Introduced in 1955 as a replacement for Chevrolet Deluxe, the Tri-Five was a huge turning point for the company. Offered in about 20 trim and body style configurations and available with Chevrolet’s first V8 in decades, it became a massive success. Sold for only three model years with annual updates, the Tri-Five moved almost five million units.
Sure, it’s nowhere near as rare as the Corvette and the Camaro (regardless of model year), but it’s a design icon of the 1950s and enjoys a cult following. And I’m not only talking about fans of unrestored survivors and perfectly restored examples. Nope, the Tri-Five is also popular among hot rodders, drag racers, and gearheads who simply enjoy dropping a modern crate engine in a vintage body.
But like most nameplates that have spawned millions of examples back in the day, the Tri-Five is also a common sight in junkyards and barns. Some end up in the crusher, while others are stripped for parts. Others, like the 1957 four-door you see here, get lucky and are rescued and revived after decades in storage.
Found by the folks over at YouTube’s “RESTORED,” this 1957 Bel Air spent about 35 years in a barn. It was running when parked, but the owner never drove it due to health issues, and it almost became a rust bucket. With the owner having passed away, the family decided to sell some of his old cars, including this one. And fortunately enough, our host didn’t purchase it to use it as a parts car but opted to give it a second chance at life.
Reviving the old V8 proved troublesome, which isn’t surprising for an engine that hasn’t sipped gasoline in over 30 years. But not only did they manage to get it running again, but they also got the Bel Air driving for a little bit. Just enough to get it to a car wash and give it a much-needed bath. If you’re into decade-old patina on Tri-Fives, you’ll definitely love this one.
Granted, it’s not a rare Nomad wagon or a highly desirable Sport Coupe, but this four-door is just as sexy. And mind you, it’s not a regular sedan, but a pillarless Sport Sedan version. Sure, it’s not exactly rare at 142,518 units built, but you won’t see too many unrestored survivors that are still in one piece. In fact, four-door Bel Airs have become quite hard to find regardless of their condition. Oh, and did I mention it also has a V8 under the hood?
The Tri-Five still came with a 235-cubic-inch (3.9-liter) inline-six as standard in 1957, but Chevrolet was already offering a wide selection of V8 mills at the time. Options included the 265-cubic-inch (4.3-liter) V8 that Chevy had introduced in 1955 and the slightly bigger 283-cubic-inch (4.6-liter) Turbo-Fire.
The former delivered 162 horsepower, while the latter came with 185 to 283 horses on tap. It’s unclear whether this Tri-Five still rocks its original engine or not, but the orange color suggests in a 283 V8. The 265, which is rather uncommon in 1957 models, was painted bright yellow.
Anyway, check out the lengthy video below to see this rusty yet still gorgeous Bel Air spring back to life. You can also see it getting its first wash in decades at the end of the video.