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1962 Chevy Bel Air - Time Warp

Mike Cortina's '62 409-Powered Bel Air Brings Back The Good Old Days

By Frank H. Cicerale, Photography by Brendan Moran

Like a captured soldier under interrogation, a car like this needs no other introduction other than name, rank, and serial number.

"Name?" "Bel Air."
"Rank?" "Dual-quad 409."
"Serial Number?" "1962."

If cars could talk, I bet this one has a story to tell. After all, any car that is the subject of a chart-smashing hit song is an interesting one. When the Beach Boys sang about "a four-speed, dual-quad, Positraction 409," they must have been drooling over something like Mike Cortina's '62 409-powered Bel Air out of Connecticut.

"The car was built in the Van Nuys, California plant, and according to California DMV records, never left California until I purchased it," Mike says. "I had always wanted a '62 bubble top car, and I came across this one on the Internet on the first day the ad had appeared. I talked with the owner, we struck a deal, and I made arrangements to have the car shipped to me. Unfortunately, the car arrived on my wife's 30th birthday, so needless to say, I was in the doghouse for a while."

Okay, so maybe the car wasn't the birthday present wife Tina had envisioned, but regardless, the vintage Chevrolet made its way into the Cortina home and Mike's heart. "I was more than pleased when the car arrived, and it was in fabulous shape in and out with hardly any rust on the body."

Mike wasn't one to leave the new family member alone, though, and the process of performing the frame-off restoration began. "The interior of the car had already been replaced with a brand new CARS, Inc. interior, so I disassembled it, began the frame-off resto, and began to search for all the needed NOS parts."

The final result is a stunning time warp back to '62, from the bubble top to the four-speed gearbox, thumping solid-lifter 409 with dual-quads, and the dog-dish hubcap-shod wheels. Can you imagine what it would have been like to grab gears in this car? Sit back, close your eyes, and let your imagination take you back to a land of big engines, bigger horsepower numbers, and even bigger dreams. Let your mind be the tool and Mike's '62 Bel Air the transportation.

You grab the door handle, swing open the driver's side door, and are met with the aromas and sights of the stock red interior. You slide into the bench seat, grip the thin, red, wheel, and gaze around the cabin. Everything is where it should be. The seats are covered in the period-correct vinyl and fabric, everything is spic and span, and you can feel the car is just begging to be fired up and taken for a spin. The factory gauges with the period-perfect tach spring to life the instant you depress the clutch, put the key in the ignition, and crank the beast up. This Bel Air is meant for drag strip and street race duty-it's a factory radio-delete car. Forget about listening to the Beach Boys or Jan and Dean. The only music those riding in this classic Chevy would be listening to would come from the powerplant.

Under the hood, the 409 cackles to life, and that distinct tone emanates from the tailpipes. Lifting the hood reveals the baddest boy on the block back in '62. The 409 ci monster lies beneath, waiting to be cracked open and show everyone who the boss really is. Showcasing an 11:1 compression ratio, a solid lifter cam featuring .507-inch lift and a 278-degree duration on the intake side to go along with .519-inch exhaust lift and a corresponding duration figure of 276 degrees, there is no mistaking the rumble and lumpiness.

By Frank H. Cicerale
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