When he set out to build his 1957 Chevrolet 210, Skip Gallagher looked back to combine some of his early motoring memories.
“During the late ’60s, my brother and I drag-raced a two-door 1955 Chevy station wagon,” the Illinois resident said. “Since we let that car go, I’ve always wanted another. I just love the look of the tri-five (1955-57) wagons.”
Another yesteryear vehicle close to Gallagher’s heart is a classy Bel Air sedan. After their bare-bones wagon was involved in an accident while returning from a race in Nebraska, the guys replaced their beloved go-fast bruiser with a decked out 1957 Bel Air. Even after several decades, the special ’57 Chevy is still with the family. “My brother still has it in Colorado; he just can’t part with it.”
When it came time for Gallagher to acquire a new classic machine, he sought to blend the best of both of those Rocky Mountain-high vehicles — a two-door wagon, having the snazzy Bel Air options. He quickly realized a happy medium was not available, or at least not from the Chevrolet factory. For the 1955-57 model years, an owner could pony up for the raked roofline Nomad or its four-door variant. However, a two-door wagon couldn’t be had in the Bel Air trim.
“I wanted to create a two-door, non-Nomad wagon just like Chevrolet should have offered, having all of the bells and whistles.”
He went on the hunt in November of 2008, ending up returning to his home state of Colorado, locating a midlevel Chevy 210 two-door wagon in Denver. Eerily in tune with Gallagher’s previous straight-line past, the newly acquired classic even packed some quarter-mile lineage.
“The car had a history of drag racing in the stock class all along California, and had even been fitted with nitrous oxide. Since it was out West for the majority of its life, the body had minimal rust and was in great shape,” he said.
Once the beauty was transported back to Illinois, Gallagher began full disassembly. From the factory, this hauler came equipped with a middling 283-cubic-inch V-8 that lead-foot Gallagher left out in favor of a more robust ZZ4 crate 350 c.i. V-8 engine.
That 385 horsepower powerplant breathes easier, thanks to dual, four-barrel carburetors. A 700R transmission, with highway-friendly overdrive, shifts the gears while disc brakes, hidden behind 18 inch Torq Thurst wheels, bring the bow-tie to a halt.
The car’s original paint color was Tropical Turquoise and was one of the major factors in motivating Gallagher to make the purchase. As such, he opted to retain that balmy and eye-catching hue. Forrest Auto Body in Elgin, Il. was responsible for straightening the sheet metal and spraying on the new coat of the paint.
In keeping with Gallagher’s desire for the Bel Air theme, the distinct side panel was installed on the rear quarter panels, along with a full Nomad interior.
One of the cool, custom touches on the dazzling Chevy creation is a secret found around back.
“After installing air conditioning components, there wasn’t a lot of room left underhood for the battery.”
Faced with relocating it to the spare tire well or leaving it exposed in the cargo area, Gallagher found a period 1950s Coca Cola ice chest, restored it and place the unsightly battery inside.
“The vintage cooler goes with the theme of the car and spectators never know what’s hidden inside.”
The entire project was just wrapped up the spring, just in time for the Mid West cruising season. “The car rides and drives like a dream. It performs extremely well and is the best of both worlds; I get my wagon and my cool Bel Air add-ons.”
From front bumper to back tailight, it’s clear this classic wagon isn’t the basic 210 mid-level trim it once was.
Click on any image to pause the slideshow or to go back or forward to another photo.
This period TV commercial highlights the cargo-swallowing abilities of Chevrolet’s 1957 wagons, just like Skip’s cruiser.
Historical photos courtesy of the Gallagher family.
** All photos and content by Classic Recollections and may not be used without permission. 2012 © **
Categories: Feature Story