A Montana Repairer’s ‘57 Bel Air

Feb. 1, 2011
A father and son’s long-awaited journey to restore a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air.

Harold Woyth emigrated from Germany to Great Falls, Mont., with his parents in 1956—one year before the birth of his dream car, a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air. He was 2 years old at the time and neither he nor his parents spoke English. His dad, Manfred “Fred” Woyth, got a job as a bodyman at Mundale’s repair shop. “They took him under their wing and he learned how to speak English,” says Harold.

When Harold was 16, he saw his dream car for sale on his way to school one day. He approached his father about buying it, but his dad didn’t think it was a good enough deal.

In 1985, Fred Woyth made up for his son’s disappointment from 15 years before: He found the shell of a ’57 Chevy just down the road from Woyth Wrecking Yard and Body Shop, the shop Fred opened in 1962 and that Harold now runs. Fred paid $500 for the car and moved it down to Woyth’s. Entrenched in running their business, Harold and his father waited another 15 years before they started restoring the Bel Air.

In 2000, Fred retired and got to work on the Chevy. He did about 80 percent of the work, says Harold, but together, they would study manuals and make calls to learn how to restore a ’57 Chevy. “Sometimes it was frustrating because one person would tell you this and the manual would tell you that.”

They also bought a parts car, a four-door ’57 Chevy, so all the parts, inside and out, are original, says Harold. “The parts car helped a lot because we could take a part from it and would know how to put it back together into the two-door pickup that we fixed up.”

Three years and $15,000 later, the car was fully restored. “It’s a totally original car right down to the color of the nuts and bolts,” says Harold. Reading right from the Blue Book pricing guide for classic cars, Harold’s ’57 Chevrolet Bel Air is worth $61,750.

Five years ago they bought another ’57 Chevrolet pickup and a 1966 Oldsmobile 442, which Fred also restored in his spare time. Since Harold is owner, manager and technician of his five-stall, 2,000-square-foot shop, he doesn’t have as much time to restore cars. And with Fred now 80 years old, he’s pretty much done restoring cars, says Harold.

There’s no question that the duo’s ’57 Chevrolet Bel Air is here to stay. Harold is adamant about that. “I always wanted a ’57 Chevrolet, I like the looks of them. They are a classic car. They are probably more noted now than any other car, really,” he says. More importantly, for the car and the restoration project, “It’ll [always be] a memory of my dad.”

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