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1962 Chevy Bel Air - Chasing The Speedway Blues

After working for NASCAR, a retirement project was in order, and what better way to start than with a '62 Bel Air.

By Rod Short, Photography by Rod Short

"I used to work for different teams building race engines," he said when asked about his background. "When I eventually got out of racing, I started building cars for other people. I've always loved cars, especially the ones that are rare and bring back a lot of memories."

Billy's first car was a '62 327 Impala, red-on-red with a three-speed on the column, and the impression that car left never escaped him. Those were popular cars in their day, but the Bel Air, with its "bubbletop" SportsRoof, was especially coveted by racers because of its slippery aerodynamic design. Wins by Dyno Don Nicholson, Dick Harrell, and Hayden Proffitt at the most prestigious drag events of the year gave the '62 Chevy a near cult status that remains to this day. With a clean, attractive body style and a wide range of options, these cars gave Americans what they wanted.

"I had started a '62 Chevy for a man who passed away before I could complete it, but it got away from me," Moose said. "So, I decided that I had to build one of my own. After about six-to-eight months of looking, I found one on a chicken farm. It didn't have a motor or transmission, but it was in otherwise excellent shape. I was able to use all of the original sheetmetal, but fabrication of an old car always has its challenges. It took me about five years overall to finish it." Underneath the Bel Air is a fabricated tube chassis that's tied together by an eight-point roll cage, protecting the driver while adding extra rigidity. Up front, Global West tubular upper and lower control arms for a coil suspension were used to give the car modern handling characteristics. A matching set of double adjustable QA1 coilovers lowered the suspension by a full 8 inches. Wildwood disc brakes with 13-inch rotors and six-piston calipers help provide ample stopping power. Towards the rear of the car, QA1 coilovers were used once again with Global West suspension components.

With Moose having made his living building competition engines, the 632ci Rat sitting under the hood is nothing but hardcore. Cradled in the deep recesses of the aftermarket block is a Callies Magnum crank with 4.375-inch stroke that's covered by a Moroso 8-quart oil pan. Aluminum rods actuate the 10.43:1 JE pistons up and down the 4.660-inch cylinder bore, while a Competition Cams roller cam manipulates the valvetrain. Pro-Filer Performance Products supplied the aluminum heads and matching intake, which mounts a single AED 1,250 cfm competition carburetor. With a set of Ken Thompson headers, dyno testing showed this combination produces a whopping 1,015 peak hp at 7,000 rpm, with 875 lb-ft of neck breaking torque at 6,400. Backing that up is a five-speed Tremec with 11-inch Ram dual disc clutch, and a Moser limited slip rearend containing 3.70:1 gearing.

Of course, power and handling are just part of what it takes in making a successful street machine. Looks, style, and comfort all elevate this machine from being just another race car. Four leather clad ProCar seats with Simpson competition belts adorn the classy interior. Behind the Billet Specialties wheel, a full complement of Auto Meter gauges fill the modified dash, while a Hurst shifter protrudes from the custom made, full-length center console. With all the music coming from underhood, there is no need for a radio or sound system.

Mike Canter of Taylorsville, North Carolina, whose work has been featured in Super Chevy before, left his signature once again with some expert paint and bodywork. Exterior modifications were done with a cowl induction hood, custom front/rear bumpers, and projector beam headlights. Then the car was sprayed in a black and blue PPG basecoat/clearcoat system. Wrapped in Goodyear Eagle rubber, Budnik Ice wheels measuring 18 inches up front and 20 on the rear set off the eye-catching bodywork and paint. With classic body lines, a serious competition stance and looks that could kill, it's easy to see how this '62 won Best of Show at the 2011 Rockingham Super Chevy Show. Admiring grins from people looking underhood also proved this Bel Air is more than just a pretty face. It may never quite take the place of being at the the high banks and short tracks of NASCAR, but we'd say it's a great start in chasing the speedway blues.

By Rod Short
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