We see a lot of custom-built Tri-Five Chevy’s, but not many like this one. The owner of this project, Jim Walker of Roseburg, Oregon, is the mastermind behind this truly unique project. When we saw what he was building, we had to find out more. Jim is calling his project the Bel-Amino, it’s a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air four-door wagon that is being built into something completely different: a two-door pickup.
We've never seen one with the chopped top like this before, and it fits the build nicely.
Jim was inspired when he saw a couple of cars similar to this one in a magazine almost two decades ago. One of them was built out of a nomad, and one was built out of a two-door handyman-style wagon. “They looked pretty good,” Jim explained, “but they didn’t have the chopped top and since they were two-doors the doors were way too long. All of the proportions were off and the bed was way too short.” That’s why Jim started with a four-door station wagon, the front doors are shorter and it fits the El-Camino style build better.
The four-door sized front doors definitely match the profile of an El Camino better than a longer door from a two-door wagon.
Jim started this project roughly 15 years ago. “I only had it two days when I cut the top off,” he explained, “but it ended up on the back burner while I did some other projects.” Since Jim retired a few years ago he has been able to spend more time with his car, but there is still a lot to be done. “There are 2,000 to 3,000 more hours of cutting and welding to do before it’s even ready for bodywork.”
Here it is Jim's car before cutting (left two images), then when he cut the roof off with the window frames still in place (center right), and finally with the roof in place at stock height (far right).
When it’s done, it will feature a simple, classic hot rod drivetrain with a 350 cubic-inch engine, five-speed manual transmission, and a 9-inch rearend. It’s built on a tube chassis with a Camaro front end, and has air bags on all four corners. The exterior will be Orange Pearl, and the door handles will be shaved, so it will feature remote electric windows and doors.
There has been a lot of fabrication work done on this project, and there is still a lot more to go!
The top has been chopped roughly 5 inches, and Jim has also modified the B-pillar so the window frame is angled in to emulate the look of a nomad. He also grafted the rear roof section from a 1983 Chrysler New Yorker to get the back window and roofline the way he wanted them to look. The entire inside area of the “truck bed” is completely hand fabricated by Jim as well.
The project is still a long way from being done. The engine and transmission are on the floor in his garage and the interior is still on his list of things to start working on. He has his own industrial sewing machine and plans on stitching everything himself. “I figure that if somebody else can do it, I can learn how to myself,” Jim said. And with that attitude, if there is something he doesn’t know how to do, instead of hiring it out, he just learns how to do it himself.
The image on the left shows the dash before being modified by Jim, and on the right is a picture that really shows the proportions of the car with the lowered top.
Do you want to read about other Reader’s Hardcore Projects? All you need to do is click here. If you’re working on a project, we want to hear about it. Since we’ve started the Hardcore Project series, we have received more than a few candidates, but we still want to see more, as we can never get enough. Send us a few pictures of your car showing the engine, interior, and exterior, along with all of the pertinent information, and we’ll make you Internet famous. You can send your submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.