A '57 Man

            For the past nine years Richard Smith has been the proud owner of a beautiful, all original 1957 Chevy Bel Air. The lustrous black paint is original, the 283 cubic inch V8 is original and so is all 53,000 miles. All original.
            “It sits in storage a lot,” Richard said, admitting that while he loves to drive it he’s “worried somebody else will hit it.” So this is his car show.
           Through the late ‘40s and early ‘50s, Chevy made some very solid and dependable, if somewhat boring, cars. In 1955, though, they rolled out a totally new design with a new power plant, the Bel Air.
            The car was big, but light and easy to handle for its size. It fit as a family driver or could be souped up as a racer, as is evidenced by how well it did on the stock car circuits around the country. And the body was something else, something Detroit hadn’t seen. This was the car, especially the 1957, that gave us tail fins.
            While the history of this venerable vehicle is impressive, it isn’t why Richard Smith now owns one.
            “I had three in high school,” he said of the ’57. “I use to race them, swap out engines. They were a lot of fun.”
            He even had a ’57 when he moved from Iowa to Cincinnati a number of years ago. “I blew the engine and ended up selling it for $200,” he said, obvious regret in his voice.
            Still, age and responsibility have a way of changing our lives. When Richard got married he decided he needed more of a family car.
            But nine years ago he and his wife decided to look for another Bel Air that they could take around to car shows.
            “I found it up in Fairfield,” he said of the Cincinnati suburb where he purchased the car. “It had been in storage for a long time.”
            Richard was told that the man who had owned the car had been sent to jail for murdering his girlfriend about six years prior to his purchasing the car. Supposedly the man had cut off her head.
            While the former owner led to something of a gruesome story, at least it didn’t affect the car. Richard’s ’57 is a beautiful machine.


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