1957 Chevrolet Bel-Ette (Part 1)



1957 Chevy Corvette’s For Sale

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The Bel-Ette – We all know what happened when you combine the popular elements of the 1957, 1958 and 1959 Chevrolet with a Corvette C6 chassis and drive train. The results of that project was a one-of-a-kind ride, the 789 Chevrolet built by Kanter Concepts.

So just what do you think will happen when a 1957 Chevrolet Belair two door sedan body is installed on a 2008 Corvette frame and drive train. The results of this project will be Rick and Gayle’s 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Ette.

See the series of events below that lead to this unusual project. This is a work in progress so check back often for updates on Rick and Gayle’s 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Ette.

In 2009 Rick and Gayle’s purchased a restorable 1957 Chevrolet Belair 2 door sedan with the intentions of restoring it for cruising and car shows. Rick’s original idea was to install a Corvette LS3 engine with overdrive transmission and updated suspension.


1957 Chevrolet Belair Two Door Sedan
1957 Chevrolet Belair
Two Door Sedan


2008 Corvette
2008 Corvette

Rick came across a low mileage 2008 Corvette on eBay that had been hit on the right fender and door but was still fully drivable and all systems were working. The engine and transmission from the Corvette was just what Rick had planned for the 57 Chevy.

Then Rick had the idea of keep the Corvette engine, drive train and frame including the complete Corvette interior for a unique project. Rick wanted to mount the 1957 Chevy Bel Air body on the Corvette frame. He wanted it to look like a 57 Chevy on the outside and drive like a 2008 Corvette.

Rick knew that he was getting over his head on this project so he enlisted Bob Guillot of Lower Coast Customs in Westlake, LA. Bob had worked on other projects for Rick and built numerous cars over the years. He respected Bob as a meticulous worker and a great fabricator and knew with his help that project Bel-Ette would be completed.


1957 Chevrolet Body Off
1957 Chevrolet Body Off

1957 Chevrolet Sandblasted
1957 Chevrolet Sandblasted

As of February 2011 the project has been in progress for a few months now. The 57 was totally stripped to send to the sand blaster. After getting back from the blasters there were no big surprises. Several holes in the floor, but this won’t be of any concern since the entire floor will be cut out in preparation to fit over the Corvette chassis.

The Corvette body has been stripped from the chassis. This was quite a chore for Bob and his crew since the newer Corvette bodies are not bolted but are bonded to the frame with adhesive. After the Corvette body was stripped the entire rear suspension will then be removed. There is approximately 9.7 inches difference in the wheelbase the Corvette frame and the 1957 Chevrolet frame. So the Corvette frame will be stretched by that amount.


Corvette Chassis
Corvette Chassis
’57 Chevy For Sale

The Corvette chassis is classified as the C6 series and has the engine mounted in the front and the transaxle is in the rear. The engine and transaxle are connected by an aluminum torque tube which has the drive shaft running through it. Both the torque tube and drive shaft will be lengthened the same amount the frame was stretched. The torque tube will be lengthened locally by Albert Broussard with Lake Area Equipment and Maintenance in Lake Charles, LA. The new drive shaft will be custom made from carbon fiber.


Rear Transmission Removed
Rear Transmission Removed

Suspension Removed
Suspension Removed

The rear transmission and suspension has been removed in preparation for the stretching of the frame. Frame metal has been ordered and should be arriving this week. While waiting for the metal to arrive a lot of thought is being focused on all the systems that will have to be lengthened to work with the stretched frame. These will include the shift linkage, hydraulic brake lines, emergency brake cables, fuel lines and rear wiring harnesses.

The frame metal has arrived. Careful thought was put into where to stretch the frame and it was decided that the best place would be at the rear of the rocker panels just before the frame kicks up in the rear. Additional stripping of the frame was required to prepare it for the cut.


Corvette Frame Cut
Corvette Frame Cut

Corvette Frame Cut
Corvette Frame Cut

A lot of prep-work went into getting the frame ready for cutting. The frame was leveled and braced to get all the base measurements. The success of this project will rely on getting every thing back into perfect alignment after the stretch is made.


1957 Chevrolet Body Off
Stretching the frame

1957 Chevrolet Sandblasted
Done!

Rick and Gayle were relieved to see the frame back in one piece again. This was the first major hurdle in the Bel-Ette project and it all seemed to go very smoothly. They are feeling much better about the project now and may be the only owner of a 115″ wheelbase C6 Corvette chassis. After the transaxle is reinstalled, measurements will be taken to determine how much will have to be added to the torque tube. After the new torque tube is completed it will be sent off to have the custom carbon fiber driveshaft made. While this is being done work will continue on lengthening, modifying and fabricating all the components to accommodate the stretched frame.


1957 Chevrolet

1957 Chevrolet 210

Out came the plasma cutter and it was cut, cut and more cutting. Out came the floorboards, trunk floor, inner fender wells and the firewall.


The 57 Body Goes On The Corvette Chassis

The 57 Body Goes On The Corvette Chassis


The 57 Body Goes On The Corvette Chassis

1957 Chevrolet On Corvette Chassis

The 1957 Chevrolet 210 body fit over Corvette frame rails nearly perfect. Still a long way to go and so far things seem to be going very well. Gayle saw the car today and as very pleased with the progress and ready to drive it.


The 57 Body Goes On The Corvette Chassis
Looking Good

The Corvette rolling chassis was sent to Automotive Alignment and Brake Service where the frame was checked for straightness. They were happy to report that the frame alignment was right on. Excellent work on the 9-1/4″ frame stretch.


1957 Chevrolet

1957 Chevrolet 210

Time to bring out the plasma cutter again. The quarters had a few rust issues so it was decided to change them out as well as the rocker panels.


1957 Chevrolet

1957 Chevrolet 210


Quarters are in and looking good


1957 Chevrolet
Slim with cut torque tube
in custom jig.

1957 Chevrolet 210

Shane Slim Hebert of Lake Area Equipment Maintenance Inc. is hard at work on extending the torque tubes. Below is Albert Broussard with the 2 finished torque tubes. One will be sent off to have the custom shaft made. One will be put back into the car to continue the work. The new drive shaft will be custom made from carbon fiber.


Lake Area Equipment Maintenance
Lake Area Equipment Maintenance Inc.
305 N. Ryan Street Lake Charles, LA 70601
Phone 337-433-3220


1957 Body on Corvette Frame

In this photo the body mounts were made and the Bel-Ette’s 1957 Chevrolet body was mounted on the Corvette frame. However there is one small problem – the front tires hit the fenders. Out comes the cut off wheels and tape measure.


1957 Chevrolet

Now the Bel-Ette’s front fenders have clearance for the huge custom wheels and tires. Bob and his crew did an excellent job on the wheel well modification.


1957 Chevrolet

1957 Chevrolet 210

The floorboards have been completed. The front and rear bumper brackets installed. Next was the installation of the bumpers. Also installed was the grille and it fit perfect.


1957 Chevrolet

1957 Chevrolet 210

Exhaust system has been lenghtened and run to the rear mufflers. Starting the fabrication of the rear gas tanks. Two tanks will be installed. One on each side of the trunk. Fuel capacity will be increased by about 4 gallons.


1957 Chevrolet

1957 Chevrolet 210


1957 Chevrolet

1957 Chevrolet 210


Fabricating rear exhaust exit & rear suspension ready to install


1957 Chevrolet

1957 Chevrolet 210

A lot has transpired in the past few months. All the rear suspension was removed, cleaned, repainted and re-installed. The rear suspension cradle was sent to be powder coated as were the two fuel tanks. All the shock absorbers were replaced. The emergency brake cable, brake lines, trans. cooler lines, fuel lines, exhaust system and wiring have been extended and are in place. Front and rear bumpers and all exterior trim was sent to Houston for re-chroming or buffing and it looks great. Stretched torque tube and drive shaft are installed. Body, fenders, trunk lid, doors, and hood (which has been converted to a forward tilting hood) have all been worked over and are in primer. The body will be mounted back to the chassis in the next week or two and the doors, hood, fenders etc. will be installed and gapped to the usual high perfection that Bob and Eric Guillot of Lower Coast Customs are known for. There is actually paint on the car at this time. The firewall has been painted to do a color check and it looks great.


Hard to Find 1957 Chevy Parts For Sale