In 1962, Chevrolet was transitioning from shapely space age designs to what they refer to as a more rectilinear (less curvy) look; but not without giving its most notable achievement next to tailfins—the bubbletop—one last supporting role on showroom floors.
What was once the maker's top-of-the-line model just a decade prior, the car used to introduce Chevy's all-new V-8 in 1955 had slowly been resigned to taking a back seat to their new king of the road, the mighty Impala. But prior to its down-ranking to a less-optioned economy model, the Bel Air was afforded its swan song in the form of the 1962 Sport Coupe hardtop. The last of the bubbletops, the car that got the previous year's Impala SS hand-me-down roof, also got the all-new, dual-quad 409, the very beast that inspired a legendary song to be written about it, not to mention many a legendary drag racer to capitalize on it and that lesser-equipped body package wrapped around it.
If the Ferrari Grigio Scuro Gray on the outside is any indication of what lies beneath, while Cliff's Bel Air isn't powered by a Berlinetta V-12, the aluminum LS2 that now resides where an old iron W-motor would have sure looks like it belongs in an Italian supercar. Built by EVOD Industries (yep, they do more than just one-off wheels and accessories), the Gen IV Chevy 6.0L looks nothing of its original Corvette breeding, thanks to the design work of Kurt Urban and Eric Turner who gave EVOD the blueprints to create the elaborate cross-ram intake system sitting prominently atop. Tucked underneath are the intercoolers feeding the pair of 62mm TiAL Sport Garrett turbos visible behind the AutoRad core support unit mounted on intricate headers fabricated by Chad Wait, as well as a Holley Dominator EFI. By all means, this is definitely not your average LS engine—hell, we'd be surprised if the casual observer even knew what the real "heartbeat" was beneath all that exoticness.
Ironworks didn't stop with the powerplant (nor start for that matter) when it came to non-stock derivatives that now comprise Cliff's Bel Air. The foundation for which it sits upon is completely custom built, featuring Corvette C6-based suspension up front and a four-linked 9-inch out back, each set up with RideTech adjustable coilovers and 14-inch Wilwood brakes. The new chassis, with a set of 20- and 21-inch brushed, titanium-coated HRE wheels mounting Michelin Pilot Sports, gives the Chevy a real low, real nice static stance—one of the things Cliff, despite his 6-foot-8-inch stature, insisted on!
Void of factory trim, emblems, and so on, the exterior modifications have been described as "just tightened up gaps with custom head and taillights," according to Ironworks. Be that as it may, below Hugo Cruz's paintwork are hours of gap tightening on top of panel-perfecting, bumper-squeezing, meticulous prepwork. The aforementioned bumpers, along with the minimal, accenting trim, wear the same brushed-titanium coating (all done by Pacific Coast Powdercoating) as the wheels, while the roof, grille, and rear tail panel offset the body's Ferrari gray with a satin black finish. The lighting is yet another unique touch, not that it's modern LED based, rather, the method in which the front LEDs are utilized: integrated into 5.25-inch component speaker housings (the rears are custom-fit Lotus Elise).
A far cry from the original cloth and vinyl trimmings, the Bel Air's interior by Sid Chavers emits a much more appropriate setting than any OE-optioned ensemble could, at least in this particular situation. The bright red and black leather strategically complements everything from the custom-built center console, the one-off machined aluminum dash, and even the pair of Mercedes SL500 bucket seats scored off eBay. Housed within that custom dash, just behind the leather-wrapped Budnik wheel, is the gauge cluster built specifically for the cause (featuring analog and digital instrumentation) by Dakota Digital.
Cliff Findlay's Bel Air is not your average bubbletop by a longshot—and that's absolutely OK it's just what the owner ordered!
Photography by Jorge Nunez