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First Coast Gears: One Westside family's journey with a 1957 Bel Air

7:34 AM, Sep 8, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- For Jim and Joyce Stutts, 1957 was a magical year that has lived on throughout their lives.

That's the year they got married. It's also the year of their pride and joy: a fully restored Chevrolet Bel Air.

The Westside couple bought the Bel Air for just 50 dollars back in 1969 in High Point, N.C.  But is was a rusted out hulk with a locked-up motor, rotted bumpers, seats and a crushed hard top.  Yes, I said hard top, but more on that in a moment.

 Since then the restoration has been a labor of love that has turned into a family affair.

The first thing that threw me was the body.  This Bel Air actually came off the line as a hardtop but thanks a very talented family, it's been transformed into the stunning convertible shown in the photos.

The Stutts' son, Darren of Darren's Custom and Restoration in Green Cove Springs, did a total rebuild.  Once the crushed hard-top was cut off, an X frame was installed along with a convertible top system from a 1956 Pontiac. 

Joyce picked out the color, GM's 1957 Tropical Turquoise and other son Tom, of Custom Upholstery by Tom, went to work on the interior.

No question this Bel Air performs better than factory new since it's got so many modern touches such as a 350 Corvette Tuned Port Injection with 4-speed overdrive.  A digital dash was installed along with air conditioning and late model power steering.  The rear spring was relocated to accommodate wider tires and when it gets too hot to have that Pontiac top system in the down position, the A/C is fired up.

 Other custom touches included a polished stainless steel gas tank with braided stainless lines,  a one-piece "California" front bumper and a station wagon rear bumper.

The Stutts' Bel Air was on display at Saturday's Teamsters Local 512 Labor Day weekend car show and cookout.  Outside of plenty of classics cars, other activities included a moonwalk, face painting and plenty of food.

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