Louis Younis is one of the millions of car nuts to have been smitten by the iconic jet-age styling of the 1957 Chevrolet. “For me they’re the pick of the tri-fives,” says the serial SM feature-car builder. “I’d been dreaming about owning one since I was a kid, but after searching for years I couldn’t find one. I found a ’55 that ticked all my boxes, so I bought that instead. It had all the suspension and chassis work done; it just needed paint and bodywork.” But a fateful flick through eBay late one night changed everything.
First published in the January 2022 issue of Street Machine
“I came across a beautiful, black, pillarless ’57,” Louis says. “Initially I thought it was a US-based car that someone was trying to sell here in Australia, until I saw the guy’s Australian mobile number in the ad. It must have been almost midnight when I rang him – we struck a deal within five minutes and the next day Damien ‘Chubby’ Lowe and I flew to Adelaide to inspect it.”
The car that greeted them was an honest base for a project, and everything a teenaged Louis had pined for. “The previous owner had done the paint and trim, and it had a Vortec crate motor in it,” he recalls. “Chubby and I cruised it an hour-and-a-half back to Jason Waye’s workshop in Adelaide, and it drove beautifully – it was almost too good to touch! I battled with the temptation for a few months, but I had to build the car I’d been envisaging for years.”
Cast your minds back to the ’55 that Louis also owned. This car was a little further along in the chassis and suspension department, with the previous owner adding the Strange coil-overs, tubular arms and spindles. “I was only half-committed to the ’55 build, so I was toying with the idea of shortening the factory diff and running aftermarket wheels,” Louis explains.
“When I got my hands on the ’57, though, I started chatting with Justin at PSI FAB about transferring the hardware onto the ’57 chassis and bringing that up to standard. He suggested we just do a body swap, sliding the ’55 chassis and all the fruit under the ’57 body. We drove both cars into the workshop one Wednesday morning and by the evening we had both bodies off and the chassis swapped over – it was a much easier way to do it.”
With the black ’57 now benefitting from the better-quality suspension and the Wilwood disc-brake upgrade, the boys could focus on the car’s attention-grabbing stance. “I’ve always had a thing about stance, and we must have tried five different tyre combos to get it sitting right,” explains Louis. Thanks to some widened factory tubs in the rear and a shortened nine-inch housing, the ’57 is slung low over iconic Weld V-Series wheels measuring a portly 10 inches wide out back, shod in 315 ET Streets.
One of the most striking additions to the car is a part that caused our protagonist the most heartache. “My wife hates blowers out of the bonnet, and I knew that would also really impact the car’s driveability, but I just had to build the car I’d been dreaming of for 10 years!”
The base for the thumping 383-cube heart was actually the crate motor that came with the car, which Louis had Daniel Attard dress up with some carefully selected hardware. “My only brief was that it had to have a nice blower hunt and that it couldn’t get hot, and Daniel nailed it,” Louis grins.
It’s a simple yet effective combination – a billet TBS 6/71 huffer topped with a pair of 750cfm carbs, sitting on a relatively tame 383 small-block Chev. But the 500hp combo may be only short-lived for the ’57.
“When my brother Danny and I were kids, we’d go to the track with Dad and watch him race his eight-second Anglia and then drive home,” Louis says. “Once my kids are old enough, I’d love to share my passion with them, so we’ve built everything from the gearbox back to handle 800-1000hp.
When the time’s right, we’ll probably ’cage it and put two race seats up front.” Until then, though, the ’57 has a commitment to cruising the family around on regular street duties.
“We used a factory fuel tank instead of a boot-mounted cell, and a big mechanical pump up front instead of giant electric pumps – to be honest, it cruises beautifully!” Louis enthuses.
“We haven’t even taken it to a car show; you’re more likely to find us at the local park on a Sunday with the boot full of kids’ scooters and bikes!”
1957 CHEVROLET BEL AIR
|Chevrolet small-block V8
|Billet TBS 6/71 supercharger, TBS manifold, twin 750cfm Quick Fuel carbs
|Factory fuel tank, Edelbrock mechanical fuel pump, MagnaFuel pressure
|Be Cool alloy radiator, CVR electric water pump
|Custom four-into-one headers, dual 3in system
|MSD coil, MSD distributor
|Hughes Turbo 400
|Hughes 3500rpm stall
|9in housing, Truetrac centre, 3.55:1 gears
|Strange coil-overs, tubular arms, 2in drop spindles, rack-and-pinion
|Strange coil-overs, four-link
|Wilwood discs (f & r)
|WHEELS & TYRES
|Weld V-Series; 17×4.5 (f), 15×10 double-beadlock (r)
|28x6x17 (f), Mickey Thompson ET Street 315/60R15 (r)
My wife and kids for their continued support and patience; my father and brother for the motivation; Justin at PSI FAB; Pauly Abela at Pauly’s Restos; Daniel and Donny Attard; Deano the sparky; Damien Lowe at Lowe Fabrications; Jason at Mansweto Racing; Jason at Muscle Garage; Bobby at Competition Engines; Lindsay the detailer