Car of the Week: Dual-Quad 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air

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It is hard to believe Phil Aubrey is only the second registered owner of this stunning 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air with dual four-barrel carburetors (a.k.a. dual quads or 2x4s) on its original 265 -cid V-8. This was Chevrolet’s “hot” engine setup for the 1956 model year, but was far more commonly seen on Corvettes.

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Aubrey purchased his Bel Air from the Volo Auto Museum in May 2007. When Aubrey purchased the car, he was sent the original title dated 1956 with the first owner’s name on it. He was able to contact the first buyer, who was 73 years old at that time. She told him that the car was the dealer’s demo and the dual quads were installed by them. It had 6,000 miles on it when she took possession. It was garage kept and not driven in the winter much. For a car of this vintage, that is surely a welcomed and rare distinction.

Aubrey has done extensive research on his car and sent Old Cars Weekly a bit of the history of his Bel Air. He said the Chevy was born in Norwood, Ohio, at the end of March 1956 and was one of 1,574,819 Chevrolet cars built that year. The Bel Air Sport Coupe s better known as a two-door hardtop, one of 128,382 built in 1956. The Bel Air Sport was considered the top-of-the-line model that year, and the Sport Coupe remains one of the most sporting and desirable body styles (along with the convertible and Nomad two-door station wagon).

Aubrey also knows a lot about the powerplant.

“The dual-quad option using two Carter WCFB (carburetors) started in 1956 with the 265 V-8 and (was) offered in both Corvette and passenger cars,” Aubrey told us. “It produced 225 horsepower with hydraulic lifters and 245 with solids. It’s believed only one passenger car was built with the 245-hp engine at the request of Harley Earl.

“As with most first production things, (the dual-quad engine) had its share of problems,” he continued. “Two that come to mind were poor idle quality and flooding on hard turns. An intake manifold modification in 1957 solved the idle problem, and elevating the choke air intake tube the latter. The rear carb on the 1956 model used an air bleed to control the idle speed and that makes it stand alone and unique. Behind the rear carb, it gets crowed for space and there is no place to mount the ignition coil. A band strap around the distributor is used for the coil mount. This covers the mounting location for the vacuum advance control, hence a dual-point, all-centrifugal advance distributor. These set ups worked well with both the 265 and 283 engines, with production stopping in 1961.”

Aubrey said his car would have originally had the batwing air cleaner, which is not only very expensive, but also very rare. He also believes the batwing air cleaner is different from 1956 to 1957 owing to the change in placement of the battery and/or the heater box between model years.

“The ’56 265-cid V-8 did use rams head exhaust manifolds like the the ’57, and also red spark plug insulators on the ignition wires like the 57,” Aubrey said.

In additional the 225-hp dual-quad V-8 engine, this car has several factory-installed options, including a factory padded dash, power steering, automatic transmission, push-button radio with rear speaker, day/night inside mirror and a left outside mirror. There is also a dealer-installed stop light finder on the dash. Chevrolet offered this option because the windshield is almost vertical, which means that if the vehicle is the lead car at a stop light, the driver does not have a clear line of sight to the traffic light. In looking through the finder, the driver can see when the light changes.

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After leaving the Norwood plant, the Chevy was delivered to Hunter-Weidner Chevrolet in Anderson, Ind., and was sold on April 15, 1956, to its first owner, who drove it gently for 64,000 miles, all the while keeping up with the recommended service work. It was garaged in the winter months, preserving it from Indiana’s harsh winter weather.

Around 2003 the Bel Air received a refreshed paint job in the original Sahara Gold and Adobe Beige two-tone treatment and went to the Volvo Auto Museum in Illinois where it was on display until purchased by Aubrey. Because it sat in the museum so long without being driven, it needed some minor repairs to become road worthy.

The interior is original, minus the carpeting, which needed to be replaced. The body is rust free and has never needed to be separated from the frame. The odometer reads an accurate 69K on the factory-issued engine and transmission. Neither have left the car. Only four modifications have been made to the car since leaving the factory: The steel valve covers were replaced by later Corvette aluminum valve covers, the original and very rare “batwing” air cleaner was replaced with 1956 Corvette air cleaners and the wheels have been swapped out for American Racing-brand torque thrust wheels. To liven up the ride, Cherry Bomb mufflers reside under the car, giving the Chevy a nice mellow tone.

The Bel Air is no longer a sedentary car, spending its days in a museum; Aubrey likes to take his American classic out often and enjoy it on the open road, hit local car shows, and just have fun with it around town.

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