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This Custom 1962 Chevrolet Bel Air Has a 510-Horse ZL454 Under the Hood

Orange Crush: This 1962 Bel Air has 510 aluminum-encased, fuel-injected horsepower

Isaac Mion Apr 6, 2015
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With its brilliant yet subtle hue and rare crate engine under the hood, Dennis Wellbrock’s 1962 Bel Air has as much brawn as beauty.

“The Legend,” is the term that current owner Dennis Wellbrock uses to describe this rolling creation. The Bel Air was primarily built by Greening Auto Company for the original owner, Wyatt Fuller. Sadly he passed in a tragic plane accident and the car changed hands a number of times before Wellbrock discovered it about two years ago. It remains to this day a stunning example of Chevy’s spacious cruise-mobile, with a bit more bite than the original.

“I was in the right place at the right time when I came upon this car,” said Wellbrock. “I was driving along a back highway in Weld County (Colorado) when I spotted this clean example of my favorite Bow Tie.”

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Wellbrock inspected the car and found it to be a straight example of a ’62 with a 283 and a manual shift. Just then the owner of the car approached and asked him in a not so kindly manner if he could help him. Wellbrock expressed his interest in purchasing the car and thanks to his country-kindness he ended up un-ruffling the owner’s feathers and closed the deal on the car a few days later.

“I grew up on a farm so turning wrenches became second nature,” said Wellbrock. “I spent many summer hours trying to mount old lawnmower engines onto bicycles and eventually graduated to building go-carts.”

Grant Salter of Greening Auto Company noted that replacing the X-frame with a custom-built square, tube-frame perimeter chassis turned out to be one of the most challenging parts of the build, requiring extensive measuring and remeasuring and some intricate welding. Once in place though, it made for the perfect platform for Hotchkis control arms, springs, and sway bars. The addition of Camaro spindles ensures this former cruiser can handle the additional power from the crate engine and have its center of gravity a little more south.

While not exceedingly low, the static suspension sits uniformly over the rollers. The custom-made Budnik rims measure 18x8 fore and 20x10 aft. The rubber meets the road with Dunlop Sport 9000 series tires. These slightly sticky meats ensure the car doesn’t break traction every time the aftermarket powerplant stomps its feet and rears its ugly horns, sending tarmac-curdling torque through the six-speed tranny and Winters quick-change rearend.

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That engine is number 81 of only 200 ZL-454s that GM ever built. The “Ram Jet” as it is known, is based on the legendary all-aluminum ZL1 first introduced in 1969 in a limited number of Corvettes and Camaros. The newer version has some modern updates such as improved main webs and provisions for a roller cam and, of course, fuel injection. The crate engine produces 510 horsepower at 5,750 rpm and 493 lb-ft of torque at 4,250 rpm. The engine, with its 10.2:1 compression ratio, runs on 93 octane and comes with a preprogrammed ECM computer and wiring harness.

Sanderson headers and Comp Cams valve covers make this crate engine just a little more custom than the rest while a 3-inch custom exhaust and Flowmaster mufflers help propel the nasty gasses from the headers into the crisp, clean Colorado mountain air. That can be forgiven though, considering the bay where the engine sits, with its paneling and absence of visible wiring, puts it almost parallel with the beauty of the majestic Rockies that Wellbrock gets to cruise through on the way to various mountain shows each summer.

“In my 20s, I was always interested in drag racing at a nearby strip and now in my advanced years I enjoy showing classic cars very much,” said Wellbrock.

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And showing has treated him well. He won the best of his class at the last Super Chevy show in Morrison, Colorado.

One thing that sets this Bow Tie apart from the rest is the color. This is a burnt orange Glasurit hue from a Nissan 350Z and it has been applied unsparingly by Greening, four coats to be precise. Custom door handles and tucked-in front and back bumpers are just a few of the body modifications that help this Bel Air achieve show-killing status. A modern, softer touch is achieved by a satin coat on many of the chrome parts while a light tint ensures Wellbrock and his spouse, Theresa, remain “sort of” mysterious. More importantly, the tint helps keep the sun off the seats.

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Custom bucket seats in the front with matching split-bottom seats in the back have been expertly covered in charcoal-gray leather by designer Paul Atkins. The dash consists of a handmade gauge cluster with Classic Instruments inserts. Hidden in said dash is a Pioneer head unit as well as Vintage Air heat and A/C controls. Sculpted door panels and a full-length center console add to the rich, majestic, almost futuristic, feel of the cabin.

Dennis Wellbrock always wanted this make and model of Chevy. He finally got it thanks to Greening Auto Company and Paul Atkins, who put their heads together to create this neck-breakin’, bubble-top Bow Tie.

As fate would have it, by the time this article goes to print, another lucky owner will be cruising this car in style. Dennis just sold it at Barrett-Jackson for $93,000.

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