Paul Sant’s stunning 1957 Chev Bel Air convertible

Looking for a slice of nostalgia? Paul Sant's immaculate '57 Chev is as good as it gets

Photographers: Peter Bateman

We’ve all heard stories of guys who toil away on stock transport during the day and twirl spanners on mega-horsepower machinery at night but Paul Sant, from Pro Flo Performance, is doing it the other way around. He builds some of the toughest cars and engines in Australia during his working hours but for the past few years his nights have been spent toiling away on his own car, a nearly standard ’57 Chev Bel Air convertible.

First published in the February 2007 issue of Street Machine

Paul is no newcomer to Street Machine; you may remember his blown orange LX hatchback from March ’96. The Torana’s engine bay was filled with a Mooneyham blower, Enderle injection and 355 cubes of Holden’s toughest iron. Ten years later and his Chevy packs just a single four-barrel Rochester carb and stock cast-iron headers. Sounds like a backward step but when you’re cranking out blown and turboed donks on a daily basis, maybe it’s nice to come home to something different. Not that the ’57 was any cheaper.

Classic 1957 Chevs cost big bucks in any shape but convertibles are top dollar. Paul doesn’t want to say what he paid for this one but rest assured, it would’ve made a great down-payment on a house.

“It costs the same to rebuild them whether you start with a convertible, sedan or whatever, so I decided I’d build something that was going to be worth it when I was finished,” Paul says. Fair enough but what did you start with? “A complete piece of shit.”

The work the crew had to perform to bring the car up to scratch must have filled a shipping container with parts from America.

“My wife, Lisa, and I sourced a lot of bits from Danchuk in the States,” say Paul. His definition of ‘bits’ is a bit broader than some.

Out came the whole floorpan, which was rusted to hell thanks to a leaky roof. The rest of the body wasn’t much better. The final tally saw the rear quarters, door skins, front guards, inner guards and boot skin all replaced with new metal. All that was left was the original bonnet and firewall.

After the ’57 was stripped, blasted, dissected and reassembled, the shell was rolled to Bonnyrigg Smash Repairs, which has given plenty of classics, rods, cruisers and street machines the colour treatment. It’s got a reputation for outstanding workmanship and is responsible for the Chev’s top-notch panel work, prep, and paint — layers of its original hue, Tropical Turquoise.

And how about the bright-work? Alan McCoy worked his magic on the stainless trim while — no expense spared — new chrome bumpers were sourced from the US.

Imagine having Paul’s engine talents and a small-block Chevy to work on — the temptation to go nuts must have been as massive as the potential horsepower. But he stayed true to his plan with the highly detailed 283-cube donk, modifying the heads for unleaded and dropping a mild Camtech grind into the guts. As a result, the engine makes just a tad more than its original 220hp at 4800rpm.

Also sticking to the original theme are the column-shifted, cast-iron Powerglide and factory 3.36:1 ratio diff. Just the thing for cruising the coast — not that Paul’s done much of that yet.

“I’ve only probably done a kay in it,” he says. Yeah, yeah, we know, but Paul’s got his reasons.
“It’s too scary to drive it, in the sense that the car belongs in a museum,” he says.

While we love to see people driving their cars, can you imagine the chaos this Chev would cause in Sydney traffic? The rubber-necking it’d trigger would cause accidents left and right.

That hasn’t stopped Paul dragging it to a few shows, however, and since debuting at MotorEx 2005, the drop-top Chevy has collected 13 trophies from just four shows.

“At street machine shows the judges struggle with it — it’s so neat but it’s also stock so it doesn’t win points for modifications. I took it to a Chev show and won five trophies.”

Steve at Alltrim was responsible for fitting the trim kit that Paul sourced in the US. Turquoise and ivory vinyl cover the bench seats and door trims, while the rest of the interior retains its factory equipment, including AM radio and the rare padded-dash option.

While Paul admits that he rebuilt the car strictly according to the body tag, he did allow himself a small liberty with the Chev’s stance. There aren’t many people who like the standard ride height of the ’57 Chev and Paul dropped the front of his three inches, while the rear copped a four-inch chop. Now the Chevy sits more aggressively, with the factory 14in steelies and whitewalls tucked up under the guards.

After a three-year build and a few shows, Paul’s decided to move on. There are other projects to build and the Bel Air represents a big wad of buying power. So if you’re in the market for a ’57 Chev convertible you’d better be quick — they never made them this good.


When it comes to tough cars, Paul Sant has been responsible for a few. His business, Pro Flo Performance, on the outskirts of Sydney has cranked out the impressive drivelines in some of the toughest cars around. Cars like Tristan Ocker’s MINCER Capri, which has run mid-sevens down the quarter, and Ben Purdue’s beautiful KRUPTA VS Commodore ute, with a heap of nine-second passes under its belt. Or how about recent cover cars, like Michelle and Gareth Davies’s blown LX hatch and Julian Di Matta’s blown EFI Capri? All machines that have rolled out of Pro Flo Performance.

For a guy who started studying computer programming at uni, Paul certainly has magic fingers when it comes to extreme horsepower.

“Yeah, I learned on the job and I just think — not being a smartarse — you’ve either got it or you haven’t. I still don’t know if I have,” he says with a laugh. Hmmm, his performance record speaks for itself, we reckon.

Maybe it’s an inherited trait; Paul’s older brother, Anthony, is no stranger to the world of tough muscle with his own ’57 Chev nabbing Top Elite at Summernats 17 (above). Meanwhile, younger brother Mark is in the auto-electrical game and runs a tough twin-throttlebody VH Commodore on nitrous — horsepower definitely runs in the blood of the Sant brothers. If you need ponies and have the money, Paul can provide enough to scare you silly.


Colour:Tropical Turquoise
Engine:Chev small-block, 283ci
Carb:Rochester 4bbl
Heads:Modified for unleaded
Cam:Camtech, mild
Trans:Powerglide, cast iron
Diff:Banjo, 3.36:1
Brakes:Drums (f&r)
Springs:Lowered 3in (f), lowered 4in (r)
Shocks:Monroe (f&r)
Seats:Retrimmed Turquoise & Ivory, split bench (f), bench (r)
Stereo:Factory AM radio
Rims:Steel 14×5 (f&r)
Rubber:Coker whitewall radials, 205/65 (f&r)

My brother Mark, On Track Auto Electrical; my wife Lisa, kids Charlie & Jessica, & brother Anthony; Pro Flo Performance; Bonnyrigg Smash Repairs; Bridgestone, Smithfield; Alltrim Motor Trimming.