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Stylish 1963 Chevy Bel Air Street Machine

Sure Thing, Man Versus challenge: There’s more than one way to skin a ’63 big body

Ro McGonegal Mar 6, 2017
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This story just might qualify for a Strangely Believe It! segment, so keep reading. Nothing here makes any real sense until you align it with the records that corroborate. Bob Moorhouse is a mockup builder employed by Cessna Aircraft in Wichita, Kansas. Although he’s been stuck on hot rods and similar creations for about 50 years, his history includes body shop experience of more than 22 years. He was a metal man and a painter and he had his own business for a dozen years. Maybe that’s why he relied on the rest of the world to do the project car work for him; maybe he was just weary of doing for others.

While winding down that path, he got to know Ridler winner Roger Burman, who hails from the “Golden Buckle of the Corn Belt,” Rockwell City, Iowa, and not coincidentally, runs Lakeside Rods & Rides. A man of no small accomplishment, Burman’s Radster 1935 Ford won several national awards in 18 months: named Goodguys Texaco/Havoline America’s Most Beautiful Street Rod for 2007 at the 21st West Coast Nationals in Pleasanton, the coveted Ridler award at the Detroit Autorama in 2006, and America’s Most Beautiful Roadster at the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona. Such credentials don’t come easily. Roger really knows how to do it right. But that Ridler constitution shines through.

1963 Chevy Bel Air Street Machine 2/54
1963 Chevy Bel Air Side 3/54

Bob saw the ’63 Bel Air attracting offers on eBay and it inspired him to act. He’s a Burman radical, had already owned three of Roger’s progeny, so he couldn’t resist this out-of-B-body experience. After loving the roundness of the iconic bubble top, many enthusiasts deemed the ’63’s lines somewhat caustic and pretended they did not see them at all.

As that full-on side shot reveals, the thing is dreadfully sanitary, laser-straight lines, and nary a cob or a kernel to interrupt continuity and the visual flow. Burman achieved that sentiment by shaving the emblems, door handles, and the antenna mast. He hopped up the hood with “vents” lifted from a ’66 SS Chevelle. He filled in the cowl vent, removed the wipers, and excised the wing windows. The brooming continued. Burman sectioned the three-piece bumpers, pulling the pieces together to form a single unit, meanwhile eradicating all evidence of mounting hardware.

1963 Chevy Bel Air Engine 4/54
1963 Chevy Bel Air Engine 5/54

Burman maintained the scent of the era, framing the fullsize Chevrolet with Budnik Muroc rims, a distinct nod to the original Halibrand magnesium castings. The headlamps are stock but the taillights are from a Chevrolet HHR. Call us as loony as a tin-foil hat, but that paint makes the car absolutely luminous, something we can probably blame on the right light for the camera as well as the pearl medium floating in the PPG Silver-Green.

1963 Chevy Bel Air Interior 6/54
1963 Chevy Bel Air Steering Wheel 7/54

The Bel Air’s gut entertains pertinent changes that are immediately apparent. There’s that platoon of TPI engine meters riding on the dashboard. The custom console running below is made from a composite strain. The seats are from some Dodge Intrepid or another, cut down and resized to fit the tableau. Burman fixed the door panels and those surrounding in Ultraleather. For the tiller, he inserted an ididit tilt column and capped it with a ’57 Chevy repop steering wheel. In defense of the mechanicals, Burman fixed the Ram Jet crate engine with an EFI unit from Arizona Speed & Marine that looks pretty much like the old distributor-driven Rochester piece of record … but it works a whole lot better.

1963 Chevy Bel Air Wheel 8/54

“I bought the car as you see it,” said Bob. “I put custom [read minimal] outside mirrors and visors on it and that is all. It was 40 miles north of Boston.” It arrived in Wichita inside of a semi trailer. That caused a stir about 12 years ago. Yes, a dozen years back. And for us, it still causes a stirring silhouette. Dropped to the deck by virtue of RideTech air, the Bel Air’s Budniks are sucked up tight, right cozy with the wheelwells.

Bob said that it took five people working 40-hour weeks for almost a year to bring it to fruition. He thought about what he’d be doing with the car and saw no reason to go beyond the power of the Ram Jet or the 700-R4 transmission or set it with a more dedicated suspension system. It’s a stylish driver and doesn’t pretend to be anything more.

1963 Chevy Bel Air Rear 9/54

Tech Check
Owner: Bob Moorhouse, Wichita, Kansas
Vehicle: 1963 Bel Air
Engine
Type: GMPP Ram Jet 350
Displacement: 350 ci
Compression Ratio: 9.4:1
Bore: 4.00 inches
Stroke: 3.48 inches
Cylinder Heads: Vortec, 1.94/1.50-inch valves, 64cc combustion chambers
Rotating Assembly: Cast-iron crankshaft, powdered metal rods, high-silicon pistons w/ offset pins
Valvetrain: Aluminum roller rocker arms, 1.5:1 ratio, chrome silicon springs
Camshaft: Hydraulic roller; 0.435/0.460-inch lift, 212/222-deg. duration at 0.050-inch lift
Induction: Arizona Speed & Marine Drop Top Superjet EFI
Ignition: MEFI 4B ECU, HEI distributor, 8mm Packard primary wires
Exhaust: Hooker block-hugger headers, 1.625-inch primaries, 2.5-inch collector, 2.5-inch stainless steel system, Flowmaster Super 40 mufflers
Ancillaries: March Ultra Drive accessory drive
Output: 350 hp at 5,200 rpm, 400 lb-ft at 3,500 rpm
Drivetrain
Transmission: 700-R4
Rear Axle: Stock, 3.55:1 ratio, Posi-Traction differential
Chassis
Frame: Stock, powdercoated
Front Suspension: Fatman dropped spindles, RideTech ShockWaves, tubular control arms
Rear Suspension: RideTech ShockWaves
Brakes: Wilwood vented 13-inch rotors, four-piston calipers front; Wilwood 12-inch rotors, two-piston calipers rear
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Budnik Muroc III 18x7 front, 20x10 rear
Tires: Hankook Ventus V12 evo2 235/40 front, 275/35 rear
Interior
Upholstery: Roger Burman, Lakeside Rods & Rides (Rockwell City, IA)
Material: Ultraleather
Seats: Modified Dodge Intrepid
Steering: ididit column, 15-inch 1957 Chevrolet repop wheel
Shifter: Lokar
Dash: Stock with gauge insert
Instrumentation: TPI
Audio: Sony head unit, CD, Kicker amps and front and rear speakers and subwoofer
HVAC: Air-Tique
Exterior
Bodywork: Roger Burman
Paint by: Roger Burman
Paint: PPG Silver-Green and Black
Hood: Stock with 1966 Chevelle vents
Grille: Stock, chromed
Bumpers: Stock three-piece narrowed to one-piece front; stock three-piece narrowed to one-piece rear

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