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The ’57 Chevy That Never Got Traded In: 62 Years of Rolling with the Church Lady

Grace Braeger: The Woman Who Drove the Same ’57 Chevy for 60 Years Grace purchased her Bel Air in Milwaukee, brand new. She traded in her previous vehicle, a 1950 Chevy, which brought the price down to $2,250. She bought the vehicle from a Chevy franchise that just so happened to be called Braeger. Grace says she loved that the franchise nameplate on the back of the Bel Air meant that it literally had her name on it.

1957 was a particularly good year to purchase a Bel Air for such long term use, since it received several updates that many people these days would consider essential, such as automatic transmission, power steering, and air conditioning.

When asked in an interview why she never sold the vehicle or bought something new she simply said, “I like this car. Everyone likes this car.” Can’t argue with that logic — the 1957 Bel Air is one of the most iconic American vehicles ever made. As one auto historian put it, the ’57 Bel Air is “an icon of its age right alongside Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and Leave it to Beaver.” — August 12, 2021

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  • Flannelputz November 16, 2021, 5:00 PM

    How cute is that lady??!!!

    • Casey Klahn November 16, 2021, 6:57 PM

      She needs to sit on some phone books to see over that wheel!
      She’s very cute, and smart to have that car. I prefer the ’58, but don’t happen to own one.

      • gwbnyc November 17, 2021, 9:33 AM

        ’61 Bel Air, the slickest of the ’61-’64 series.

  • ghostsniper November 16, 2021, 5:53 PM

    Too bad it’s a 4 door.

    • mmack November 17, 2021, 5:21 AM

      I actually like that it’s a 4 door hardtop. I’ve seen so many 1957 Chevrolet 2 door hardtops and post sedans at car shows it’s a cliche. It’s kind of like “This is what families drove.”

      Remember: Four doors, no waiting! 😉

    • gwbnyc November 17, 2021, 9:30 AM


  • Fletcher Christian November 17, 2021, 1:15 AM

    Iconically American, indeed. Inefficient, unreliable, far too big and covered in entirely unnecessary, flashy bling.
    Now for a real classic:


    • ghostsniper November 17, 2021, 3:58 AM

      Yes indeed Fletch, that’s a beauty for sure. If I had one small quibble it would be the louvers on the hood. I think they look cheap. I would pay good money to have them opened up, then covered in matching rear facing low profile scoops.

      As far as your complaints on the 57′, so what? The “flashy bling” on the 50’s american vehicles is a moment in time and a thing to behold and I’m glad I lived in that time.

      • Mike Austin November 17, 2021, 4:44 AM

        Clearly Fletcher does not like or understand America.

        But anyway, that ’57 is “unreliable”? It has lasted 63 years. How long will that red toy last? It is “inefficient”? According to whom? Compare the long term costs of the Chevy with those of the red toy. It is “far too big”? Again, according to whom? The Chevy is as big as America. The red toy is as big as Lichtenstein. The Chevy has “unnecessary, flashy bling”? You mean like the diamonds that a man buys for his wife or girlfriend? The one who decides what is “necessary” or “unnecessary” is the buyer.

        Maybe old Fletcher would be happy with a Lada.

    • Casey Klahn November 17, 2021, 4:44 AM

      Although I love the Jag, I’ll bet that Chevy could take a T-Bone like a dog.

      Heavy doors: I want em. Also: beauty does supersede function, intrinsically.

    • Vanderleun November 17, 2021, 6:33 AM

      I’m with Fltecher on this one. Both stunning classics but for different reasons in different seasons. And in 1961 and round there the Brits still made cars that were strongly built. And e-jags…. well a kick in the eyes as well as in th e seat ofr the pants when you put the hammer down. 50s bling makes the American cars. All that chrome was a fine fine thin. And my father was a Ford dealer in the 50s and we roade in a lot of flash bling every years when the new models arrived.

      • Mike Austin November 17, 2021, 8:00 AM


        Knew a few women as gorgeous as that Jag. Super high maintenance though.

      • Fletcher Christian November 17, 2021, 12:08 PM

        Yup. What was done to the British car industry by bolshie unions and supine management is a sin and a shame.

        I couldn’t find a picture of the Rover P5b, which used an old Buick engine that turned into a British classic. See, I never claimed Americans can’t make decent stuff; but all too often they don’t want to. Just like we Brits, I’m afraid.

        • Mike Austin November 17, 2021, 12:17 PM

          Gotcha. In spite of my intense dislike of anything British—1775 and 1812 still bother me—the James Bond Aston Martin is cool. And if someone gave me a Rolls-Royce I would not complain.

          • Fletcher Christian November 18, 2021, 1:32 AM

            And just who invaded whom in 1812? Aggressors who get their arses kicked get no sympathy from me.

            Unfortunately, American Anglophobia had a number of effects; one of them was extending WWII by a couple of months. Another was getting a number of American servicemen killed attempting to rescue some civilians, having refused advice from the SAS (born in the desert!) regarding precautions against sand ruining helicopter engines.

            • Mike Austin November 18, 2021, 5:09 AM

              “And just who invaded whom in 1812? Aggressors who get their arses kicked get no sympathy from me.”

              America never invaded Britain; Britain invaded America and burned down much of Washington DC in 1814. She invaded again in late 1814 in Louisiana. What did they teach you in school?

              That war of 1812 was the first the US Congress ever declared. The causes of the war were all due to English mendacity, perfidy, murder, kidnapping and aggression.

              1. Britain did not keep her word—I know, shocking is it not!—in the Treaty of Paris (1783) that ended the American Revolution—the first time the US kicked your “arses”. She promised to abandon the Ohio Valley. She did not, and maintained a variety of forts there which were used by them to encourage the Native Americans to murder, rape and kidnap American settlers there. The Natives were armed and supplied by Britain.

              2. Britain kidnapped perhaps 6000 American sailors from 1803 – 1812. This was called “impressment”.

              3. Britain seized hundreds of American merchant vessels and their cargoes on the high seas, breaking her own laws against such activity.

              Each of the above is, by itself, a casus belli.

              America got its “arse” kicked? You have heard of Yorktown, yes (1781)? You have heard of Andrew Jackson and the battle of New Orleans have you not (1815)? Your general Pakenham and his thousands of Red Coats tried to conquer American territory. The result of your aggression was 2000 casualties, including Pakenham. Jackson lost 13 men.

              Who needs your sympathy? I had not realized that you considered it a valuable commodity. What America wanted from 1775 – 1815 was your exit from American soil. We got it by “kicking your arse”—twice. America defeated you on our East Coast, in the Ohio Valley, in the Great Lakes, in Louisiana and upon the high seas. I extend to you my sympathy for such embarrassing losses.

              “Unfortunately, American Anglophobia had a number of effects; one of them was extending WWII by a couple of months.” World War II lasted longer than it should have because Eisenhower deliberately stopped US General Patton in order to resupply British General Montgomery. The result was Operation Market Garden (1944), a disastrous British failure. Montgomery’s defeat is what allowed World War II to last another five months. Patton would have ended the war by late 1944.

    • Dirk November 17, 2021, 8:32 AM

      My mom had one of those Jags. Piece of shit, just couldn’t keep it running. My mom traded a 1971 Ford LTD with the 429 Police interceptor motor. For the jag, lime green tan leather. Sold it to a family member who put a 327 in it. Had to hand build everything to make it fit.

      No thanks. Now if it were a whale fin Porsche, I’m in!


      • ghostsniper November 17, 2021, 10:59 AM

        It’s a whale TAIL!

        The first one I ever saw was sitting at a curb in Munchen, er, Munich.
        I bent down and looked at the dash, the speedometer went to 320!
        That’s kilometers per hour.
        (100 kph = 62.5 mph) do the maff

  • mmack November 17, 2021, 5:15 AM

    Very nice old Chevrolet, and a very BRAVE lady:

    – Drum brakes
    – No seat belts
    – Vague Power Steering

    That said, after 62 years if she and the Bel Air are still kicking, she’s doing something right. Although one wonders where one gets 1950’s era replacement parts. Thankfully the 1957 Chevrolet has a cottage industry for restorers.

    Nice car, nice lady, fun story.

    P.S. I love she used the Used Car Salesman shtick. She forgot “Driven to Bingo on Tuesdays”. 😁

    • John Venlet November 17, 2021, 7:00 AM

      Although one wonders where one gets 1950’s era replacement parts.

      Gotta use American ingenuity to get parts, along with the cottage industry restorers she’s keeping it immaculate. If the Cubans can keep their old American made cars running, there’s no way Americans can be outdone in that department.

  • jwm November 17, 2021, 5:58 AM

    Anyone who’d put up a pic of a Jaguar, and make a snaky note about “reliability”…
    (shakin’ my head, here.)
    Reliability, and British cars are not in the same circle on the Venn diagram.
    Have to admit, it is a gorgeous damn thing, though.


    • Mike Austin November 17, 2021, 7:55 AM

      Reliability is to Jaguars what dentistry is to English teeth.

      • Snakepit Kansas November 17, 2021, 10:13 AM

        Why do Brits put sugar in their toothpaste?

        • gwbnyc November 17, 2021, 7:00 PM

          Because the light’s on.

      • mmack November 17, 2021, 10:27 AM

        Gearhead joke:
        Q: Why do the English drink warm beer?
        A: Lucas Industries make refrigerators too. 😏

  • BillH November 17, 2021, 6:32 AM

    First new car was a ’54 Chev. Disliked the ’55 styling, so switched to Plymouth. Plymouth styling went south in ’57 (IMO), so switched to a ’58 ford. Fire breathing USAF pilot back then, and went through cars pretty fast.

    • Mike Austin November 17, 2021, 7:53 AM

      When I was 17 I got my hands on a 1962 Impala. Holley carb, Hurst linkage, glass packs, 4 on the floor. When I went pedal to the metal it was pure, teenage joy. Wanted to get a lift kit and tires, but the USAF intervened. Switched to motorcycles after that. While stationed in Texas I got a Kawasaki 750 2-cycle three cylinder. Bored it out 50cc per cylinder and fitted it with expansion chambers. Did the quarter in 11.9 at 113 mph. Those were the days.

      Haven’t had a car in 44 years. Now it is just steel framed Surly bicycles.

      • ghostsniper November 17, 2021, 6:37 PM

        A friend bought a brand new H-2 in 1972 and I rode it a few times. It changed me. I wanted one then and I want one now and probably always will. At the time it was the fastest production bike in the world. I’m gonna go look at some vidz….

  • Dirk November 17, 2021, 8:22 AM

    Love it, love the lil old lady. In a small town titled Tulelake Ca, my wife taught with a lady who drove a 56 Chevy, “ purchased new” lil old lady, beehive hair do, aqua net strong, with the scarf, daily. O yea cat eye shades. My wife has a pair of the cat eyes, in Mrs, Havalina ‘s honor.

    I’m done listening to anything with some cheesy Brit talking.


  • gwbnyc November 17, 2021, 9:16 AM

    owned two, first was a 150 Utility Sedan at 16.

    burned more oil than gas, K-Mart bulk.

    considered a ’56 two door wagon, not a Nomad. skipped on it. there was a Nomad parallel pontiac, a Safari, I believe.

    I want a Karmann Ghia now, and/or a Super Beetle*. I saw a mini Jap pick-up, the three cylinder kind on the road that appeared to be now street legal. I want one of those, too.

    * because they’re cool, and they have no tracking devices.

    a pal back then tripped over a ’51-2 two door chevy, a friend’s grandmother’s. two-tone kinda pansy paint. he did some bodywork, not much needed, prepped it for an Earl Scheib in a dark green. even found a radio, the pushbuttons looked like bakelite marshmallows arranged vertically. his father insisted on the keys when he did his first and only year of college. the day before he went off he said “my father is going to ruin my car”, and so he did.

    • gwbnyc November 17, 2021, 9:26 AM

      PS: ’57

      The Super Turbo-Fire 283, a $550 option, produced the advertised 283 horsepower (one horse­power per cubic inch) with the help of the Rochester Ramjet continuous-flow fuel injection. Chevy promoted the idea that the “Fuelie” V8 was the first engine to produce 1 hp for each cu, but the honor actually went to Chrysler several months before.

      -a popular addition in “stock” drag classes as it was a factory option.

  • Caleb Morrison November 18, 2021, 11:07 AM

    Fantastic. She saved over 200k by driving the same car for 60 years and the car is still worth $40,000 . Smart gal. I vote her Queen of the world.

  • David Smith November 18, 2021, 12:27 PM

    Dad bought 57 4 door wagon for mom and us 5 kids, Stove bolt 6, 3 on a tree, 210 trim, not as dressy as Bel Air. Gas cap in left tail fin. $1600 at 1 year old. Made 6 trips from Michigan to Connecticuit, I remember washing it often, driving home with fresh driver license. Took it out on Woodward Avenue with load of kids, last of the four lanes. But I could double clutch to first on the roll and amaze friends. Engine replaced about 70k miles.

  • Anonymous November 18, 2021, 2:16 PM

    I have been driving my 57 chevy for 37 years