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1962 Chevy Bel Air - Northwest Passage

Bubble Trouble On The Blacktop.

Mike Harrington Jan 1, 2008
Sucp_0801_01_z 1962_chevy_bel_air Side_view 2/1

(Cue Dragnet music here, please.)Sergeant Joe Friday arrives on the scene and narrates the following: "My name is Friday. I carry a badge. It's 1962. This year sees the arrival of the new Bel Air bubbletop, as well as other semi-spectacular events: The Dodgers play their first home game in Dodger Stadium (and lose). Chuck Yeager and Neil Armstrong barrel high over the Nevada desert in experimental aircraft. The U.S. government tries to blow up the Nevada desert with monthly aboveground nuclear tests.

Just north of all this ultra-modern mayhem, in the state of Idaho, a potato-peeling country boy by the name of Richard Uhlenkott grows up, affected and changed by all this modern technology. But I'm just a detective, why listen to me ramble on? Let's go straight to the source, to the future-dwelling Mr. Richard Uhlenkott himself, owner of this black '62 Bel Air, and hear what he has to say.

(Cut to Mr. Richard Uhlenkott, a real person, not from television.)Mr. Uhlenkott: "The United States government opened a huge air-monitoring station in our town. Hundreds of young Air Force men from big cities flooded into our little town, bringing with them an acute knowledge of fast cars and country girls. I can still remember seeing everything from motorcycles to lead sleds and hot rods. The one that will always stick in my memory as the ultimate cruiser was the '62 bubbletop with a 327 small-block and a four-speed. When high school was over, I pursued my dream cruiser, but the only bubbletop in town was not a four-speed and it was not for sale.

"I was forced to settle for my second choice, a 1957 Bel Air. With a few modifications, the '57 wasn't a bad ride, but my desire for a bubbletop simply would not subside. A few years later I finally found what I was looking for: a red '62 Bel Air with a 327 and a four-speed. I had saved all my beer money and was finally able to make the deal and buy the car. Immediately a set of American Torque Thrust wheels and fat tires in the rear went on. After that a 4.11 Posi-traction rearend was next and a set of dual four-barrel carburetors. A few years later I married, and my wife and I went on our honeymoon to Canada in the Bel Air. Gas was a whopping 35 cents a gallon, and feeding those dual fours was tough. "In 1969, we sold the bubbletop and purchased a new 375hp Nova and raced it for a few years. Family and kids eventually did away with the drag racing dream."

(Cut back to Sergeant Friday.)Sergeant Friday: "Thank you Mr. Uhlenkott. Fine reporting, sir, on the 1962 situation, the Idaho situation, and the bubbletop situation."

Postscript: A few years ago Richard and his wife Muriel found the same type of car they had sold long ago. A '62 Bel Air was located in Texas and brought up to Washington State where they currently reside. The '62 was already a gem; it had an outstanding drivetrain, which consisted of a freshly built, 1967 Corvette Tri-power mill (350-cfm center carb with jets; the end carbs are a fixed 500 cfm, giving it a total of 1,350 cfm). The big-block was already pushing out more than 400 ponies, so it was left in its pristine condition. Behind the 427, a '66 Muncie Super T-10 with an 11-inch Centerforce clutch channels the power into a Chrysler 83/4 rearend with 3.70 gears. The Air Ride suspension on the vehicle when deflated can neatly tuck in the 18- and 20-inch Budnik Famosa wheels. That's a 5-inch drop from full height to pavement. Richard recently added (along with the wheels) the Baer 14-inch rotors and calipers to bring this Bel Air to a stop. Besides the brakes, the Bel Air went into the body shop for a fresh PPG two-stage paint job and lipstick-red Austrian leather interior. I guess the cows in Austria eat better hay.

Interestingly enough, the seats in the car are from a Toyota Avalon and look right at home in this '60s cruiser. Nothing from GM in the early '60s is quite as "Green Onions" cool as the Chevrolet bubbletop.

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