When you ask Marvin Meyer of Fort Collins, Colorado, about his 1957 Chevy, he’s quick to tell you that he purchased this former drag car when he was a scant 15 years old. When he bought the car from his brother-in-law 43 years ago, he paid what was a hefty sum at the time for any young kid: $1,000. His brother-in-law frequently raced the car at Bandimere Speedway, so the car already had a lot of go-fast goodies installed. Depending on your perspective, that fact made this former quarter-pounder the perfect suped-up street car for a newly-licensed 16-year-old. Okay, maybe not so much the perfect car for a new driver, but he was probably the coolest kid in the school parking lot—or any parking lot for that matter.
Like many high school kids, Marvin worked odd jobs during the summer of his sophomore year to gather just enough cash to buy the used race car. He couldn’t afford to buy a new car, so the Chevy gave him much-needed transportation, a commodity that every teenage boy needs. During his senior year in high school, Marvin was even able to scratch up enough coin to give the Bel Air a new covering of shiny stuff. The new paint job cost him $100, but at the time, even though they messed it up, it was worth every penny. Marvin tells us that when they painted it, the color was supposed to be the same Cortez Silver that was found on the Corvette. Unfortunately, they put too much green tinting agent in the paint when mixing it, and it turned out to have a slightly greenish hue. Little did Marvin realize that their mistake would inspire the color that the car is today.
Marvin’s Bel Air is one of those cars that just seems to stick around. 32 years after he first purchased the car in 1972, the transformation began to what you see here. He and his brother Jim worked to rebuild the car in “phases” as he put it. It was in 2004 when phase one began, which consisted of rebuilding the suspension and engine.
The process of rebuilding an engine began with removing the small 283ci engine, from there they rebuilt a .030-inch over 350 block that was filled with a Comp Cams roller camshaft, as well as rotating assembly with forged pistons that create a 9.0:1 compression ratio.
My most memorable experience is working on it throughout the years with my family.–Marvin Meyer
With 617 horsepower and 505 lb-ft. of torque available, a stock transmission will not survive for very long. That’s why Marvin had US Transmissions build him a bullet-proof 700R4 automatic transmission, and fit it with a 2,800 rpm stall converter. The 700R delivers the perfect balance of drivability and reliability to earn its place behind the small block. There is a shortened driveshaft connecting the transmission and the Jim Meyer Racing-built nine-inch rear packing 3.90:1 gears and a positraction unit.
When it came to the suspension, Marvin again looked to Jim Meyer Racing. Although the car is not designed to frequent any autocross courses, supporting the front of the car are JMR two-inch drop spindles that are attached to JMR tubular control arms. Smoothing the road surfaces, the front suspension is riding on air with Ridetech Shockwave shock absorbers. Since Marvin knew that he would eventually need to stop, Baer 14-inch disc brakes with six-piston calipers take care of braking. Mounted on the rear of the car is another pair of Shockwaves with a four-link set up to replace the original parallel leaf springs. If you like the wheels, the ones on the front are 18-inch Billet Specialties Stiletto wheels that are protected by 245/45R18 Nitto 550 tires. The smoke producers on the back are 305/40R20 Nitto 550 tires wrapped around 20-inch Stilettos.
When it was time for phase two of the restoration to begin, that meant tackling the extensive transformation of the exterior and interior. Remember that incorrect body color that was sprayed on the car back in high school? Marvin ended up liking it, so this time he intentionally had that color recreated with a custom mix that he refers to as Silvereen. Nick Pfannenstiel placed the car in the paint booth at Flatliner Rod Shop in Brighton, Colorado, and sprayed the car with the Sherwin-Williams formula that is an almost perfect match to the nostalgic green that Marvin saw first sprayed all those years ago.
Inside the shell, interior upgrades like a pair of reworked Mitsubishi bucket seats and custom rear bench solidify the fact that this isn’t a restoration. Between the front buckets is a custom console, and all of it was custom fabricated and covered by Auto Weave Upholstery. The Denver-based upholstery shop incorporated two-tone graphics using shades of black and jade Ultra leather to trim the inside of the Bel Air. When driving, eventually, you will have to turn a corner, so Marvin installed a Billet Specialties Stiletto wheel wrapped in jade leather on top of an Ididit tilt steering-column. Finally, what’s a hot rod without tunes? The sound system is made up of a Classic Radio head unit with an internal amplifier that feeds two Bose 8-inch speakers in the front of the car, and two Bose 6×9-inch speakers vibrating the glass in the rear. Looking around the car, it’s easy to see that anything that came chrome plated from the factory was rechromed, and the rest of the stainless trim was polished by Stainless Trim Works. and Classic Trim of Fort Collins
When it comes to those that helped, in addition to mentioning his wife Kelly, son Wade and daughter Sarah, Marvin stressed it was all made possible by his lead builder and brother Jim. Without the help of the entire family working in a simple three-car garage, the Silvereen Bel Air would not have went from high-school heartthrob to home-built show stopper.