If there was ever a time when an enthusiast gets the ultimate lucky break, it’s when he or she can turn their hobby into a career. Getting paid to do something that you would happily do for free certainly adds to the fun. Angus Priester from Varnville, South Carolina, fits that category perfectly.
Although his father was a mechanic and taught him many skills, Angus had his heart set on a career in baseball. Getting his hands greasy was not his idea of fun. Realizing that even famous baseball players need transportation, he went to work at a grocery store after school and on Saturdays to earn money. His first car, a 1961 Chevrolet bubbletop cost him just $200 but that old fixer-upper changed everything. The first lead to another and another and before long Angus had forgotten all about baseball and was earning a living as an auto body technician.
Years later, he is still enjoying his automotive career, doing restorations at Mixon’s Auto Body in Hampton, South Carolina. Over the last 45 years, he estimates he’s built somewhere close to 50 cars for himself and clients. More than a few have made lasting impressions, such as his 1978 Malibu Classic that took First in Class at the Super Chevy show in Rockingham, North Carolina, along with an Editor’s Top Ten and a photo in the magazine.
This 1962 Chevrolet Bel Air, two-door ‘post’ is his latest and one of his best, even though the original purchase was thoroughly unplanned. He went to a car show in Moultrie, Georgia, looking for just a few spare parts but came home with the car. Painted in Hot Rod Black primer with baby moon hubcaps, the Bel Air was love at first sight. He drove it for about a year before he began to notice rust appearing. At that point, he had grown attached to the car and realized the best approach was a frame-off restoration.
With the time, the tools, and the talent to do the job right, Angus separated the body and chassis. Close inspection revealed that the car needed lots of work, including replacing the quarter-panels, floorpans, shock towers, and more. That was followed by eliminating the half-century collection of dents and dings. Rather than create a restored original, he went the restomod route with a subtle combination of ideas found on cars in the ’60s through the ’80s. Using wire, rod, and sheetmetal, he began by creating a pair of spoilers, front and rear, that smoothly flowed with the body lines. Both front and rear bumpers were narrowed to snugged closer to the body, then accented with subtle outlines on the sides using metal rod. The bolt heads were removed from the bumpers and welded to the back to continue the smooth look. Another subtle touch was the sheetmetal rocker panel extensions that changed the balance of the car, adding visual weight to the lower portion and making the whole car appear lower. The panels also hold the side-exiting exhaust.
Suspension changes also helped to trim the profile. Up front, Classic Performance Products lowered springs and 2-inch drop spindles team up with a GM 605 power steering box. The three-link suspension in the rear is original except for heavy-duty springs and Panhard bar. Monroe shocks were added to all four corners and the chassis became a roller, thanks to 16x8 American Racing Torq-Thrust rims and BFG radials, 225/60R16 up front and 295/50R16 in the rear. CPP discs up front and drums in the rear ensure safe stops.
Performance was next, and this time Angus opted for anything but the subtle approach, over filling the engine compartment with a big-block 454, topped with a tunnel-ram manifold, a pair of Edelbrock carbs, and a Mr. Gasket Street Scoop. Not just another pretty face, this potent powerhouse is equipped with a Crane hydraulic cam and roller rockers, Manley rods, and a compression ratio set at 10:1 so that he can run pump gas.
The aggressive-looking pair of Edelbrock 600-cfm Endurashine carbs on the ceramic-coated Weiand 2x4 tunnel-ram manifold use a progressive linkage for a balance between mileage and power. The PerTronix Flame-Thrower ignition and Mallory Pro Coil were hidden under the dash to keep the firewall clean. Hedman headers feed a 2.5-inch exhaust system with Pypes M-80 mufflers, giving the Chevy an appropriate performance rumble.
One of the essentials when running without a hood is the need for careful detailing since crowds inevitably gather wherever the car rolls up. The inner fender panels and fan shroud were painted to match, and the firewall was smoothed. Billet aluminum accents along with big-block Chevy chrome valve covers, silver flex hoses, and ceramic coatings add plenty of bright work. Moroso Blue Max plug wires carry the spark and the March serpentine pulley system powers all the accessories. Angus mated a Muncie four-speed with a Zoom 11-inch clutch to the V-8, sending an estimated 400 hp to the factory rearend, equipped with 3.36 gears. He says, “the factory rearend is strong enough as long as I stay smart. The Chevy is built to be a driver and a show car rather than a drag racer. When you put this much money into a car, you don’t want to get out there and tear it up.”
With several major construction milestones behind him, Angus turned to the interior, dealing first with the dash. New Auto Meter gauges replaced the originals, and are now showcased in a custom panel. The steering column is from ididit and holds a Billet Specialties wheel. He fabricated the center console beginning with a wood frame, topped with brushed aluminum that he sanded and cleared for a unique look. It holds the stereo and the Hurst Competition Plus shifter. Although the Sony sound system can’t compete with the mighty 454, it does work quite nicely when the key is off. It energizes a pair of 5.25-inch components and 6x9s in the kick panels and a second pair of 6x9s in the rear package tray. His good friend George Segars stitched the interior using a combination of tan tweed and brown suede with sewn-in pleats and Bow Tie emblems. Saddle carpet and tan headliner complete the interior with the trunk done to match. Hidden behind a removable panel in the trunk is the Delco battery.
Paint was the final step, and choosing the shade was easy. It began when the frame was out of the car, sandblasted, primed, and ready for color. The body shop had about a half-gallon of DuPont Bolero Red paint left over from painting a ’67 Camaro. The bright red looked just right and Angus used it to spray the frame. While the leftover paint was a bargain, he still needed to spring for another couple of gallons of the same color to complete the exterior. The car has been complete for about two years and drives beautifully. Angus says it’s no trailer queen and he looks for every opportunity to get behind the wheel.
Angus sends a special thanks to Wanda, his wife of 23 years. If it wasn’t for her love, support, and patience, he would not be able to do what he enjoys.