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A Monster Truck Driver’s Homebuilt 1962 Bel Air

White Lightning

Jesse Kiser Nov 28, 2017
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When your career is driving the Bigfoot monster truck, it’s unlikely your daily driver is anything less than extraordinary—a Pruis or Corrolla just ain’t gonna cut it. For driver Troy Russell, a custom-fabricated, twin-turbo Bel Air is just the right fit.

A few years ago, Troy was in the midst of finishing his Bel Air, the car was prepped and ready for paint, when he broke his back during a Bigfoot show. A part failure caused a jump to go array. “Once I landed, I knew I was hurt,” said Troy. “I broke three vertebrae and doctors told me I couldn’t return to driving.” While on bedrest, unable to finish his project, fellow hot rodder and friend Andy Meadows of Andy’s Hot Rod Shop in Mulkeytown, Illinois, stepped up to help.

Most days, after Andy was done working at his own shop he’d start another shift in Troy’s garage. While Troy laid on the couch Andy worked on the car. But that was difficult for Troy. “It was bittersweet, sweet because my project was being finished but bitter because I couldn’t do it or help very much. But it wouldn’t be together today if it wasn’t for him.”

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Let’s rewind to three years earlier when Troy was working on a different ’62 Chevy, a hardtop. During a chance visit to a parts store a customer overheard Troy describing his project and offered up that he was selling a ’62 sedan if he knew of anyone interested.

In fact, Troy did. “A ’62 two-door sedan was a bucket list car, but I had to settle for the hardtop,” said Troy, who followed that customer back to his barn. “I literally had to walk across piles of parts to see the car. When we finally picked it up, it was easier to remove the walls of the barn to get it out,” It took 12 people six hours to get it out. The former owner was a hard core Ford guy, who purchased the sedan 15 years prior. He said it was too good of a deal to pass up.

As this mostly rust free Bel Air was being rolled off the trailer Troy began ordering parts, starting with a Chris Alston’s Chassisworks Pro Touring 4-Link Frame Clips Billet Parallel kit, along with 2x4 side rails. Then Troy built a chassis table using 8-inch I-beams and 2x4-inch tubing in his home garage. A first for him, “I figured if I got it level and got it squared I couldn’t screw it up too bad.” The FAB9 rear axle, which came in the four-link kit, included a locker with 3.90 gears and Big Ford axles. He then found a Midwest Corvette graveyard and purchased a C4 front clip.

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The exterior of the body is stock, but everything underneath has been heavily altered. Troy extended the wheelbase 2.5 inches in order to center the front wheels inside the fenderwells. The body was dropped 3 inches and the engine set back a full foot into a custom firewall. The car is painted Speedway White from Axalta, similar to that on an ’04 Corvette Z06, and the bumpers are powdercoated silver.

At the corners are billet aluminum Boze Alloys Velocity wheels, 18x8 up front and 20x12 out back. The wheels are wrapped in Michelin Pilot Super Sport 245/45R18 fronts and 335/30R20 rears.

As for the engine, Troy originally wanted the famed import tuner engine of choice: a Toyota 2JZ inline six-cylinder—a decision that would have likely pissed off most of the Chevy faithful. Luckily, that plan changed and the car was mocked up with a small-block Chevy. That is until a friend had to part out his 2004 Corvette, which had been stolen then destroyed in a police chase. Troy purchased the engine, transmission, and brakes, but stepped them up with Baer 13-inch rotors and Hawk street pads all around. The Big Ford axles use a Kore3 bracket to work with the C5 rotors, and a Wilwood master cylinder supplies the pressure.

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The LS6 is stock down the camshaft except for the Chevrolet Performance yellow beehive valvesprings, Fel-Pro head gaskets, and ARP head and bottom end bolts. The fuel system includes an Edelbrock Victor Jr intake manifold with an Edelbrock elbow and fuel rails with 80-pound Delphi injectors, along with a G-Plus 102mm throttle body and Turbo Saver air cleaner. A stock GM MAP sensor is utilized, but Bosch wideband O2 sensors were installed. Aeromotive products move the fuel with a 340 Stealth fuel pump and an A1000 regulator feeding from a ’55 Chevy gas tank from Tanks Inc. Friend Dustin Dillow tuned the final setup using the ECU from the ’04 Corvette donor. The 409 valve covers have been altered to hide the LS coils and valve covers.

The turbos came from an On3Performance kit, which included two 76mm turbos, a 44mm wastegate, and 50mm blow-off valve, ordered through Jeg’s High Performance Parts. He then ordered a bunch of 3-inch bends and started laying things out. Troy essentially taught himself on chassis building and turbo systems, keeping as basic and mild as a twin-turbo V-8 can be. The headers are OBX Racing Sports shorty stainless steel. After the turbos, exhaust is fed into a 3-inch stainless steel exhaust with dual Borla XR-1 mufflers. Up front you’ll find a Hawks alternator bracket, F-body power steering pump, Ron Davis aluminum radiator, and F-body Flex-a-lite fan.

Power is feed through a 4L60E transmission that came with the engine. It’s mostly stock, with an ’02 Camaro shifter ball up top. On the other side of that is a Dynotech driveshaft.

Covered by ACE Custom Upholstery in Fairfield, Illinois, the inside features Trans Am seats wrapped in Porsche orange leather and suede, stock rear seats, and a Forever Sharp steering wheel. The dash is Dakota Digital. Suspension is handled by RideTech Shockwave shocks all around and provide adjustable ride height.

Troy has never dynoed the car before, but claims it should make around 500-520 hp to the flywheel. “When I tell people that, they look at me funny. They expect a twin-turbo LS to make 1,000 hp, but not on my wallet,” said Troy. The car has never seen more than 10-12 psi of boost since it’s been together, which is partly why, with over 20,000 miles on the odometer and 30,000 on the engine, the car has had zero issues.

“That was the whole thing. I didn’t want a wild cam and big converter to take driveability way down. I intended to drive it on big trips or whenever I wanted. If I can achieve 500-520 hp and still get 20 miles to gallon, there’s no reason for a wild cam and sacrificed driveability.”

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Photos by Jesse Kiser

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