Dave Gagliardo Perfected This 1957 Chevy In His Garage

They say good things take time. You can also take that to mean that great things will take a little longer. Such is the case with Dave Gagliardo and his awesome 1957 Chevy 210. After finishing his previous project, Dave wanted the culmination of his hot-rodding career to be a true, iconic body style that would stand as a statement of his abilities. He knew exactly what he wanted. He didn’t know how long it would take him to perfect his project car. In this case, it took Dave eight years to complete this winged beauty, with most of the work occurring in his home garage.

Home-built 1957 Chevy.

The majority of the work on this 1957 Chevy was completed in Dave’s home garage.

“My wife originally said my customized 1989 Jeep Wrangler was my last project car, no ifs, ands, or buts about it,” Dave said. “Well, I couldn’t leave this earth with a Jeep as my last build! I needed to build a classic hot rod. I wore down the wife and she finally permitted me to do ‘one last project.’ She’s a Chevy gal, so convincing her to build a ’57 Chevy wasn’t too difficult. The only caveat was, I had to sell the Jeep to help fund the next project.”

It helps to have an understanding wife when discussing your next project. Especially if you plan on storing parts in the spare bedroom!

Dave gives three reasons why he started looking for an abandoned project car. Firstly, completed cars will likely cost more. Also, during the process of building the car into exactly what he wanted, he would wind up replacing many of the parts already on the vehicle. And lastly, the biggest reason why Dave wanted something not covered in shiny chrome and paint; a stripped-down body makes it easier to locate rust. Dave HATES rust!

Dave Finds A True Basket Case

Dave eventually found the perfect car languishing on Craigslist in Daytona Beach, Florida, buried in the back of a dimly lit shop. Built in Flint, Michigan, this 1957 Chevy lived most of its life in Alabama. It had 80,000 original miles when Dave purchased it. The gentleman who sold it to Dave explained he had tried many times over the years to buy the car from the elderly lady who owned it. She enjoyed the car, driving it twice a week, and she didn’t want to part with it. He did eventually become the car’s owner.

The Chevy came with the rotisserie, which was a good thing because it went back on it to redo a lot of the previous work to both the car's body and frame. The fuse box from Dave's 1957 Chevy pretty much sums up the condition of everything when he bought it.

The car landed in a restoration shop in Chattanooga, Tennessee. While there, the body was put on a rotisserie, had new floor pans installed, and the Chevy’s body was blocked straight and given a coat of black, epoxy primer. The car was a rolling shell with many boxes of old parts. The body appeared very straight and the previous owner had replaced the floor and the inner and outer rockers. Remember how we said that Dave hates rust? “I should have brought a magnet with me,” he said. “I later discovered the car to be a real Bondo queen.”

1957 Chevy with 18-inch wheels

The ’57 Chevy slowly came back together into the vision Dave had for his last project vehicle.

The biggest setback to the project was the discovery of the thick body filler and the horrible metal repair, dents, and holes underneath it all. Dave discovered during the rebuild that the car had thick body filler in many places, hiding terrible metal repairs, big dents, and rotted-out holes in the body and frame rails.

The additional work of stripping it back to bare metal and replacing the bad areas set the project back almost a year. In the end, though, it was a blessing in disguise, as Dave was able to solidify the final build in the process. While replacing all the rotted areas, he also made subtle modifications that paid huge dividends to the overall build.

Body Modifications To This ’57 Chevy

Dave converted the ’57 Chevy’s weld-in dash to a bolt-in dash, which made wiring the car much easier and allowed a much cleaner wiring job. Another modification was a 2 1/2-inch cowl hood scoop to clear the Holley Hi-Ram intake manifold and add to the “hot rod” theme of the car. The body has been mini-tubbed to allow for meaty Mickey Thompson 30×12-18 Sportsman S/R tires to fit under the quarter panels. Dave also smoothed the fender louvers and swapped the 210’s top fin trim for the longer Bel Air moldings.

The firewall was replaced to make room for the new LS3 engine. Mini-tubs were added to make room for those massive Mickey Thompson S/R tires.

Dave also designed the custom 24-gallon aluminum fuel tank, which is exposed in the trunk, to add to the “hot rod” theme.  The tank was clear anodized inside and out to protect the aluminum from corrosion due to the alcohol content in today’s gasoline.

Upgrading The 1957 Chevy’s Chassis

Dave started the foundation of his ’57 Chevy’s chassis with a rust-free, California frame. Up front, he added tubular control arms and Viking Performance double-adjustable coilover shocks. Out back, a Chris Alston Chassisworks’ four-link is suspended with another pair of Viking coilover shocks, also with independently adjustable compression and rebound. A heavy-duty Strange 9-inch housing retains a lightweight Strange HD Pro aluminum thru-bolt third-member and Eaton TrueTrac differential. A set of Richmond 4.11 gears spin those 31-splined axles and 30-inch-tall rear tires easily. A round of Wilwood brakes front and rear bring it all back to respectable speeds when called into action.

Those tall rear tires are wrapped around a set of Foose Nitrous II 18×10 wheels with a 4-inch backspace. The fronts are 18×7 with a similar 4-inch backspace and are wrapped with a set of General G-Max 215/45-18 tires. The direction of those front wheels is greatly assisted by a Classic Performance Products power steering box.

Custom Modifications For This 1957 Chevy’s Interior

We already mentioned that Dave modified his dash to make wiring much easier. That was especially true when it came time to wire in those Dakota Digital VHX-series gauges and Pioneer head unit. But, only the keenest of eyes may have noticed that Dave also modified the layout of the dash. He not only smoothed it, but he also moved the glove box door over approximately 8 inches to accommodate the custom center console.

There is also a Vintage Air Gen-IV climate control system behind the newly designed dash, and a Raingear wiper system, so Dave can enjoy his Chevy rain or shine. Dave used an American Autowire Highway 22 harness to power all these new accessories.

The 1957 Chevy is destined for the dragstrip at some point and Dave equipped it with line lock and the requisite "Race Mode" switch - when conditions warrant its use.

Finishing the fabulous interior of this 1957 Chevy is a layer of Italian leather dyed in Braun that was applied by David Leon of Tops Inc. in Palm Bay, Florida. The carpeting is German square-weave wool and an Alcantara suede headliner finishes off the top side of this ride. The seats are 12-way, power-adjustable units from a 1997 Cadillac Eldorado. They were re-skinned a matching shade of leather with basket-weave inserts where headrests originally resided.

LS-Swapping A Tri-Five Chevy

When it came time to power this modernized Tri-Five Chevy, Dave always knew that an LS swap was the way to go. He began with a Chevrolet Performance 6.2-liter LS3, originally putting out 495 horsepower. He then added a Texas Speed And Performance Stage-III hydraulic roller camshaft and accompanying springs and rocker arms.

A Holley Hi-Ram intake has been sanded smooth and polished to a high luster by Mirror Finish Polishing. It is also the contributing reason for the cowl-induction hood scoop. It also required Dave to fabricate the radiator support since the intake moved the throttle body and intake tract forward a considerable amount.

The cooling pack consists of a Griffin aluminum radiator with dual 12-inch SPAL fans. Dave fabricated the radiator support, as well as the fan shroud. The engine breathes through the air filter at the front of the radiator support.

A set of Hooker long-tube headers feed the spent exhaust fumes to the 3-inch Borla Pro XS mufflers and out to the rear of the vehicle via Dave’s own design of piping.

A 4L80e transmission was rebuilt by LIP Performance in Safety Harbor, Florida with a TransGo shift- kit and a Circle D (4,000 stall) torque converter to keep crankshaft and input shaft speeds in agreement. There is a TCI Automotive Outlaw shifter in the cabin, along with a US Shift Quick 4 programmable transmission controller to elaborate the driver’s wishes for the overdriven transmission.

1957 Chevy at the beach

Ups & Downs Of An 8-Year Build

Looking at the final product, it’s easy to underestimate the amount of detail that went into this 1957 Chevy. Thankfully, Dave was as fastidious about documenting his progress through a build thread on the Tri-Five forum. There you can see all the wins and pitfalls Dave experienced throughout his eight-year labor of love.

Photo gallery


In the end, we think the car is perfect. Dave has just begun putting some miles on the finished build and is quite satisfied with how everything turned out, even if he is still adjusting to all the additional free time on his hands.

“For the past eight years, there’s always been plenty of things to do on the project and I enjoyed the building, planning, and fabrication,” he said. “Building this car has been a source of self-satisfaction, a challenge to my problem-solving skills, and an outlet for my creativity. I guess I’ll have to say ‘goodbye’ to that chapter in my life and welcome the next chapter; driving to and from the car shows, taking an occasional blast down the dragstrip with it, and enjoying the fruit of my labor. It’s kind of bittersweet for me, honestly.”

We think the quality of the build, and the level of detail that Dave painstakingly invested in it will help him transition into his next phase of the relationship with his 1957 Chevy. And, even though his wife acquiesced once on the “last project” dictate, we think having such an incredible, drivable, 1957 Chevrolet in the garage could easily suffice, should she stick to her guns from here on out. We’re just glad she gave Dave the green light for one more build.

About the author

Andy Bolig

Andy has been intrigued by mechanical things all of his life and enjoys tinkering with cars of all makes and ages. Finding value in style points, he can appreciate cars of all power and performance levels. Andy is an avid railfan and gets his “high” by flying radio-controlled model airplanes when time permits. He keeps his feet firmly grounded by working on his two street rods and his supercharged C4 Corvette. Whether planes, trains, motorcycles, or automobiles, Andy has immersed himself in a world driven by internal combustion.
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