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Hes got five 1957 Chevy Bel Airs in his stable
Brian Lawlor’s 1957 Chevy Bel Air. - photo by Photo Contributed
There was something about the 1957 Chevy Bel Air that struck the fancy of Brian Lawlor.

He bought his first in 1974 while he was still a senior in high school. His collection has grown to as many as nine of the classic vehicles over the years ranging from quick projects to complete overhauls.

Now he’s down to just five Bel Airs in the collection, but he wouldn’t hesitate to tackle another project if the circumstances were just right.

“It’s hard to say what I really liked about the ’57 Bel Airs – I liked the style of them, they were fun to play with, and the parts were easily available,” Lawlor said. “There were a lot of parts – that’s the way those cars were made – and those are some of the most visible cars that are out there today.”

Lawlor – who was born in 1957 – had people he knew approaching him and hoping that they’d be able to sell their less-than-premium Bel Airs to somebody who had the passion and the expertise to tackle the project of overhauling such a beautiful ride.

Three models that came his way were soon the foundation for his growing collection. Lawlor – who said he can turn around just about any 1957 Bel Air between one and three years –developed his skills in tackling the projects himself whenever possible, and found relaxation in doing just that.

“Where we do the work is really the man cave,” Lawlor said. “That’s the most relaxing place that I have to do the work that’s necessary to make these cars road and show ready.”

The Amador High School graduate and Pleasanton native still has the car that he purchased back in 1974 – giving him 36 years of continuous ownership that provided hours and hours of good times and good memories when he was a young man.

And that first Bel Air would eventually give way to what would become Lawlor’s own personal fleet – growing from the original car all the way up to nine of them that he stored at his Manteca home.

The original car ended up in a photo spread in Hot Rod magazine after Lawler caught the attention of a freelance photographer during a car show in Reno – something that helped the classic car enthusiast build confidence after the 1980 publication finally hit newsstands.

“I can tell you that owning five 57s presently can be challenging, but the herd is thinning little by little,” he said. “Right now I’m down to five from nine, which really makes my wife happy. But this has been my passion, and I don’t ever see that going away.”