Friday, 12 January 2007 13:16

1955 Chevy Bel Air wins Celebrity Pick Award

Written by Michelle DeCrescenzo
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For nearly three decades, the black 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air sat in a garage collecting dust - its small block engine chugging to life only on rare occasions.

Today, that same automobile boasts of a flawless red exterior with its chrome polished to perfection. The chassis has been expertly modified to accept a roaring LS-1 Corvette motor and C-4 Corvette suspen- sion, and the car is fitted with 18-inch Billet Budnick wheels and Dunlop tires.

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Those are just a few of the modifications which breathed new life into this vintage gem over the course of a 6-year restoration project, and the judges at the NACE Auto & Cycle Alley car show in Las Vegas took notice. The car's owner, Glen Kanos, Imperial Radiator, was granted the Celebrity Pick Award at last November's event. His car was chosen from a panel of judges that included Chip Foose, host of TLC's Overhaulin' and Troy Trepanier. The show featured cars, trucks and motorcycles owned by collision industry professionals.

"They were still working on that car at 3 in the morning Wednesday. We had to be in Vegas by 7," said Kanos, who chose to modernize the car in many ways, but kept those changes discreet. He added power windows and hid the switches. A full stereo, which works by remote control, was installed out of sight, between the back seat and the filler of the trunk.

Bryan's Custom Restoration, Fullerton, California, performed the complete body-off restoration and custom paint with Ron Mangus, Rialto, California, doing the custom leather interior.

Unexpected show car

Kanos attended many car shows to gain inspiration on design, but rather than borrow ideas from what looked good, he was drawn to features that he disliked, and brainstormed ways to improve upon them.Active Image

"It took 6 years because I found too many things to do with it," Kanos said. Many parts were hand-made and customized to fit the changes. After a laundry list of modifications, the car was recently appraised at $200,000.

"Originally the car was going to be a daily driver, now it has turned into almost a show car," Kanos said. "We're not going to make a career out of car shows, but Active Imagewe're going to do a few of them."

Kanos plans to show the Bel Air at the Grand National in Pomona, California, at the end of January. He said he was so busy with his business in the past, but has decided to make the time to work on his cars as he gets older.

After completing such a large project, Kanos quickly dismissed the idea of taking a break or slowing down before beginning his next effort - a 1934 Ford, all steel, with five windows.

"Well, you gotta do something," he said.

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