You could say Bill Jordan knows his '51 Bel Air. He knows it was built on June 25, 1951; he knows it came from Wallace Chevrolet in Bellingham, Washington; he even knows its purchase order number (No. 6-1141, in case you must know).
He also knows a lot of the stuff that paperwork won't tell, like who put the Pontiac window trim on it. It's because it's more than a car; it's family. He's known it most of his and the car's life; his uncle, Wayne Austin, signed that purchase order 60 years ago. "It was used as a daily driver by my aunt and two uncles until it was put into storage in the '70s," Bill says. In fact, the car remained behind locked doors in a shed until Bill got a bug and dragged it out on Aug. 9, 2006. "It wasn't driveable but it was in good condition," he adds.
But Bill says he wanted more than good. As he explained, an heirloom should be great. In his estimation, that required a professional touch. He turned the car over to Clyde "CB" Bullo at Moslander's Rod and Custom in Monroe, Washington.
Moslander's preserved the stock frame but updated it with a Progressive Automotive Sweet Ryde crossmember, a unit that employs C4 Corvette suspension. The rear still has a few parallel leaf springs for locating purposes only; RideTech ShockWave air-sprung dampers support the car there and up front too.
Long gone is the Stovebolt, and in its place: an '04 vintage GM LS1. Bill improved its breathing capacity with a custom air intake box, a larger FAST throttle body, and an exhaust system. Just as The General intended, the engine mates to a 4L60E transmission.
The Bel Air's body is entirely original except for one thing, and had we not tipped our hand earlier we'd say anyone who noticed it deserves much credit. When the car was nearly new, Bill's uncle replaced its upper body trim with pieces from a similar vintage Pontiac. After the Moslander's crew righted what little was wrong with the body, Ray Goodwin shot it in DuPont Hot Hues family colors: Indigo Blast and Snow Flake. Bill called the task of tracking down N.O.S. plastic and trim exhausting. We'd call it worth it, as the car wears a number of factory-fresh pieces, including a few collectible accessories.
They certainly look comfortable but '50s-era bench seats lack the lumbar and thigh supports to which we've grown accustomed. Paul Reichlin changed that by replacing the seat springs with foam he sculpted into ergonomic shapes. The improved back and thigh support is barely, if at all, noticeable-at least until you set yourself into it. After Moslander's treated the entire cockpit and underbody with LizardSkin spray insulation, Paul trimmed the cockpit in a combination of gray and blue leather and vinyl. He lined the floor in similarly timeless square-weave wool carpets.
Paul may have made it comfortable, but Cascade Audio in Monroe made the cockpit entertaining. The largely Pioneer audio system it installed consists of a head unit controlled by one of the company's marine remotes, a four-channel, 500-watt amplifier, and Pioneer and Focal speakers. Rather than simply restore the gauges, United Speedometer retrofitted them for modern-day stats, including increased oil pressure, voltage, and speed ranges.
If any one part represents the transformation that Bill Jordan's Bel Air underwent, it's the wheels. Their smooth face and snap-in caps reflect '50s aesthetics but their machined-aluminum construction and oversized dimensions follow modern practice. So too does the stance; when aired down, the bags let the car settle dramatically over the speed-rated radial tires.
Reacquainting with a long-lost relative is one thing, but rekindling that relationship is something else. And like cousins reuniting after decades, they have a lot of ground to cover-in this case, literally. "My first long-distance road test from Redmond to Wenatchee in July 2009 brought back the good old days," Bill says. "I cruised along with all the windows down and the pedal to the metal." We bet Uncle Wayne would approve.