In Our Garage: Arthur Downie 1957 Chevy

Arthur Downie’s 1957 Chevy was built in an era when “space age” design was all the rage with the iconic car even featuring rockets.

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Q. Tell us a bit about the car?

A. The car is a 1957 chevy and it is an Australian delivery car which means it was assembled here in Australia and is a right hand drive. They bought about 3000 of them into the country.

Q. What is the history of the car?

A. It was assembled in Brisbane and I bought it from Gympie. I am the third owner of the car and I bought it in 1976 so I have had it for quite a long time.

It was kept in storage for many years before I started resurrecting it which was a pretty mammoth job to be honest. The good thing about it is it was a complete car which meant I did not have to find too many parts.

Q. What condition was the car in when you purchased it?

A. It was a complete car except it did not go, so when I bought it I got it trailered from Gympie back to Gladstone where I was living at the time. I got it going and from there I parked it in a shed and left it there for 30 years. I started doing it up which was a 10 year project and have probably had it on the road now for around ten years.

Q. What was the car like when you got it?

A. The bodywork was pretty fine, but unfortunately during those years I kept it in storage it did begin to fall apart so I had to buy a few new parts which at the time and still are readily available from the United States.

Q. What did you have to do to restore it?

A. So, over the ten years, like a lot of these projects if you have good mates around they make the job a lot easier. I had to buy new bumper bars and I upgraded the engine - I think it had a 3.7 litre in it from the factory and I’ve changed that to a 5.7 litre engine which is a bit more economical and uses modern day fuels.

Q. Tell us a bit about the engine:

A. The engine is out of a 2000 Commodore so it is a 5.7 litre with electronic fuel injection and I have a four speed overdrive gearbox behind that so the cruising is very easy in it. It also gives very good mileage but still has a bit of punch there when you need it.

Q. What is it like to drive?

A. It drives quite well for its age. It still has the original steering box in it and the original diff housing in it so it is not so bad. I was bought up driving that era of car, so to me it is good to drive. There is no power steering but I have put air conditioning in it. It does have a very big steering wheel on it which makes that a lot easier.

Q. Tell us about the interior:

A. The interior is all leather which I got from America, and it was fitted by one of the local upholstery people here in Bundaberg and they did a great job. It is red and black, which I think compliments the white exterior quite well.

Q. Can you tell us about some of the cars interesting features?

A. As you can see it was an era when they were trying to emulate the space age, so you have a couple of rockets on the front and when you are sitting in the car, the one in front of the driver lines up exactly behind you. You can go down the road with these rockets on the bonnet and that is the era it has come from when the space age was up and running well.

Q. Can you tell us a bit about the exterior details?

A. I made a few adjustments to the exterior of the car and the mirrors that were on the doors were never there, they were always on the bottom of the door below the window. I did not like that so I put these little what they call peep mirrors up on the top of the doors and I think it looks quite good and we have to have the car the way we like it, not the way others like it.

Q. What is so special about this car?

A. I have always been a bit keen on the 1957 Chevy and they are iconic car and they do have a great following. They are a much sought after car today and I have gotten this one repainted, this wasn’t the original colour, I wasn’t real keen on that as it was a two tone grey which was a bit ordinary, so instead I got it painted in white with the red splash on the side which I think compliments it quite well.

Q. What do you enjoy about restoring cars?

A. I think a lot of these things, we want to try and relive our youth and if we can do that then that’s what matters, and when I found the car I thought that will do me. It is the same year as I was born which makes it a bit more special for me.

Q. What does it sound like with such a big engine in the car?

A. It is very quiet, but it does have a burble when you stick your foot in it. I did upgrade the brakes and I now have power disc brakes on it from a later model Holden because the brakes on it were all right for the day but traffic moves a bit faster nowadays and we need to be able to pull up a bit quicker.


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