THE CAR AND ITS OWNER: 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air owned by Ben DiVenti
WHAT MAKES IT INTERESTING: With almost 1.6 million built, the ’57 Chevy has become an icon among classic car collectors, who prize its ample fins, gobs of chrome and striking colors. DiVenti caught ’57 fever when his father, a mechanic for a longtime New Jersey dealer, plucked a spanking new four-door sedan off the delivery truck and gave it to DiVenti’s mother as her daily driver. “When she passed away while I was in high school,” he says, “it became my driver. I was always known as the ‘’57 guy’ in high school during the early ‘70s. That was my car. One night, that car saved my life and my friends, who were in the car. It withstood a direct hit in the back by someone doing well over 60 miles per hour. I was devastated, but alive. I swore I would own one another day.”
HOW LONG HE’S OWNED IT: Since 1988
WHERE HE FOUND IT: It was sitting in front of East Meadow’s Eisenhower Park with a “for sale” sign on it. “I was doing an errand and drove a way that I would not usually go,” he says. “And there it was: a ’57 Chevy sitting atop a flatbed.”
CONDITION: DiVenti performed a three-year restoration. “It was a diamond in the rough – very rough – but I knew what it could look like,” he says. “It was like a true Fred Flintstone car, with holes in the floor board, no door panels, a ripped headliner, the works. My wife said, ‘I don’t care what you do with it. I will not drive this car.’ She changed her tune when it was finished three years later. I still have many original documents that were in my first ’57.”
TIPS FOR OWNERS: “Love your car and keep driving them,” he advises. “They don't make these beautiful cars any more. That was a time when you knew the make and model by the side profile.”
VALUE: DiVenti estimates the Bel Air is worth $25,000 to $30,000.
THE BOTTOM LINE: “This has been a part of my life since I was born,” he says. “I have the ‘57 Bel Air gene in my blood. I’ve taken my daughter to her Sweet 16 party in the car and even took her to her wedding in it.”