Ryan Gertner, of Rochester Hills, purchsed his 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air in 2016, fulfilling a lifelong dream of owning one.

Ryan Gertner, of Rochester Hills, purchsed his 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air in 2016, fulfilling a lifelong dream of owning one.

Photo provided by Ryan Gertner


Behind the Wheel: ’57 Chevy-obsessed

Local car buff can’t get enough of his favorite classic

By: Jennifer Sigouin | C&G Newspapers | Published May 17, 2019

 Gertner built a 1:12-scale model of a ’57 Chevy out of Legos.

Gertner built a 1:12-scale model of a ’57 Chevy out of Legos.

Photo by Ryan Gertner

 Gertner created this mural out of 69,000  Perler beads.

Gertner created this mural out of 69,000 Perler beads.

Photo by Ryan Gertner

 In fourth grade, Ryan Gertner made his own cardboard ’57 Chevy, complete with a windshield made from plastic wrap.

In fourth grade, Ryan Gertner made his own cardboard ’57 Chevy, complete with a windshield made from plastic wrap.

Photo by Allan Gertner

The 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air is the quintessential American classic car, but for Ryan Gertner, of Rochester Hills, it’s more than just an icon — it’s an obsession. 

“I have been chasing the tail fins of ’57 Chevy Bel Airs since I was 7 years old,” Gertner said in an email. “I fell in love when a ’57 Chevy was featured in an ’80s Saturday morning cartoon called ‘M.A.S.K.’ in 1985. My obsession has led to a vast collection of models, posters and memorabilia that are now on display in my home … mostly all red ’57s.”

Gertner explained that the ’57 Chevy’s stainless steel rear fin and overall symmetry caught his eye as a kid and sparked a lifelong appreciation for the car. 

 “In fourth grade, I dressed up as a guy from the ’50s driving a red ’57 Chevy I made out of cardboard,” he said. “Every single art project and medium I was introduced to always led me to creating a ’57 Chevy of sorts.”

His creative endeavors have continued into adulthood. In 2014, while working in England for several months, Gertner built a 1:12-scale version of a ’57 Chevy out of more than 2,700 Lego bricks. 

“I used specially coated silver and chrome bricks to increase the visual accuracy,” he said. “Recently, I added custom-made stickers for all the emblems and hubcaps to increase the accuracy … even floor mats!”

Then, in 2016, he crafted a large ’57 Chevy mosaic out of 69,000 Perler beads, which are carefully arranged and then fused together with heat — a project that took nearly six months to complete. 

“It is now prominently displayed in my foyer, complete with remote-controlled LED lighting,” he said. 

Gertner has also amassed a collection of more than 200 model ’57 Chevys, which he displays in his home office, and he loves to photograph ’57 Chevys at car shows. His “ultimate dream,” though, was to own a real, full-sized version — and a few years ago, that dream became a reality. In August 2016, he purchased his very own ’57 Chevy — a red, two-door, hardtop convertible with a white roof — from a shop in Pennsylvania. 

“Despite having been obsessed with this car for most of my life, that day was the first time I ever sat in and drove one, which felt like guiding a cloud!” he said.

The car was the first one he looked at, and he was sold. 

“I really wanted one with a white roof,” he said, noting that the car had previously undergone a cosmetic restoration. 

Gertner noted that with a 60-year-old car, there are always things to fix, so he has also made a few changes of his own — some cosmetic, and some for safety and reliability. 

“The first modifications I did after purchasing was to remove the rear fender skirts and install spinners on all four hubcaps,” he said. “Over the winter of 2017-18, I had disc brakes installed in the front, new steel wheels painted red to match the car, a dual master cylinder added with brake booster, new rear leaf springs and struts, and a new Edelbrock carburetor.”

Now, Gertner takes his ’57 Chevy out on the road as soon as the weather breaks each spring, driving it all over metro Detroit and participating in events and shows. He’s also the vice president and official photographer of the Woodward Tri Five Cruisers car club — and at 41, he’s the club’s youngest member.  

“It really is like a dream come true,” he said. “And yes, I still take as many photos of ’57 Chevys as I can … especially red ones, not just mine.”

For more information on the Woodward Tri Five Cruisers, visit www.woodwardtrifivecruisers.com


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Do you own a vehicle that has an interesting history? Contact Staff Writer Jennifer Sigouin at jsigouin@candgnews.com, and you could be featured in an upcoming edition of Behind the Wheel.