19-20 January 2017

Offered from a Private Collection

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Lot 270

1956 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible

  • Chassis no. VC56L020258

Sold for $63,250

205 bhp, 265 cu. in. OHV V-8 engine, two-speed Powerglide transmission, coil spring independent front suspension, live rear axle with semi-elliptical leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 115 in.

  • Offered from a private collection
  • “The Hot One is even hotter”
  • Desirable 265/205 Power Pack V-8
  • Known and interesting history from new

When you’ve got a winner, how do you top it? Chevrolet’s ad agency figured out a way.

“The Hot One,” as the 1955 V-8 had been dubbed, “is even hotter.” So read the ads for 1956. This was referring to the high-compression, four-barrel, dual exhaust Power Pack option, which now developed 205 horsepower, courtesy of higher compression, or 225 brake horsepower with two carburetors. The original “Hot One” managed 180 horsepower, but even the basic V-8 in 1956 had been up-rated, now giving 170 horsepower with Powerglide.

The 1956 Chevrolets were mildly restyled, largely in response to dealer complaints that the ’55s had looked a bit bland. Harley Earl obliged, and gave the new models a healthy dose of chrome. Some esthetes thought it was overdone, but the proof came in the sales figures; market share improved from 16 to 28 percent.

This 1956 Bel Air convertible has a very poignant history. Purchased new by John Kiaski of Mount Pleasant, Illinois, it served as his family car into the mid-1960s, bringing all three of his children home from hospital after they were born. He then sold the car to a teenager, Jim Thoner, with the proviso that he could buy it back if Thoner ever wished to sell. The young man, however, joined the Army and was sent to Vietnam in 1970, where he was killed in action. Thoner’s father kept the car, driving it occasionally, until the early 2000s. At that point he sold it to Chris Vance, who commissioned a two-and-a-half-year restoration by Tom Sondles Motorsports in Strasbourg, Ohio.

Sondles performed a frame-off renovation, finished in Chevrolet’s Matador Red and India Ivory. The interior is correct red and white vinyl and finished off with an ivory vinyl top. The paint is first class and the brightwork is brilliant; the body is straight and panel fit is excellent. Finishing touches include fender skirts and a continental kit. The Bel Air is powered by the 205-horsepower, four-barrel version of the 265-cubic inch Hot One and mated to Chevy’s sturdy Powerglide automatic transmission. Equipped with power steering and power brakes, it has a fresh-air heater, pushbutton radio, dashboard clock, and correct accessory tissue dispenser. The engine compartment is expertly detailed and presents nicely throughout.

When the restoration was complete Vance began driving and showing it, where it came to the attention of its original owner. While pleased to see it so well looked after, Kiaski was disappointed that fate had derailed his option to buy it back, and saddened to know the reason. After being sold by Chris Vance, the car passed through the hands of collector Monte Sheldon and Portland, Oregon, collector Dale Matthews. Wallace “Wally” Lewis acquired it for his eclectic collection in 2005, from which the current owner acquired it in 2011.

Nothing beats a car in excellent condition, except a car with an endearing history. This beautiful ’56 Bel Air has both.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

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California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

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Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

Cameron Smyth

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Ontario, Canada

Cameron Smyth joined RM Sotheby’s as a Car Specialist in 2015, working out of our corporate office and providing assistance on c... read more

David Swig

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California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

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United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

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Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

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Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Ian Kelleher

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Ian Kelleher began his automotive career immediately following his graduation from Oberlin College with a Bachelor of Arts in Politica... read more

Jake Auerbach

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Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

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Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

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A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

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Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

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Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

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United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

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United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

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Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Peter Wallman

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United Kingdom

Peter Wallman joined RM Europe in 2007 following nearly two decades in the international advertising industry, where he was based out ... read more

Shelby Myers

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California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

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United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more