We all know how the project car game goes. You pick up a beater for what you think is a steal, plan a few minor upgrades to either get it running, or at least free from rust and looking presentable, then you pick up a Super Chevy and flip through it like you are now to see what others are doing to their cars, how they're tying their Bow Ties if you will, and how you could do it different or even better. There just so happen to be ads with everything a Chevy enthusiast could drool over, so the checkbook opens and the next thing you know you are knee-deep in Rolock discs and Bondo dust and your "daily driver" is shifting towards a show & shine trophy king.
Make no mistake. We are the evil impetus for this obsessive behavior. We scour the shows looking for these special Chevys to capture on celluloid (well, pixels nowadays) and we feature cars that many of you may strive to emulate. We are an automotive drug.
Case in point: Gael Benson, a "domestic engineer" from Utah. She bought the four-door you see spread before you a few years back with the intention of building a clean daily driver she could also take to local auto events. A year and one month later, she had a baby-blue dreamboat bursting onto the show scene.
Believe it or not, this is Gael's first go at a project.
"We purchased this car for a family project from a family friend," said Gael. "It was in pretty poor shape and needed a lot of work."
While they acquired the car for $1,500, Gael mentioned that it was probably worth about $150. Needless to say, it's worth a lot more now that it's been taken from beater to beauty queen. And if there was a car just made for cruising, it's definitely the '60 Chevy Bel Air, with its acres of space and graceful-yet-ominous presence. Did we mention it had four doors?
To get started on the body, Gael took the car to Kindig-it Design. Based in Salt Lake City, the company is one of the Utah's premier high-end hot rod builders. Kindig-it Design was established in 1999 by Dave and Charity Kindig. It started out as a design studio specializing in concept drawings for other specialty shops.
"Originally, we were building this project as a driver when about half way through the owner came in and said that she had changed her mind and wanted to see 'Bella' up on mirrors, so we had to go back to the drawing board and put some more perfecting time into the undercarriage," said Dave. "Also, the body was badly rusted on the lower 8 inches so we had to fabricate panels since they don't make reproductions for that year."
To make it smoother than a baby's bottom, they shaved the mirrors, antenna and trunk lock. Going one step further, they frenched the 2.5-inch HPC-coated exhaust with Borla mufflers into the roll pan, channeling it 8 inches over the cross-frame.
This freshly shaved body's aftershave lotion came in the form of #28 Bella Berry Blue and Cadillac white from Dupont Hot Hues. Where there isn't paint there's chrome. Much of that chrome is on the front and rear bumpers.
While the body is undoubtedly easy on the eyes, some of the more complex work took place out of sight on the chassis. While the frame is stock it has been heavily modified. Built with custom-sculptured 1/5-inch steel, it has a cross-frame center raised six inches and a 1/4-inch street wrap. More bespoke brilliance comes underneath in the form of handbuilt four bar and C-notch sections and a handbuilt front end from the front body mounts forward.
The suspension that this chassis is supported by is as exciting as the exterior. A '96 Corvette IRS with a modified four-link and narrowed half shafts ensure that the Bel Air avoids that thing that sounds like a female punk rock band-Axle Tramp.
Corvette-type suspension carries through to the front with an independent all-aluminum air bag set up from Ridetech. The Shockwaves 1000 system ensures that the Bel Air can command more positions than a director in the San Fernando Valley.
The rollers that this body gets slammed down upon are Billet Specialties Stilletos. Measuring 20x8 fore and 22x10 aft, they are wrapped in BFGoodrich KDW meats measuring 245/35 and 285/35 respectively. It almost seems a shame that the sheer massive size of the rear double deuce has to be covered up, but it would be sacrilege to cut up the clean line of the rear fender well.
If you thought that a stock motor might reside underhood of this baby blue bomber you would be wrong. Lift the lid and you'll see the end result of Lebanon N.J.'s Engine Factory. A 350 bored 0.030-over and stroked 3.75 with shot-peened, stress-relieved rods, heavy-duty Trimetal bearings and Hypereutectic pistons.
"The engine sat so high because of the C4 suspension we had to fabricate a custom air cleaner at the last minute," said Dave.
Mods to the motor don't stop there. From the Scat steel stroker to the Edelbrock camshaft to the Hooker headers, the sum of the parts equals this: 447hp at 5,500 rpm and 454 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm. A '95 700R4 tranny handles shifts,
While Bella is bouncing off the rev limiter, the driver is cool as a cucumber in the pearl-white, leather clad interior with white Mercedes carpet. More U.S.S. Enterprise than Chevy Bel Air, white leather extends to the dash where it conceals a hidden video monitor surrounded by carbon-fiber and white leather inserts.
"The interior was tricky because of the independent rear suspension," said Dave. "The tunnel had to be built so tall the seats had to be heavily modified."
While Gael mentioned that the hardest part of the build-up for her was writing the checks to Kindig-it. Dave also mentioned that finding the trim for a low-end car from that era took a fair amount of ferreting about.
Of course, just like all automotive articles must come to a halt, this Bel Air uses 13.5-inch discs and six-piston Baer brakes for stopping.