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.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
1951 Chevrolet Bel Air
Clyde "CB" Bullo at Moslander's Rod and Custom in Monroe, WA, updated the stock chassis with a Progressive Automotive Sweet Ryde crossmember. It uses C4 Corvette suspension components, including Corvette 11-inch rotors and four-piston calipers. The only non-stock part in the mix is the Flaming River steering rack. The rear springs exist now only as locating devices, as the car now rides on RideTech ShockWave air sprung dampers. Those springs mount a Ford 9-inch-style axle that Dutchman built with a 3.55:1 ring-and-pinion on one of Randy's Ring & Pinion Yukon-series limited-slip differentials. That assembly spins a pair of Dutchman 31-spline axles, and at the ends are Ford Racing 11-inch drums. Thermo Tech Powder Coatings in Monroe, WA, finished all of the running gear in 60 percent gloss black.
The LS1 engine doesn't just spank the Stovebolt that came out of Bill's car; it flat-out beats the pants off of what still passes as a high-performance engine. Still, Bill tweaked it with a Spectre P5 modular air filter, a 90mm FAST throttle body, and 1 1/2-inch Sanderson headers. Stan's Headers in Auburn bent up 2-inch pipes and outfitted them with Flowmaster mufflers. An AFCO double-pass aluminum radiator equipped with two SPAL 12-inch electric fans cools the engine. Billet Specialties whittled the Tru-Trac accessory drive system. An American Autowire harness links the GM management system to both the engine and its matching 4L60E transmission. Precision Drive Line in Kirkland, WA, linked the transmission to the rear axle.
Wheels & Tires
The Bel Air rides on wheels that resemble the ones that the car originally rode on: Wheel Vintiques 92-series Gennies; only these were hewn from slabs of aluminum, not stamped from steel, and measure 17x6 and 17x8 instead of 15x5. They wear 215/45ZR17 and 245/45ZR17 Goodyear F-1 hides.
Body & Paint
The Poncho side trim that Bill's uncle, Wayne, installed years ago defines the extent of the modifications done to the body. Bill amassed a number of other factory and period aftermarket accessories, including the golden gazelle hood ornament, grille guard, front and rear bumper tips, rear bumper overrider, and gas door trim. As he made a point to collect only genuine parts, he hired EFS Plating in Port Orchard to brighten them back up. Moslander's cleaned up the body for Ray Goodwin to shoot. He used Indigo Blast and Snow Flake, colors from DuPont's Hot Hues family. Auto City Classic in Isanti, MN, made a new set of glass for the car. Rock Valley made the 18-gallon stainless tank under the trunk floor.
Paul Reichlin, Cedardale Auto Upholstery in Mt. Vernon, WA, dug into his bag of tricks to make the cockpit reflect the rest of the car. He completely gutted the front seat and sculpted foam to create lumbar and thigh support. He finished everything but the floor in dark blue leather; the floor got German square-weave wool carpet. Wise Guys supplied the seat belts. United Speedometer updated the figures to modern standards when it restored the instrument cluster. The wheel is the one that came with the car but it now mates to an ididit tilt column. Washington has few days to justify air conditioning, so Bill went with one of Hot Rod Air's Elite Standard heaters. Moslander's hinged the speaker grille and made a compartment for the cavity behind it to house the heater and ride-height controls. Moslander's wired the car with an American Autowire kit and energized the door and trunk locks with AutoLoc products. Cascade Audio and Video in Monroe tuned an audio system based on a Pioneer DEHP5900IB head unit, a Pioneer Marine remote control, Pioneer D-3 four-channel, 500-watt amplifier, Pioneer TSD601P two-way 6 1/2-inch coaxial speakers, and Focal 690CV 6x9 coaxial speakers. Moslander's lowered the cabin's sound floor by coating everything in LizardSkin spray-in insulation.