There are a number of important players in this historic story. The owner, crew chief, and check writer behind this '62 Bel Air is Enid, Oklahoma's native son, Harold Clay. Veteran Chevy parts and he-knows-everybody guru Phil Reed, laid the groundwork for Clay to fulfill his decade-long dream.
Hayden Proffitt needs absolutely no introduction here (unless, of course, you weren't around during Chevy's millions of torrid motorsports successes beginning in 1955 and going nonstop, let's say, to 1980). All during this 25-year time period, he ranked right at the top as a driver/builder/tuner. Hayden was the only drag racer ever to be contracted by all of the American auto manufacturers (GM, Ford, Chrysler, and American Motors). That hints at how good he was. As drag car builders and drivers go, he was one of a handful who the competition dreaded lining up against. If you did not run your perfect/best-ever run, you usually did not stand a chance against him. How does a person get so good?
Imagine, if you will, being hired in '60-61 by the late Mickey Thompson to drag test parts, and a myriad of chassis and engine combinations on Super Duty 389 and 421 Pontiacs at Lions Drag Strip in Long Beach, California. Hayden easily made a few hundred runs a week. Add this huge hands-on experience to the thousands of races he made from '56-59 at Santa Ana Raceway. His machines back then included a few supercharged Chevy-powered dragsters, a record-holding '57 Corvette, a '59 street-driven 348 El Camino (he went to Bonneville and won his class at 136 mph), and more.
Hayden also tuned and tricked-up dozens of customer 283 and 348 Chevys. So many were there on any given weekend that the Santa Ana announcer nicknamed them as a group-the "Proffitteers." In '61, Hayden was so feared (and successful) in M/T's Pontiacs that Chevrolet stepped up and offered him a "business contract" to campaign a new '62 409 Bel Air sport coupe. Hayden was the real deal then and this is where things went big time, historically and personally.
A 409 Bel Air specifically for Hayden was loaded on a freight train about one month before the '62 NHRA Winternationals. Why a '62 409 car was not found locally at the GMAD Plant in Van Nuys is not known. We assume that perhaps because of their sales popularity, there weren't any extras available. promoted the '62 from kiddie hauler to Hayden hauler.
Hayden drove the Cone Chevrolet/Bill Thomas '62 409 Bel Air to one amazing performance after another, ultimately running a best of 12.17 at 119 mph. Besides trophies and kisses from trophy queens, he also pocketed a whole lot of cash. A great example took place the weekend prior to the '62 U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Everybody who was anybody converged on Detroit Dragway for a huge Super Stock eliminator-every bit as big if not bigger than what was to come at Indy. Hayden bested everyone at Detroit and he pocketed something in the neighborhood of $3,000 (about the cost of a brand-new car then).
At Indy, Hayden lost the S/S class final to Dave Strickler's "Old Reliable" '62 409 Bel Air tuned by the legendary Bill Jenkins. Some misinformation from the flagman led Hayden to think the race was yet to start. It did, Strickler launched and Hayden didn't. No matter. During the next few days, all top-stock entries would compete round-robin to see who had the baddest Super Stocker in the land.