Menu

Shop

Garage

Cart

Account

Products to Compare (max of 3)
X
Compare These Parts

Employee Rides: 1957 Chevy Bel Air - Kelsey Bugjo

10/4/2021
Add Article To List

As long as I can remember I’ve been interested in cars even before I could drive—from rides at Chucky Cheese to building a soap box derby car with my dad. When I was a teenager, I won a poster of a ’57 Chevy Bel Air at a fair. There was something about that turquoise car that I just had to have so I set out to find my dream car, but a few things happened first.

For me, one car sort of leads to another. I turned 16 and I set out to find my first car. A friend of my dad’s had a ’55 Chevy Stepside for sale so he took me to look at it. I liked the Volkswagen blue and cream show truck enough to get a loan (which I paid off in 6 months) and with cash in hand made an offer. My mom was out of town at the time and she opened the garage when she got home, looked at my dad and said “Kevin what did you do?” thinking he bought the truck for himself. He said, “I didn’t do anything look at your daughter.”

I had fun taking it to the drive-in with friends, the drag strip on weekends and winning the high school class at just about every car show in and around Omaha. It wasn’t a practical first car so I didn’t drive it to school and when I drove it to work my mom would stop on her way home, leave her car for me and take it back to the garage. That’s what led me to my next car a ’71 Chevelle.

I purchased my second car before I graduated high school. After going to a handful of auctions I saw an ad in Autotrader for a Chevelle in Valparaiso, Neb. and went to look at it. It was the one. The one owner, numbers matching Chevelle became my daily driver for the next five to six years as I finished high school and went on to college. I would fix things as they went wrong with the help of my dad and friends—pulled the engine and restored it when the timing chain broke on the way home from a car show, patched and painted the entire car when rust started to appear over the quarter panels and so on. I drove it everyday even in the winter and we all know what a Nebraska winter can do to a car so now I’m in the process 20 years later restoring it back to the way it looked when I bought it but that’s another story.

I still didn’t have my dream car so I kept looking. At one point I found a dusty pearl ’57 Bel Air that was completely restored made a deposit only to find out the guy was getting a divorce and didn’t want to share the profits with his ex so he backed out of the deal. My parents also fueled the fire. One Christmas they had me do a scavenger hunt which ended in the garage and I was sure it had to be a Bel Air. It was, just not a car it was a ’57 Bel Air radio/tape player. I kept scouring the classic car ads in the paper every weekend until one day there was a ’57 Bel Air Sport Coupe listed for sale in Omaha. My dad and I went to look at it. The numbers matching engine had already been rebuilt but it was a project car. A project I was willing to tackle to get my dream car, so I bought it on June 29, 2001. The car also came with boxes and boxes of past issues of Classic Chevy International dating back to the time I was born to the early 2000’s when I purchased the vehicle. Each issue included tech articles detailing how to restore the car. The work began to do a complete off-frame restoration and those tech articles came in handy—proof that content marketing works. My dad and I disassembled the car bagging and tagging everything as we went. As we were disassembling, we ran into a few surprises—the floor was rusted through, there was pitting under the aluminum side panel insert—the car needed a lot of bodywork. By July 2001 the car was off the frame and down to complete metal.

I didn’t want a lot of filler in the car so as part of the restoration it got new quarter panels, door skins, front fenders, and a floor. You’ve heard of barn finds but have you heard of barn restorations? After a lot of realignment, I pulled it from the body shop (which is no longer around) and the body guy finished the work in my dad’s barn. After the bodywork was complete and a lot of sanding and prep work, the car received a fresh coat of paint by November 2005 the first time the car had been its original colors, tropical turquoise and Indian ivory, since it was built in 1957.

Then it was time to put everything back together. In total it took about 10 years to complete but every nut and bolt was restored to original. My goal was to have it complete in time to enter it in the Young Guys category (before I was too old) at the Goodguys show at Kansas Speedway. After a lot of blood, sweat and tears it was finished in time to make a lap around the track.

I’ll keep the Bel Air forever. As for the truck it’s the only vehicle I’ve ever sold. There were some things I didn’t like about it and am building a ’57 Chevy Stepside with my dad to replace it. The Chevelle is currently being restored. The story doesn’t end there. I got a 2004 Avalanche after I graduated college which will need restoration soon and my daily driver is a super charged Rocky Ridge Callaway Tahoe. What’s next? Now that I have a family, I would love to get a ’56 Nomad and my husband who is the real mechanic in the family is on the hunt for a ’71 Nova which is what he drove in high school and college so I think we’ll have a few more projects in the future.

Related Articles

Employee Rides: 1956 Chevy Nomad - Kurt Bonner
by Kurt Bonner - Posted in Videos
12/29/2020
Kurt sees himself as the caretaker of this Nomad. Built by a family friend years ago, Kurt honors his memory by keeping his Nomad out on the road where it belongs.
Employee Rides: 1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo - Myles Rasmussen
by Myles Rasmussen - Posted in Videos
6/24/2022
Myles has had this Monte Carlo for a long time, and it's now like a member of the family!
Employee Rides: 1969 Chevelle SS396 - Tyson Jurgens
by Joe McCollough - Posted in Videos
5/26/2022
Tyson Jurgens almost sold his '69 Chevelle SS, but something in his gut told him not to. In this episode of Employee Rides, we find out more about what makes this car so special.
Employee Rides: 1962 Mercury Comet - Darrian Wedding
by Darrian Wedding - Posted in Videos
5/2/2022
Darrian bought this 1962 Mercury Comet at 14 and started a project. It grew into a passion that stills drives him to this day.
Employee Rides: Stallard Micro Sprint - Alex Owen
by Alex Owen - Posted in Videos
4/4/2022
After starting out in karts, Alex Owen moved up to a Micro Sprint and never looked back.
Employee Rides: 1969 Chevelle - Jeff Behrens
by Jeff Behrens - Posted in Videos
8/23/2021
Jeff is the Speedway Motors Retail Store Manager, and his '69 Chevelle is as nice as it is fast.
Employee Rides: 1963 Impala - Jason Lubken
by Jason Lubken - Posted in Videos
5/4/2021
Jason Lubken spends his days photographing some of the greatest cars of all time. In the evenings, he and his friends have screwed together a seriously cool '63 Impala.
Employee Rides: Jordan and Jacey Evans
2/23/2021
The car community can be a pretty powerful thing. In this episode of Employee Rides, we hear how cars brought Jordan and Jacey together and how sharing the work on their project cars helps keep them together.
1954 Chevy Sedan-Employee Rides: Kevin Webel
by Kevin Webel - Posted in News
9/21/2020
Call up Speedway Motors with a technical question and you may get Kevin Webel on the other end. He's a hardcore car guy and knows a thing or two about all things loud and fast. This big block powered '54 Chevy lives in his home garage.
1967 Firebird-Employee Rides: Josh Sullivan
by Josh Sullivan - Posted in News
9/15/2020
Josh Sullivan started with a Firebird in pieces, and ended up with a cool convertible driver.
Error
X
Note
X
Ok