#167, 1956 Chevy Bel Air: A 65-year family affair

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The Casagrande family car has a legacy that weaves through four generations beginning when Steve Casagrande’s father purchased a new 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air Beauville. It’s a three-row, nine-passenger station wagon with as much pride and pedigree as any car.

Steve Casagrande, who operated a prominent Sacramento dentist practice for many years that’s now run by his son Michael, grew up in the Chevy Bel Air with his four brothers. The wagon has had rotating family residences through the years. It also had years when it remained untouched.

A 1956 Chevy Bel Air Beauville station wagon and its accompanying Shasta travel trailer. Images Courtesy of Steve Casagrande.
A 1956 Chevy Bel Air Beauville station wagon and its accompanying Shasta travel trailer. Images Courtesy of Steve Casagrande.

Casagrande, who was age seven when his father bought the wagon, is our guest on this episode of The Weekly Driver Podcast.

Co-hosts Bruce Aldrich and James Raia talk with Steve about the car’s legacy and what it means to his multi-generation family to share time in the vintage machine.

Chevy Bel Air: Family Rare

The Chevy Bel Air isn’t the rarest or most sought after vehicle manufactured 65 years ago. But no other vehicle means more to the Casagrande family than the vintage wagon.

It’s taken the family on trips and provided brothers and their families with lifelong memories. It’s escorted fathers and sons on hunting trips and brothers on fishing trips. It’s taken wives, children and grandchildren on trips across states or just for short treks around Sacramento.

The Casgrande family's 1956 Chevy Bel Air and its accompanying Shast travel trailer.
The Casagrande family’s 1956 Chevy Bel Air and its accompanying Shasta travel trailer on display at the Sacramento Automobile Museum.

“It was bought brand new in 1956 by my father at Good Chevrolet in Bakersfield,” Casagrande explains. “Basically, it’s as an original car now as it was back then. We’ve done nothing really to alter it. It’s original and a good daily driver.”

Casagrande, who rebuilt the car, shares tales of riding in the third row when the wagon was driven from Taft to Los Angeles on hot summer days. It was an ordeal of negotiating the infamous “Grapevine.”

Casagrande explains getting his driver’s license and going on his first date in the wagon, just like most of his siblings. He talks about working on the car through the years and the surreal feelings of taking his grandchildren for rides.

“People just get a warm feeling about it,” Steve says. “The colors, light blue and white. It’s pleasing to the eye. You don’t see those colors in cars today. They’re gray and black and white. It catches peoples’ eyes. It puts a smile on your face.”

“We’re just lucky it’s stayed in the family. It’s become a rallying point, a focal point for the family.”

The Chevy Bel Air also has an accompanying Shasta travel trailer. It’s an integral part of the story best saved for the podcast.

Please join us for a half-hour of vintage car talk and the story of a family and the wondrous glory of its 65-year Chevrolet Bel Air Beauville.

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The podcast is in its third year, and we’ve had a diverse collection of guests — famous athletes, vintage car collectors, manufacturer CEOs, automotive book authors, industry analysts, a movie stuntman and episodes from auto shows and car auctions.

Please send comments and suggestions for new episodes to James Raia via email: [email protected].

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