Progress on Restoring & Customizing My 1953 Chevy Belair

1953 Chevy Belair Custom Hotrod Christopher Pinto

For those of you who have been following Tiki Lounge Talk for the last few years, you know my main purpose for this B-Lounge is to feature cool stuff from the past that makes the present for fun.

I’ve posted many times about the joys of having and driving a vintage car, including my current daily driver 1985 Cadillac Seville slantback. My other car…which I’ve had since 1990…is Stardust, a wild-custom, one-of-a-kind 1953 Chevrolet Belair sedan which has been decked out (by me) with custom bodywork (including 50’s Chrysler-style fins), the original engine souped up, and a custom interior.

1953 Chevy Belair Custom hot rod being painted

I restored this car once with the help of my father between 1990 and 1992. In 2000, when we moved to South Florida, I decided to do a wild 50’s custom, complete with an open cabriolet front, custom chrome, and big fins. After almost 20 years of bodywork, interior work, drive train work, and driving her about 500 miles in between, I finally got to put the custom paint job on her in early 2020!

53 Chevy hot rod being painted
My 1953 Chevy Freshly Painted, with my 1985 Cadillac Seville in the background.

I went with a very cool, very deep purple pearl, a specialized paint that looks gloss black under normal light, but lights up with an incredible purple metallic shimmer under bright sunlight. This job is what’s called a “2-stage paint job”, meaning there was a base coat of purple pearl, then multiple coats of clear to give it depth and showroom shine. Just like guys did back in the ’50s, I did all the prep work and sprayed the car down myself.

And man, was it a ton of work! I calculated I spent over 100 hours sanding, buffing, resanding, rebuffing and final polishing the job to give it that real show-quality shine. And it paid off…as you can see from the photos and the video below, she really does shine!

And the best part is, she’s 100% driveable. We’ve been taking her out often, whether to the park, to meet up friends, or just for shopping (as much as we could during this crazy pandemic!)

53 Chevy custom cadillac seats

Now I’m working on the interior, again…new rug going in, new vintage-look stereo system, and restoring the seats that I grabbed out of a 1984 Caddy Seville (I do love those Biaritz-style pillow seats!) For more photos and progress on this crazy 1953 Chevy Belair Custom Hot Rod, visit my website devoted to Stardust.

As they used to say back in the day, “That’s a fine ‘chine!”

-Tiki Chris, reporting from the garage at Tiki Lounge Talk


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