Summer brings car shows, and this year, many have been canceled, so I thought I would take you on the restoration journey with a local collector and the body shop that turned his 1957 Chevy Bel Air into a show car.
Charlie Andring, of Goodview, tells, “My interest in classic cars started about the time I got my driver's license at 15, and started driving a '47 Chevy my father gave me. At 16, I bought my first car, a 1956 Buick Special, red and white, two-door hardtop. In November 2008, I bought a 1957 Chevy Bel Air for $18,000 from a private party in Medford, Wis. I had been looking for a '57 Chevy Bel Air, two-door hardtop for about 20 years. New in 1957, most likely it would've sold for about $2,500. It is now worth about $60,000-plus at my last insurance appraisal.”
The restoration and body work
Restoration on the '57 Chevy Bel Air was a long process, taking three years and three months to complete.
Charlie said, “When I bought the car, it had issues. The motor was rebuilt, but the transmission and rear-end were bad. I replaced the 3-speed with a 4-speed, then totally rebuilt the rear-end with new gears and bearings. I also replaced all steering and suspension parts. This was my first restoration. I did have help with friends — Bill Berg, who was the most helpful, doing the welding and giving advice; and Brian Erdman, Erdman Auto Body, Minnesota City.”
Brian Erdman tells, “Back in about the fall, 2016, Charlie contacted me about doing the body work and painting. He was going to tear down the car himself, but together, we started with the parts that you could unbolt, such as the hood, doors, trunk lid and front fenders. The first part of the restoration, I took on the doors, because they needed attention due to having new door skins hammered on prior to Charlie buying the car. In fact, new rear quarter panels and fender bottoms were also replaced on this originally white car that would be red for the rest of its life. Charlie and Bill did the welding on the body as far as rear quarters and other panel replacement, while I worked on the parts and primer work.”
Brian continues, “Charlie then brought the car shell (body) back to the shop to get the filler and primer work done and edged in with the correct color, taking about six months. With all the parts back on, the car was basically a more complete body ... panel wise. Then I removed and worked the panels again, and again, priming, block-sanding and getting the car as a whole all straight as a laser beam. This is the hardest part of the process that took about another six-seven months to perfect. After countless hours and many new growths of fingerprints later, it was finally time to tape and paint. The taping process took around a week. On the night of May 26, 2019 (2.5 years later), the 1957 Chevy is all a nice, shiny red. To give a high level of shine, I cut and buffed using 1000, 1500, 2000 and 3000 grit wet sanding paper to level the dang near perfect paint to make it even more straight and buffing with a 4-step 3M Perfect-It process. June 1, 2019, the part of the restoration I was hired to do was complete and headed back to Charlie. It was an honor and rewarding by all the compliments on the work I had done and that it will win any car show that it's entered in. Very proud of it, and even better, the smile on Charlie's face is worth 10,000 words.”
Charlie added, “My greatest satisfaction is when people see it and say what a great and amazing car it is. Brian did a superb job, and I am very grateful. A bit of advice: When someone is looking to purchase a collector car, they should take a knowledgeable person with them. I also have another identical '57 Chevy in storage, that I intend to restore and also have Brian Erdman paint.”
Sandy Erdman is a Winona-based freelance writer and certified appraiser concentrating on vintage, antique and collectible items. Send comments and story suggestions to Sandy at email@example.com.