HomeFeatured VehiclesShowroom Showcase: 1956 Custom Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible

Showroom Showcase: 1956 Custom Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible

The stepchild steps out in style


If there was a poll on the most popular cars of the postwar era, Tri-Five Chevys arguably would be at the top. From the dramatic, clean styling of the ’55, with its Ferrari-influenced grille and wrap-around windshield, to the ’57 with its prominent fins and air intakes surrounding the headlights, there is good reason why these Chevrolets are so desired. So, what about the ’56 like this custom Bel Air convertible? It’s the red-headed stepchild of the bunch, but no less a member of the Tri-Five fraternity. The Barrett-Jackson Collection Showroom is offering one of the best for that special owner with a discriminating appreciation for the past and present.

To appreciate the greatness of the 1956 Chevrolet, we must revisit the ’55. The 1955 Chevrolet introduced a new Bow Tie to the masses, one that featured style and glamor that appeared to have trickled down from Cadillac, everyone’s favorite aspirational brand. But high style was not the only thing in order as Chevrolet now had its first V8 since 1919. At the time, the number of cylinders defined a particular class (with Ford’s Flathead bucking the trend), so for a Chevrolet to feature a modern V8 was an image-changing proposition. This Turbo-Fire V8 was of a completely new design measuring 265cid and offered up to 180 horsepower with a four-barrel, with 195 available for the Corvette.

As was standard practice in Detroit, Chevrolet facelifted its vehicles for 1956. “Offering a bigger, brighter choice than ever,” claimed Chevrolet. There were 19 different models, including a new four-door hardtop. “Headlights also slope forward in accord with the spirited front-end styling,” supported by a new, forward-raked, lattice-pattered full-width grille surrounded by embossed panels that wrapped around and extended to the wheel openings. Large, rectangular parking lights resided within the grille. Out back, the taillight lens was revised, with a red projection jutting from the cavity as if hinting at more Atomic Age goodness that was to come. Perhaps the most noticeable update for 1956 was the handsome body-side ornamentation design for Bel Air models that lent itself well to two-toning.  

Under the hood, the Turbo-Fire 265 was upgraded and offered up to 205 horsepower with a four-barrel carburetor, with 225 horses available with dual-quads. If the 1955 was the “Hot One,” the ’56 was much, much hotter.

Perhaps the stepchild image starts to wither away when you realize what other 1956 Chevy fans have already known: it is not the lesser of the three and, in fact, stands tall among them. This custom 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible has aggregated everything that’s great about 1956 Chevrolets but has taken it to a new, modern level. Starting off with what seems to be everybody’s favorite color, the black hue was sprayed by Poe Brothers, relying on a stunning monotone scheme including the Stayfast cloth top. Inside, Steve Holcomb’s Pro Auto Custom Interiors created the tan 2+2 leather seating that includes a full-length console. A Vintage Air system, and power windows, steering, and top add modernity and comfort. Perhaps Chevrolet was not a luxury brand, but this Bel Air screams luxurious — just check out those door panels!

But it’s the mechanicals that get the pulse flowing for hot rod guys and gals. Starting with an Art Morrison GT Sport chassis, the builders transplanted a supercharged 6.2-liter LT4 V8 with 640 horsepower in the engine bay. This was the heart of the C7 Corvette Z06, and it holds the distinction of being the second most-powerful engine ever offered in a regular-production Corvette (and light-years more powerful than its descendant). The four-speed Supermatic 4L75-E automatic transmission is up to the task of handling the 630 lb-ft of torque the small-block dispenses while working in tandem with the 12-bold Strange Engineering differential. So much go needs something to slow, which is why Wilwood four-wheel disc brakes reside on all four corners. General Motors computer components keeps its finger on this Chevy’s pulse at all times.

The pecking order of 1950s cruisers has shifted over the years, but Tri-Fives continue to survive the battle royale. Modern iterations of the past certainly keep the trio in the hearts of hot-rodding fans everywhere as the art of Harley Earl, combined with the modern engineering, has given us what only could be accused of being the ultimate 1950s hot rod. For $265,000, this custom 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible from the Barrett-Jackson Collection Showroom is ready to admit guilt on that.

Diego Rosenberg
Diego Rosenberg
Lead Writer Diego Rosenberg is a native of Wilmington, Delaware and Princeton, New Jersey, giving him plenty of exposure to the charms of Carlisle and Englishtown. Though his first love is Citroen, he fell for muscle cars after being seduced by 1950s finned flyers—in fact, he’s written two books on American muscle. But please don’t think there is a strong American bias because foreign weirdness is never far from his heart. With a penchant for underground music from the 1960-70s, Diego and his family reside in the Southwest.


  1. Tri 5s.

    It’s the 60s that brought these cars to the forefront of hot rodding.

    The blue over white 56 I had was powered by a 327. The car was fairly fast high 12s were common. We had a blast with it.

    I sold it when the draft caught up with me in 69

    Actually I had 3 tri 5s and a cool 56 Ford during that time. The 56 chev was fastest by far.

    I understand and can relate to the interest these vehicles.

    A friend had a black 57 convertible.

    So many around at that time.

    Love tri 5s

    Paul Holt from chi town


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