The year 1962 was an interesting one. John Glenn became the first American to orbit the planet, Marilyn Monroe died at the age of 36, and those damn Yankees beat the San Francisco Giants in a close World Series, four games to three. This was also a great year for the Chevrolet marque, with the introduction of the venerable 327 small-block V-8, and models that fit every price range, from the Biscayne up to the Corvette. We happened upon a couple of '62 Chevys recently down in the warm climate of Florida, which is a perfect spawning ground for all types of automotive incarnations.
Big-Block SoundtrackLarry F. Thomas told us that his '62 Biscayne started as a project that "wouldn't have too much bling, but plenty of zing." This mantra is a welcome departure from the instincts of today's car owners, who often confuse simplicity with wild, "blingtastic" rims and flashy, "show queen" underhood adornments. The other factor Thomas included in the buildup was the necessity of a mammoth motor and a stick shift tranny.
Thomas purchased the car back in 2001, and towed it back to Florida to begin plans for the re-creation. The car originally came equipped with a six-cylinder lump, an automatic transmission, a bench seat interior, and without a radio-just the combination the new owner was looking for. Work began in 2004, with a complete disassembly of the car. The big-block power that resides under the hood comes via GM Performance Parts-specifically, a 502ci short-block mated to Brodix BB2 aluminum heads, with 9:1 compression and a Lunati hydraulic roller cam.
The fuel/air mixture is cooked up with an Edelbrock C-454 intake manifold with raised ports, and a Holley Dominator 750-cfm carburetor. Spent fuel travels to the rear of the car by way of Hooker Super Comp ceramic-coated headers and a Fabricated 3-inch exhaust. The motor is cooled with a BeCool aluminum radiator equipped with dual fans. Thomas also added March serpentine pulleys to help the motor run the Classic Auto Air system.
When all the pieces came together, the 502 made 550 hp at 5800 rpm to the rear wheels, and 580 lb-ft of torque at 5600 rpm. All that power makes it to the rear through a Tremec TKO600 five-speed box, equipped with a Sachs 11-inch clutch. The one-piece driveshaft is mated to a Currie 9-inch rearend, with 3.70 gears and a TruTrac LSD unit.
The suspension is mostly stock, with some modern additions. Up front, Thomas added McGaughys tubular A-arms, KYB shocks, and Eaton springs. Thomas also included a GM 11-inch disc brake setup. In the rear, the same KYB/Eaton combination is used, housed in a CurrieTrac four-link configuration. The 'Cane rolls on Billet Specialties Vintec Dish wheels-17x8 in the nose and 17x9.5 aft. The front of the car grabs the road with 225/45/ZR17 BFGoodrich G-Force TA/KD rubber, and massive 275/40/R17 Mickey Thompson ET Streets ensure proper burnouts, both at the dragstrip and on the boulevard.
When we received information on the interior from Larry, one section stood out from the others. Under the listing for radio, Thomas wrote a big "NO," and added that he has no need for one: "I listen to the engine. It's a true radio-delete car." That's music to our ears here at the magazine, as we thought we were some of the only humans left who love the low rumble of a V-8 going through the four-cycle process, the purr of the exhaust ... back to the details.
Cars Inc. was the source for the OEM-replacement vinyl and cloth '62 seats. Thomas also went with the same company for most of the interior, including the Fawn-colored door and side panels, and carpeting.
Outside, most of the car retains its original post-car theme, with the exception of the body-color bumpers from VFN Fiberglass, which Thomas believes gives the car a smoother look. Larry also kept the car very original looking with the color swatch, Roman Red, which was an offering on all Biscaynes in 1962.
The car was completed just months before the Super Chevy Show last January in Bradenton, Florida. Winning an Editor's Choice award at that event is the jewel in the crown for Larry Thomas ... so far. He plans to keep on driving it around to shows in the Southeast and to flog the hell out of it every chance he gets.
"It was awesome winning the Editor's Choice award," Thomas said, "since I just completed the car a few months previous. It was a tremendous satisfaction."
Boy In A BubbleThe more luxurious (at least in terms of original equipment offered) is Ronald Jekonski's bubbletop '62 Bel Air. This body shop manager from Palm Chevrolet (Ocala and Gainesville, Florida) spent a good amount of time searching out the perfect candidate for his project, and eventually found a '62 in Tennessee (after finding bondo-mobiles, and cars that resembled Swiss cheese in other locales).
Jekonski's bubbletop packs a Chevy 572 big-block crate motor, with virtually all GM parts. The engine is a modern-day work of art, with a massive Demon Tri-Power carburetor setup, and a Demon intake manifold. Headers come by way of Sanderson, mated to a Magnaflow 211/42-inch exhaust. The sum of the power parts equals about 620 hp, more than 1 hp per cubic inch, which is always an impressive number without other performance add-ons like a supercharger or nitrous system.
The car absorbs the road with an Air Ride Technologies suspension, and puts the power to the rear wheels via a Moser 9-inch rearend, with 31-spline axles, 4.10 gears, and Positraction. Perhaps one of the more interesting areas on Jekonski's car is the brake system. Ronald brought that over from an '05 Corvette Z06, so there's no doubt that the '62 bubbletop stops in a hurry.
Jekonski did all the bodywork himself on the classic lines of the '62, along with the spectacular '06 Viper Red color scheme. The car also comes equipped with power steering and windows, and air conditioning from Vintage Air.
Each of these '62s has interesting characteristics in their own right: Jelonski's wild approach to braking, and Thomas' radio-delete soundtrack that's music to our ears. To be sure, over the years fewer and fewer of these cars turn up to shows around the country. That's why we're so pleased that Larry Thomas and Ronald Jekonski have taken the time and effort to preserve and improve upon a couple survivors from 1962.