From Scrap Yard to Showstopper: One Man’s 8-Year Journey with a Classic Chevy

Hey there, car enthusiasts! Today, we’re diving into the exciting journey of Chris Larkham as he brings back to life the iconic 1956 Chevrolet Bel-Air.

This classic American car has a special place in the hearts of many, and for Chris, it became a personal mission to rescue this beauty.

Unveiling the Project

Chris was knee-deep in a Corvette restoration project when the allure of ’55-’57 Chevrolets caught his eye.

Through a friend importing Corvette parts, he stumbled upon a promising opportunity a ’56 Chev Bel-Air convertible. Excited by initial photos, he jumped in, only to discover the road ahead was not as smooth as he thought.

Reality Check: Uncovering the Truth

Thinking it would be a straightforward restoration, Chris entrusted the car to a painter, only to find out about numerous shortcuts taken in the USA. A significant rear impact had been masked with filler and self-tapper screws.


Things got tougher when the original painter fell ill and passed away. Despite setbacks, Chris pressed on, seeking help from Concours Sportscar Restorations, known for their work on Jaguars, to breathe new life into the project.

Mechanical Resurrection

The mechanical aspect posed its own set of challenges. The promised transmission was missing, and the acquired short motor brought more problems than expected.

Faced with mounting expenses, Chris made a crucial decision to prioritize the spirit of the era over strict originality.

A complete 350 small block package became the new heart of the Bel-Air, bringing it back to its 1950s glory with around 330 horsepower.

Upgrades for Modern Cruising

The chassis received subtle upgrades for modern functionality, like a dual power brake system with front discs. The interior, handled by Stitched Up Custom Trim, took a deviation from strict stock restoration, incorporating marine-grade leather for durability.

Small custom touches added a personal flair without straying too far from the period’s aesthetics.

Finishing Touches and Personalization

Bolt-on alterations, such as period finned rocker and air filter covers, along with ‘smoothie’ wheels, added a touch of individuality.

Chris embraced authenticity for the period, recognizing subtle changes that might have happened during the car’s previous ownership.

The True Value

The project spanned around eight years, demanding dedication and perseverance. Despite the estimated restoration cost exceeding $80,000, the joy derived from the process made it a worthwhile investment.

As the ’56 Chev Bel-Air stands fully restored, the initial shots of the car in disrepair serve as a poignant reminder of its journey from neglect to revival.

Chris’ Restoration Summary

Original Car: 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air

Length of Restoration: 8 years

Estimated Cost of Restoration: $80,000+

Estimated Value After Restoration: $100,000+

Closing Thoughts

In the world of classic car restoration, Chris Larkham’s journey with the ’56 Chev Bel-Air showcases passion, resilience, and the timeless allure of a bygone era. Have you faced challenges in your classic car restoration journey?

Share your experiences below, and let’s chat about your stories. Don’t forget to share this article with your family and friends who love classic cars!

Our mission is to take you on a thrilling ride down memory lane, exploring the history, design, and unforgettable moments that define the golden era of automobiles.

Sharing Is Caring:

Leave a Comment