Yes, we had one back in the day (circa 1961), a green Bel Air 210. Those cars were all over the place and sold for crumbs. We gave about $300 for it. After the attack of the fat bat-wing 1959s and 1960s, this car looked beyond conservative and remindful of that storied shoebox.
Oh, it looked great on the lot, but a few minutes later, its disease began to out. The motor leaked profusely, about 3 quarts of oil on the half-hour drive back to my house. In the traditional areas, cancer began to creep, mainly in the eyebrows over the headlights where road scuz and moisture invariably settled and could never completely dry away. But I had big plans. The oily six-cylinder would soon become scrap, usurped by a two-barrel 283 that quickly became a dual-quad 270.
My five-five had a three-speed and drum brakes, of course, neither of which was ever replaced, but this rolling tragedy did manage a bright spot or two. I ceremoniously hacked a hole in the floor and stuck on the vaunted Hurst shifter, the first (and only) car in the neighborhood to have one. The chrome stick had a flat-sided blank on top about the size of a silver dollar. Concurrent, the "knob" was formed by two matching pieces of psychedelic plastic that were attached to the flat portion by a screw. Nothing, if not weird. By the time I got the car, my mechanically minded father had already died. He'd given me the 283 but it was supposed to be for my 1939 Merc, not the 210. I don't know whether he would have liked it or not.
Forty years down the line, everything we knew in the previous century has been diminished by methods, technology, and the mind-blowing information stream, but in this business the rodders on the street who pour over message boards and racing junk websites, are still noticed for their accomplishments. Being in the automobile customization business is like knowing the boss.
Thirty-seven-year-old Justin Veit is on the inside, having been involved in several projects for (sister publication) Truckin magazine. "I have done numerous trucks for [Editor] Dan Ward, including an 2001 Chevy Crew Cab, '04 Ford crew cab, and most recently a pair of new Dodges and the redo of the 2006 GMC with an 2008 body style front clip," he remembers. The 210 is another story completely. He bought it in 2000 (for $2,500) and took 10 years to mold it. Little did he know what its final disposition would be.
"My mom came to me saying that she wanted to build my dad a car for his 50th birthday. So we agreed on the 1955 and started to build it...the first time. We had a 350 small-block in it and a lowering kit. The color scheme was root beer brown with a cream top and a tan interior. But the bodywork was bad so I chose Lucky Luciano to redo it in the current colors. A contemporary engine seemed to fit the new profile. I decided on the 6.0L HO motor, threw an airbag system on it, changed interior, and ran with it."
Justin's happy. Dad's very happy. Luciano's even happier.
Justin wasn't out to rule the world so a mildly tweaked motor in the 210's maw would certainly do the trick. He lassoed an 2006 LS2 (364 ci) and trotted it over to Arizona Street Rods in his hometown of Phoenix. ASR rebuilt the core to stock specs but inserted a COMP Thumpr hydraulic roller that metes out 219/233 degrees duration (at 0.050) and a lift of 0.533/0.536 inch, a nice pinch of cayenne that lives (but not quietly) in the 2,000- to 6,400-rpm range. At the other end of the rumpity-rump equation, ceramic-coated Hedman headers channeled into a 3-inch exhaust system. On the side of sterling induction qualities, ASR included a Performance Products aluminum intake manifold serviced by billet fuel rails and a FAST 92mm Big Mouth throttle body. Output is estimated at 400 hp and 415 lb-ft, although the stock LS2 produces just this amount, so maybe Justin's holding back a little. To absorb this modest disruption, the 210 harbors an unmodified Turbo 350 and a stock axle fitted with 3.55:1 Superior cogs and an equal-traction device.
Insane Customs in Phoenix took charge of the build, using the 210's absolutely stock body as its platform; yeah, even the driprails are intact. The only obvious deletions concern the bumpers, as the horns have been deep-sixed, leaving a smooth, bright expanse that helps diminish the Chevy's big nose. A Danchuk grille resides. The re-chromed bumpers and polished stainless trim artfully offset the paintwork as applied by Lucky Luciano Customs in Phoenix. Luciano smoothed the carcass, doted on the bodywork, and shot the succulent PPG Black and 2008 Eclipse Copper.
After cleaning the original frame, Insane Customs attached the Heidts 2-inch dropped spindles and then got serious with the keystone of this enterprise, the RideTech suspension modules. From there the Strong Arm tubular upper and lower control arms were installed, inserting the ShockWaves, and fed them with 3/8-inch lines. They wrapped it up with the bolt-on four-link setup and more ShockWaves, again with 3/8-inch feeders.
As a restomod, the Bel Air benefits from some slick trim additions that broaden the scope of the dashboard and beyond. So unrestrained, all instruments and meters are neatly ganged within the original nacelle. The color of the body leaks into the interior, setting a foil for the rich, black hides as applied by Bell Auto Upholstery in Phoenix. Bell put up the sumptuous leather all over the place, including the headliner. How about a cool breeze to temper the blast furnace that masquerades as Arizona in the summertime? Justin squelches the solar blast with a Vintage Air Gen IV HVAC. He fires the audio with a vengeance. Cardenal Car Stereo in Glendale installed a Panasonic head unit and Clarion equalizers, hooked them to JL 5004 (highs/midranges) and 10001 (subwoofers) amplifiers and balanced them with a JL 10WS subwoofer in the trunk. Lastly, the crew at Cardenal integrated JL 6-inch mids in the kick panels and 6x9s in the package tray. The ritual: Justin clips the Danchuk seatbelts, adjusts the angle of the Colorado Custom steering wheel via the tilt column, flicks the shift lever against the brakes, and mats the throttle on the LS2.
Strangely believe it; the Bel Air's stoppers are rebuilt originals—but well hidden beneath the nominal 15-inch rolling stock. At the leading edge, Justin posted 15x7 Colorado Custom Copper Mountain rims with BFGoodrich 215/60 rubber. For the action end, he put up matching Copper Mountains capped with 255/60 tires.