Over the years, Frank Brewer of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has enjoyed owning and building several beautiful Chevrolets, but his latest has become his go-to ride when a road trip arises. While many of Frank’s previous builds were extremely high-quality restorations, Frank designed this 1957 Chevrolet 210 hardtop to be a street cruiser with all the conveniences of a modern Chevy. Frank’s introduction to the hardtop dates back over a decade, when he helped a friend transport the ’57 from Ohio to North Carolina. Frank’s friend had purchased the Chevy after it had spent ten years stored in a garage. Once the ’57 was in North Carolina, his friend’s plans changed, and the hardtop experienced an additional twelve years of inactivity. As Frank’s pending retirement loomed, he felt compelled to start a new project, and he remembered the unique 210 hardtop squirreled away in his friend’s garage. A deal was arranged, and Frank had his latest undertaking that would eventually become his car show cruiser.
The Chevy was disassembled, and it was determined which parts would be reused, sold, or trashed. Frank tapped Terry Cook to handle a majority of the restoration work. The build started with the factory frame, which was a one-piece frame with the flat and smooth frame bottom that is sometimes referred to as a “California” frame. The leaf-spring rear suspension was rebuilt to factory specifications, while the front suspension was rebuilt with the addition of 2-inch drop spindles that afforded the proper front-down, rear-up rake that Frank desired. The factory parallelogram steering linkage gave way to a Flaming River rack-and-pinion, which provided additional oil pan clearance. The drum brakes that the 210 received at the factory were panned in favor of Wilwood disc brakes on all four corners. The rolling stock consists of 17×7 front and 17×8 rear American Racing custom wheels wrapped with Firestone Firehawk wide ovals.
To motivate the Tri-Five, Frank purchased a 480-horsepower Corvette LS3 crate engine and matching 4L65E overdrive automatic transmission. The engine installation required some fabrication work, which resulted in the engine being installed slightly forward of the original engine location. Even with the engine moved forward, the firewall had to be massaged to provide an interference-free installation. A Griffin aluminum radiator was installed to handle the cooling requirements of the LS3. The transmission directs the engine torque into a powdercoated and posi-filled, Strange S60 rearend with 3.55 gears.
With the drivetrain situated, the bodywork and interior modifications moved to the forefront of the build. Frank considered fourteen different colors of blue before finally having the exterior shot in PPG’s Blue Pearl Metallic.
Dave Grogan took care of all of the interior appointments, and it was filled with custom-stitched seats, door panels, and center console, which were all wrapped in an Oyster (off-white) color leather. The dash was fitted with a full array of Dakota Digital gauges to keep Frank informed of the operating conditions of the LS3. To keep the interior cool, a Vintage Air system was installed in the ‘57.
In a single year, the Chevy 210 was resurrected from a forgotten garage ornament to a smooth-running, efficient cruiser. Frank claims the suspension is a tad stiff, but not objectionable, and although he had originally considered an air ride setup, he is happy with the coil/leaf spring arrangement. The LS3 provides 21.5 mpg, and the stainless-steel exhaust with Flowmaster mufflers provides a mellow-tone when the 210 is wheeled down the freeway.
Upon completing the Chevy, Frank drove it to the 2013 Super Chevy event in Rockingham, North Carolina, where it won Best in Class. More surprisingly (to Frank), the ’57 won the Best of the Tri-Fives, even though there were several outstanding examples at the event. Since that weekend, Frank has continued to enjoy the ’57, and the hardtop functions precisely the way he designed it. The Chevy has a powerful, fuel-efficient engine and all the comforts of a late-model vehicle, while retaining the unmistakably recognizable classic lines of the 1957 Chevrolet.