 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible from friends of his uncle as a child, he dreamed of cruising around in such a huge convertible and then parking it in his own garage in the evening. But the open Bel Air from model year 1956 are very rare - that's why he initially contented himself with a hardtop coupé, which he tracked down and partially restored in 1994.

He promised more success in his search in the USA, where he traveled in 1999. But even there, the Bel Air convertible they were looking for turned out to be as rare as a road with no speed limit. He was all the happier when he finally found two copies. Both were at the same dealer: a top specimen for $ 90,000 and a restoration item for $ 30,000. But Stöß didn't want to spend that much money.

The horror comes after unpacking the kit

In view of this disappointment, it makes sense that he picked up the phone in a flash when he came across the following ad in a German car advertising paper a year later: '56 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible for sale, disassembled, but complete. Stöß bought the Chevy from northern Germany without hesitation and agreed with the seller that he would bring the car to Nuremberg. It should be a visit full of surprises.

One Sunday morning a frantically operated doorbell roused the prospective convertible owner from his sleep. Stöß thought: 'What's going on now, I haven't done anything?' He jumped out of bed and looked outWindow. A van was parked in front of the house, and on the trailer behind it was something thickly wrapped in foil that looked like a car in shape. Against this packaging, Christo's works appeared almost amateurish.

But what could be seen on closer inspection was more than enough. 'The shock was great,' recalls Stöß. He hadn't imagined things to be that bad. Nevertheless, he did not want to withdraw from the purchase. First, it would certainly have been easier to tear the bones of a starving dog than the down payment from this unwilling to negotiate seller, and secondly, his dream car was finally in front of him, albeit in ruins.

A friend of Stöß had rented a small hall nearby, in which hobby mechanics could work to their heart's content. There they transported the Chevy and let it slide off the trailer, which was quite tedious because of the almost flat tires. And after the parts stored in the van had been unloaded, the seller quickly set off with his money.

The Chevy -Part puzzle: weeks of sorting work

'Now I was standing there with my lucky bag,' Stöß recalls. First he unpacked the car properly. He saw immediately that someone here had grown a restoration over their head. The previous owner had already dismantled all parts and started the sheet metal work. The body rested unscrewed on the chassis, as did the parts of the front end. As indicated by the seller, the windshield was missing. But where were the engine and gearbox?

'I still have the things here,' said the salesman innocently, when Stöß annoyed him called the next day. At least he made up his mind to send the parts - at Stöß's expense, of course. But he could have saved himself that, because the trained master mechanic saw very quickly that there wasn't much left to do. The engine turned out to be extremely worn out, and the crankshaft was already ground to the greatest possible undersize.

So he postponed the subject for a start Engine and devoted himself to many other things. There were, for example, the numerous boxes with the completely mixed up parts. Stöß remembers it exactly: 'I sat in the cellar for weeks and sorted.' The repair manuals, parts catalogs and the fact that he already owned an identical coupé helped him to cope with this gigantic puzzle. This served as a helpful pattern for him when he was completely unable to assign something.

Then he dedicatedthe body and the chassis. The previous owner had already installed new floor panels. Fortunately, they were only attached with individual spot welds and not yet welded. Because Stöß had to cut them out again after he had checked the frame dimensions and the attachment points of the body on the frame with a folding rule.

A bottle maker helps weld the Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible

He sandblasted the frame, which made a healthy impression. Although he already had some experience in welding sheet metal because he had restored a 51 Opel Olympia and a Karmann Ghia several years ago, he really appreciated the help of his friend Martin Melzer with welding the body. Melzer was a retired Flaschner and also the one in whose hall Stöß was allowed to work. 'Since I took up a lot of space there with my big car, I took part in the rent during this time,' laughs Stöß.

So that the body could be moved independently of the frame, he had built a special frame for it. And when he had to work on the underbody, he tipped the huge Chevy body sideways onto two mattresses that came from bulky waste.

Everything went slower than expected, and so he quickly said goodbye to the idea of ​​the car on his 50th birthday in July 2001 to finish. There were always new problems to be solved. The engine question was the least of them.

Stöß had an overhauled 4.3 liter V8 in stock for his coupé. His convertible was delivered with a six-cylinder engine at the time, but it could alternatively be ordered with this machine. The installation was therefore a comparatively easy task, because new mountings for the machine only had to be welded to the frame at predetermined points. The engine combined shock with an equally contemporary three-speed automatic. He stored the previously assembled unit with only two switching stages.

A must: Retrofitting disc brakes

Another modification concerned the brake system. Stöß thinks with horror of a hair-raising downhill descent with his coupé near Garmisch-Partenkirchen. 'Suddenly the brakes faded, I stood with two feet on the pedal, but nothing happened.' At that time he narrowly escaped an accident - so the decision was easy for him to equip both Bel Air with a disc brake on the front axle, which was available as a retrofit kit around 1960 -including brake booster.

But back to the problems mentioned. Most of these related to the procurement of spare parts, whereby Stöß, as in other cases, benefited from the support of friends or his contacts. His uncle in America, who had good relationships with a parts supplier, also helped organize the parts he needed.

Because of course it wasn't stayed with the windshield, which Stöß managed to get hold of from a dealer in Berlin. He also missed the taillights, parts of the rear bumper and the top hydraulic pump. Some things, such as interior components or the hood, had suffered so much that they could no longer be used.

After The Chevy has passed the general inspection for 20 months with flying colors

Especially the convertible-specific parts are rare and expensive. There was only one chance to purchase a convertible top linkage, but it should cost $ 5,000. With a lot of effort, Stöß therefore reworked the old part, got the hydraulics going again and had the convertible top bought in the USA pulled up by a saddler.

After 20 busy months, the Chevy Bel Air was finally transformed into a neat car again. The TÜV acceptance went smoothly, the enthusiastic inspector only complained about two missing split pins on the tie rods.

H If Stöß canceled the purchase back then, this car would not exist today. Fortunately, you rarely act sensibly when you really want something.


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