When it came to the engine, Summit Racing got involved by supplying a Recon 355 small-block and some polished goodies to dress up the Mouse motor. Conklin again worked his magic on the project by swapping the cam for a milder one that would provide better driveability. A Holley four-barrel rests atop the engine, drawing air through a billet aluminum air cleaner.
The engine is joined to a Turbo 350 automatic, which spins a 3.55-geared rearend. Steamroller treads and giant 18-inch Billet Specialties wheels are the rolling stock, while a custom Air Ride Technologies airbag system allows the car's cruising height to be adjusted with a couple of dash-mounted switches. Other suspension components include donations from Hotchkis and Energy Suspension.
Inside, a "pleather" interior set was stitched in record time by Cyclone TNT Auto Restyling. A Vintage Air A/C system blows cold on the new upholstery, and there's a Jensen stereo system for tunes, too. "I couldn't believe how quickly they did it," says Joe Brenneman, of Cyclone TNT's work. "One person cut the pattern and the next was sewing it up. It was amazing. They really did a great job for us."
When all was said and done, more than 70 companies contributed to the project, including some behind-the-scenes support by General Motors: "They were instrumental in getting this car done," says Schaller. "We can't thank them enough."
Victor Ramey says he can't thank the volunteers enough, either. When the car was unveiled, he was all grins. "I didn't know what to expect," he says. "But this is just awesome." Ramey says the experience has invigorated him, and he pledges to support the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the volunteers who helped complete his Chevy: "I'll do anything for anybody at any time," he says.
As fate would have it, however, the story of this car's transformation has an unfortunate twist. During the course of the project, Joe Brenneman and Bill Conklin were both diagnosed with cancer. And though each was facing a life-altering challenge, neither thought for a moment about withdrawing from the Chevy project before its completion-a project with more than 3,000 hours of labor in it. "More than restoring the car, it was the relationships that formed with the project that are most important to me," says Brenneman. "I'm good friends now with people I wouldn't have met otherwise."
Old cars have always brought people together. This '62 Chevy Bel Air has done more than that. It's the embodiment not only of a young man's wish but the power of commitment and sacrifice.
It's a lesson from which every one of us can learn.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation thanks the following companies for the contributions to Victor Ramey's wish. Additional kudos go out to the nameless individuals behind these companies and the selfless work and time they donated:
Aamco Transmission-Refuge Rd.,Columbus, Ohio
Advance Auto Parts
Air Ride Technologies
Atwood Metal Prep Inc.
Auto. Dealers Assoc. of Eastern Ohio
Automotive Racing Products
Bedford Anodizing Co.
Classic Chevy Int'l.
Classic Performance Products
Cyclone TNT Auto Restyling
Industrial Radiator & Air Cond.
Lordstown Assembly Plant
Lutty's Chevy Warehouse
Mahoning County Career & Technical Center
Mr. Gasket Inc.
Pro Car Race Shop
Repair That Glass
Summit Racing Equipment
Tip Tools Inc.
Towing & Recovery Assoc. of Eastern Ohio
True 2 Form Body Shop
UAW Local 1112