A 1958 Chevy Bel Air That Defines The Hot Rod Spirit

There is no arguing that Brian Klitz is a car enthusiast. Though more importantly, he’s a GM guy through-and-through. Brian has owned a handful of General Motors’ cars in the past, and he is no stranger to the brand. His latest creation continues that trend. His 1958 Chevy Bel Air is as clean as they come, and he’s had the privilege of winning a handful of awards from local car shows where he resides in Mooresville, North Carolina.

“My Bel Air was winning awards before I even decided to build it,” he recalled. Brian has been a car enthusiast for most of his life, but really got into the classic scene about five years ago, when he decided to purchase the Bel Air. Brian shared the build took roughly two years from start to finish, and he essentially invested the price of a house to complete it – and it shows. “It was a no-expense-spared build when it came down to brass tacks,” he laughed. “I knew what I wanted, and I had a roundabout idea of how much it would cost, so I ran with it.”

Chevy Bel Air

The Bel Air looks like your standard classic car from the outside, but don’t be fooled by what’s under the hood — nothing but pure LS-power there. All images: Mike Slade.

If You Build It, They Will Come

With a goal in mind, Brian reached out to Quarter Mile Muscle, a local shop in town. Brian set a standard for his Chevy Bel Air build, and Quarter Mile Muscle agreed to meet those standards. “I wanted to use a shop that specializes in restoring classic cars – more specifically, GM builds,” he explained. “Most of the technicians at Quarter Mile Muscle grew up watching their dads or grandfathers build cars, so they had the expertise I wanted to apply to my build.” The folks at Quarter Mile Muscle quickly got to work on the build, diving straight into the disassembly process.

An all-aluminum pushrod V-8 with EFI and more than 400 horsepower at the crank, it really wasn’t a hard decision. — Brian Klitz

The build commenced with a complete restoration of the original frame. After stripping the foundation, Quarter Mile Muscle sanded and media blasted the frame, ensuring it was structurally sound. “We finished the frame in a semi-gloss black. It really added a unique touch,” Brian said. Though the classic Bel Air might appear to have a typical black paint job, it’s far from typical.

One reason Brian chose Quarter Mile Muscle was for its reputation in producing show-quality paint jobs. The shop has its own downdraft paint booth, so custom colors and mirror-like finishes come standard here. “The color is custom for my application. It features a white-painted roof that pays homage to the original finish from the factory,” Brian told us.

Chevy Bel Air

LS-Powered Cruise Missile

Brian admits that his Chevy Bel Air only hits the road “a few choice days per month,” but that doesn’t mean his classic Chevy wasn’t built to cruise wherever. He put comfort and reliability at the forefront of his build, so when he needed the best in modern-engine performance, he looked no further than the resilient LS platform.

Chevy Bel Air

If car enthusiasts named engines, what would you name Brian’s hopped-up LS3? We were thinking Black Widow, perhaps?

Brian chose a 6.2-liter LS3 from Chevrolet Performance. “I knew I wanted something that could get-up-and-go without a fuss,” he chuckled. “An all-aluminum pushrod V-8 with EFI and more than 400 horsepower at the crank, it really wasn’t a hard decision.” Even though the LS3 made more than enough horsepower, he wasn’t ready to settle.

The LS3 is such a stout platform. Even with its stock rotating assembly, I wouldn’t hesitate to throw a little boost at it. — Brian Klitz

He opted for a handful of modifications – you know, just to massage those 376 cubic-inches a little. Brian selected a Chevrolet Performance LS Hot Cam Kit and a Holley Hi-Ram EFI intake manifold. He also incorporated a Nick William’s Performance, billet-aluminum, drive-by-wire throttle-body to compliment the intake manifold.

The classic Bel Air features a trick exhaust setup too. Brian selected a set of Sanderson long-tube headers for LS applications which mate to a custom stainless-steel X-pipe, followed by a dual-exhaust system that exits out to a pair of Borla mufflers.

1958 Chevy Bel Air Build Sheet

  • Engine: Chevrolet Performance 6.2-liter LS3 V=8.
  • Intake manifold: Holley Hi-Ram EFI for LS engines.
  • Camshaft: Chevrolet Performance LS Hot Cam Kit.
  • Exhaust: Sanderson long-tube headers, custom X-pipe, Borla mufflers.
  • Electronics: Dakota Digital analog clock, full-size Chevy radio with Bluetooth, iPod connection, USB, and AM/FM radio.
  • Interior: Vintage Air air-conditioning, defrost, and heat.
  • Fuel: Custom-built stainless-steel gas tank.
  • Cooling system: Custom three-row aluminum radiator with 16-inch electric fan.
  • Transmission: 4L80E four-speed automatic transmission, Redline torque converter.
  • Steering: Flaming River power-steering rack.
  • Suspension: Ridetech sway bars, adjustable coilovers, tubular front A-arms.
  • Rearend: 9-inch with a four-link.
  • Brakes: Wilwood six-piston front and four-piston rear.
  • Wheels and Tires: Forgeline SC3C wheels, 18×7.5 front and 19×8 rear, Michelin Pilot Sport tires, 225/45R18 front and 255/45R19 rear.
The ’58 Bel Air continues the cruiser theme with a host of modern-day components. Brian proclaimed his Bel Air had to meet two important standards in regard to the interior. For starters, it had to be functional. Second, it had to compliment the style of the exterior. He incorporated a Dakota Digital analog clock along with a classic-looking Chevy radio which was massaged with modern technology.

Custom LED lights were incorporated throughout the build.

The classic-appearing radio features all the modern bells and whistles, such as Bluetooth connectivity, iPod interface, USB connection, and AM/FM radio. Vintage Air air-conditioning, defrost, and heating ensures the classic Chevy can cruise anywhere in comfort. The custom silver and gray vinyl seats keep Brian planted comfortably during road trips.

Chevy Bel Air

Brian’s Bel Air rides on custom Forgeline SC3C wheels. Finished in gloss-black with polished lips, these babies measure in at 18×7.5-inches front and 19×8-inches rear.

Keeping the Bel Air’s stance in check is a full set of adjustable coilovers on all four corners, matched with a pair of Ridetech sway bars and tubular A-arms. The car is lowered 2 inches, which gives Brian’s Chevy an extremely aggressive stance. Power from the hopped-up LS3 is transferred to a 4L80E four-speed automatic transmission, which relies on a Redline torque converter to get the power transferred. Wilwood big brakes featuring six-piston front calipers and four-piston rear calipers make sure the Bel Air stops on a dime.

Brian shared that the trunk of his Chevy Bel Air had to be completely redesigned, as the build features a custom-fabricated aluminum gas tank. “The trunk needed a complete overhaul, and even has its own custom upholstery to clean everything up,” he said.

With in-depth builds like these, we can’t help but ask if the owner will ever consider them finished. “It’s certainly an on-going project,” laughed Brian. “The LS3 is such a stout platform. Even with its stock rotating assembly, I wouldn’t hesitate to throw a little boost at it. I enjoy driving this car too much to take it apart again. Maybe one day I’ll get the itch for more power.”

Photo gallery

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Whether he decides to boost his late-’50s Chevy Bel Air or not, Brian promised to keep us in the loop on his ultra-clean hot rod. Sound off in the comments and let us know if he should throw a blower, turbo, or nitrous on his classic.

About the author

Harrison Noble

Living in San Diego for most of his life, Harrison was exposed to a variety of cars at an early age. His passion for anything that is fast, or has a V8, brought him to Power Automedia.
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