19-20 January 2017
Offered from a Private Collection
1956 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible
- Chassis no. VC56L020258
Sold for $63,250
- 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.
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