With big racing numbers on the doors, Torq-Thrusts at each corner, and Bill Thomas’s name lettered on the front fenders, this 1962 Chevy II isn’t exactly a sleeper. But there’s little about the compact Chevy that indicates how much Corvette Thomas stuffed inside its squarish body.
Thomas built the car to go road racing, and he took aim at the fancy European sports cars he’d be dicing with by installing a fuel-injected Corvette engine underhood and the ’63 Vette’s independent rearend out back.
Hot Rod magazine’s Don Francisco took an in-depth look at this “new, hot version of the Deuce” in the July 1963 issue, providing so much detail that you could almost build a replica using his thorough descriptions.
Among the highlights: Thomas turned the 327 fuelie mill into a 380-inch, 412hp race engine. A Moldex forged-steel crank stroked to 3.750 inches mounted Buick rods with Forgedtrue pistons sized to fit the engine’s new 4.030-inch bore. Thomas used the fuelie cylinder heads but enlarged the ports, reshaped the combustion chambers, and paired the stock intake valves with modified 409 exhaust valves with 1 5/8-inch heads. The Rochester fuel-injection was left pretty much alone, other than having the air-bleed openings in its nozzles enlarged. Cold air fed the system via a fat flexible hose that opened at the radiator support.
Thomas was disappointed when initial dyno pulls showed the engine making 355 hp. He asked Ed Iskenderian to regrind the Vette’s Duntov cam to Isky’s Z30 specs, and power jumped up to 412 at 6,200 rpm. “A roller-tappet camshaft would give the engine more power,” Francisco wrote, “but 412 hp was considered enough for this car.”
Between the engine and the IRS was an amalgam of Chevy parts, including a Corvette flywheel, a Borg and Beck pressure plate assembly out of a 409, a 10 1/2-inch Corvette clutch disc, close-ratio Vette four-speed transmission, and Chevy II driveshaft—that last piece a surprise until we read that the U-joints on the compact’s driveshaft were the same as those used on a ’62 Corvette.
Fitting the IRS required a new crossmember and added brackets. The rear transverse spring was the Corvette’s optional heavy-duty pack. Short torque arms running from the stub-shaft housings to brackets bolted to the Chevy’s floor “transmit driving and braking force from the wheels to the body assembly and resist torque created in the housings,” Francisco wrote. The Positraction diff held 3.70:1 ring-and-pinion gears.
Thomas built the Chevy II’s front hubs and spindles, and the front drum brakes, using fullsize Chevy parts. He modified the Nova’s upper control arms so he could adjust the front wheel camber as needed for racing conditions. To stiffen the suspension he used fullsize Chevy springs—from air-conditioned models, which are even firmer—that were shortened to maintain the car’s ride height. American Racing 15x7 alloy wheels mount 6.50/6.70 Goodyear T4 Blue Streaks.
“Although the body looks like a run-of-the-mill Chevy II, only its shell is original,” Francisco said. The hood, front fenders, doors, inner panels, and decklid were fiberglass. Plexiglas windows replaced the factory glass in the doors, and the window mechanisms were also tossed to save weight. The interior was stripped bare and fitted with fiberglass buckets, and Thomas surrounded himself with a 1 3/4-inch o.d., 0.120-inch wall chromoly rollbar.
“With oil and a few gallons of gas, Bad Bascom weighs 2,230 pounds … pretty light compared to the 3,100 pounds or so of a ’63 hardtop Corvette, which should make it a lively piece of equipment on a road race course,” Francisco wrote.
Shoulda, coulda, woulda. At the end of his story, Francisco noted that “recent business developments in the form of new projects” were causing Thomas to consider selling the road race Nova. We’re guessing that “new project” was Thomas’s Cobra-fighting Cheetah, on the drawing boards by 1963. It’s our understanding Thomas sold Bad Bascom to Dick Harrell, who planted a 427 in the car and raced it as Retribution II.
Photography by John Christy, Ocee Ritch, Jerry Titus, Petersen Publishing Co. Archive