2023 marked the year Richard Paradis debuted his incredibly restored 1956 Chevy Bel Air convertible on the summer car show circuit.

He had already won a trophy and MyStarCollectorCar will predict with a large degree of confidence it will not be his last trophy because Richard’s car is one of the best vintage vehicle restorations we have ever seen on the car show circuit.

The main reason is Richard and his mentor Gord Thorburn (a local custom and restoration builder) took 34 years to restore the ’56 Chevy drop top to a better-than-factory level.

Jim Sutherland

Richard wanted to restore the car to the highest possible level and was very reluctant to use aftermarket parts if they did not meet the high level of quality he needed for the project. A good example is the bright work on the ’56 Chevy because Richard was not impressed with the stainless-steel quality provided by aftermarket suppliers, pieces he described as “tin-foily” because they were too thin.

Consequently, most of the car’s stainless pieces are either NOS (“New Old Stock” that was never used on a car) or highly repaired original stock pieces.

The search for NOS pieces, or repair of original trim pieces, is a painstakingly slow process that required an enormous amount of time to put perfect bright work back on the ’56 Chevy convertible. The process included NOS hubcaps for the project.

Richard’s car was originally built at GM’S St Louis, Missouri plant on July 10, 1956, and the Chevy’s original buyer checked off a lot of boxes for the car, including power steering, power brakes, power windows, power top, 2-speed automatic transmission and a signal-seeking AM radio.

Richard mentioned other dealer-installed options that were available in 1956 once the car reached the local GM dealership, most noticeably the Continental kit on the rear deck of the ’56 Chevy convertible. The Chevy also has an unusual dealer-installed feature, namely the 3rd note (also called tone) horn that gave the car a distinctive sound when the driver hit the horn.

The interior of the car was carefully restored to factory specs in terms of seat upholstery and has a brand-new vibe to it. The front A-pillars (windshield supports) inside the car were re-chromed because Richard was once again not impressed with the quality of aftermarket replacements.

The Chevy’s engine is still the factory 265 small block V-8 and it has undergone a careful restoration to better-than-factory condition, including two repaints after Gord rejected the aftermarket spray paint job done by Richard. The engine process also included ceramic coating on the exhaust components to give it a permanently fresh look.

Gord also rejected various aftermarket trim pieces such as the chrome rocker panel covers and helped Richard find NOS chrome rocker panel covers because he wanted the car to be flawless in every way.

Mission accomplished in our opinion here at MyStarCollectorCar because Richard’s 1956 Chevy Bel Air convertible is a runaway winner in the stock restoration category. Good thing the car has a large trunk to haul all the trophies from future car shows.    

Jim Sutherland

BY: Jim Sutherland

Jim Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer whose work has been published by many major print and online publications. The list includes Calgary Herald, The Truth About Cars, Red Deer Advocate, RPM Magazine, Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, Windsor Star, Vancouver Province, and Post Media Wheels Section.