A ’57 Chevy Bel Air convertible is so popular a vehicle that, in some cases, ones on the market manage to exceed their original sticker price some 30 times. Incredible as that may be, the body style of the ’57 Bel Air has been used in so many style variations that it has become one of the most popular vehicles among American car collectors. The ’57 Bel Air that you see here is definitely a prized possession for car builder/shop owner Anthony Fuentes of Lynwood, California.
Anthony is certainly no newcomer to the lowrider scene and has had several of his rides and tech articles from Homies Hydraulics featured in past issues of LRM. His latest creation, “7 Teaz,” is a fine example of his work and the fourth ’57 Bel Air that he’s put together. In the July 2000 issue of LRM, Anthony debuted his first two ’57s called “Fire” and “Ice.” The response from those two vehicles was so overwhelming that offers to buy the pair of Bel Airs would have Anthony doing some serious thinking. Favoring the ragtop, a decision was made to sell only one of his rides. Parting with Fire would be a decision that Anthony would soon regret. You see, Fire was made for the streets, while Ice, with its rare accessories and body trim, was for show. Shortly after the sale, a need for a street cruiser would once again fill Anthony’s veins and the search for a new vehicle (preferably a convertible) would have him looking from coast to coast. Anthony would have to top his last efforts so the brainstorming was under way while a car was found in New York.
One of the hardest things to do was to find a color that not only was appealing to the eye but also complemented the vehicle. Ultimately, Chrysler wild orchid was chosen. Going for that tradition look, Anthony had to then decide on the interior colors. He had seen in a Cars One catalog that custom stitching and colors were available only on their line of tweed interiors. Wanting the OG stitch, a call was made to see if Anthony provided the color material would they assemble it with their OG silver, stitches and impressions? Cars One agreed to take on the project. Materials in hand, the assembling of panels and seat skins was under way. With the difficult decisions out of the way, the rest was easy and the ragtop was stripped of its chrome, interior and engine and sent to G’s Auto Body in Long Beach, California, to have the body, firewall, trunk and frame blocked and painted wild orchid.
The boys at Homies Hydraulics in Paramount, California, would be the next to work their magic on the 7 Teaz with Tony Quiroz machining all of the product necessary for Anthony’s one-of-a-kind hydraulics setup. Big Frank and Ray started assembling pumps and installing the racks for a test fit while Moises reinforced the frame. Leon Montoya would be called upon to build a bridge for the rear cylinders, along with molding up the A-arms and trailing arms. Nacho Camarena would once again be in charge of getting the rearend over to Sutton Engineering in West Covina, California, to have it shortened 11/2 inches on both sides. Before the plating and polishing, Danny Arriaga would bend all of the stainless tubing needed for the hydraulic system and “EZ” from Precision Engraving handled all the engraving and custom nameplates for the SouthSide C.C. Bel Air.
Sergio at A-1 Plating in Los Angeles, California, and Joe’s Polishing in Whittier, California, would once again take on the jobs of dealing with all of Anthony’s chrome needs, plating just about everything for the hydraulics, engine compartment, undercarriage, name plates and body trim. Knowing that he would need to complete his ride with the utmost detail, Anthony made several visits to Danchuk’s in Costa Mesa, California. Getting to know the guys on a first name basis, Anthony would purchase everything needed to complete his restoration. A hunt for accessories necessary for that traditional look had Anthony searching swapmeets and browsing through the aisles keeping his eyes out for a wonder bar radio, electronic eye, skirts, compass and spotlights that would be rechromed and installed at Howard’s Spotlight in Bell, California (who have done many installs for Anthony in the past). Hemmings Motor News would be the source for the information to a Continental kit from Continental Enterprises in Ontario, Canada.
Other accessories acquired for that 7 Teaz look would be passed down from members of Anthony’s family. These items include an RCA 45-rpm record player originally purchased from Sears in the late ’60s, a Bowman color bar from Dave’s Home of Chrome (bought around 1974), and three-prong Zenith knock-offs from his big brother. A lowrider would not be complete without a set of wire wheels so an order was put in to Enzo Wheels of Santa Fe Springs, California, for a set of wires with the spokes color keyed to match the ride’s color scheme. With the Lowrider Magazine Super Show drawing near, Anthony recruited some friends to help complete the ragtop in time to show. The first stop was at the Bowtie Connection in San Pedro, California, where Mike Lopez and John Kennedy assembled the convertible cage and Freddy Rivera installed the upholstery and matching canvas top. Mark “the Glass Man” Luna brought over his mobile setup to install new green-tinted glass and made sure that all of the windows were operating properly.
Mike Astamendi of Pro Tech would bring new life to Anthony’s creation by rebuilding all of engine components and adding a chrome 4-bbl. carburetor to the once-tiered 283-c.i.d. engine thereby ensuring a trouble-free cruise with performance. Mike also teamed up with “Big Frank” to complete the front clip assembly and perform all of the body and front end alignments along with installing the bumper kit. Pinstriper Angelo Maisano would add some subtle lavender lines to the undercarriage and engine compartment. The final shop stop was with “Gordo” at Auto Restylers in Paramount to install the sounds. Alpine would be Gordo’s choice for a head unit, and he matched that up with a discontinued Alpine 3311 equalizer for that old school reverb sound, Infinity speakers for the kick panels, and Audiobahn chrome woofers, amplifiers and digital capacitors. Gordo also added purple neon for a reflective touch to all of the chrome that would soon fill the trunk.
It was time to take the ’57 to the next level and pressurize the ride. Steve and Matt at Battery Systems supplied Anthony with four Trojan 24-series batteries to juice the specially wound 6-volt armatures and casing. Hook those up to two center-pressure double-return custom-made blocks with #9 Marzocchi pump heads and you’ve got some torque without the clutter of batteries. Andy Lodi prepared four all-chrome Adex dump valves to run in tandem with four OG #8 Parker check valves. A remote oil reservoir and six #6 faucet slow-downs add that old school flavor and look for some serious clownin’. Throw in some polished stainless tubing and Homies Hydraulics line of back plates, large hex tank plugs and bearing caps and the trunk was set.
Our hats are off to Anthony for assembling a 7 Teaz-style Bel Air that surpasses his past efforts. Little brother took this Bel Air to the next level and then some.
|Vehicle:||’57 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible|
|Engine:||Rebuilt 283-c.i.d. with 4-bbl. chrome carburetor|
|Setup:||Two pumps with custom-made double-pressure double-return aluminum blocks and Marzocchi pump heads, four Adex dumps, six #6 faucet slow-downs, 6-volt motors, remote reservoir, stainless steel tubing, 6-inch (front) and 8-inch (rear) side-port cylinders, Marzocchi pump heads, Parker old school check valves, four Trojan batteries, Borg Warner solenoids, four switches|
|Wheels:||Color-keyed Enzo with old school three-prong Zenith knock-offs|