1962 Chevy Bel Air - Time Warp

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

Frank H. Cicerale Apr 1, 2009 0 Comment(s)
Sucp_0904_01_z 1962_chevy_bel_air Front_view 1/12

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.

Sucp_0904_02_z 1962_chevy_bel_air Interior 2/12

"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."

Sucp_0904_03_z 1962_chevy_bel_air Gauges 3/12

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.

Sucp_0904_04_z 1962_chevy_bel_air Rear_fender 4/12

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.

Sucp_0904_08_z 1962_chevy_bel_air Shifter 8/12

Topped by iron heads, an aluminum intake, and a pair of 600 cfm Carter AFB carburetors, this monster could ingest enough atmosphere to leave its competitors breathless. Exhaling through stock exhaust manifolds feeding into a two-inch exhaust system, the engine swallows dead dinosaurs provided by an AC Delco mechanical fuel pump before spitting fire thanks to the spark emanating from the Delco Remy points ignition system. Anyone who is anyone knows something is up as soon as the dual-snorkel air cleaner comes into view. After all, this W-motor pushes out 409 ponies, which for '62 was more than enough to get the job done.

Sucp_0904_09_z 1962_chevy_bel_air 409_engine 9/12

Finally, the time has come. That stunning 409 is rumbling, asking you to make it roar. You push the clutch in and move the vintage shifter into the First gear position. Slowly, with just the right amount of throttle control, you slip the clutch enough to get the Bel Air moving. You can't hold back any longer and you drop the hammer, punching the loud pedal to the floorboard and making the rear BFGoodrich Silvertown bias-ply sneakers scream in agony. You bang through the gears in the T-10 four-speed, praying to someone up high that each time you powershift the Bel Air, the 3.36-geared drop-out rear will hold up. It does, and when your fun is over, you cruise back to the scene of the crime, where evidence of your deed has been left in the form of two long black tire marks thanks to the posi unit that resides in said rear.

Sucp_0904_10_z 1962_chevy_bel_air Rear_view 10/12

A crowd forms around the bubble top Chevy, and as you hop out, you realize just how unassuming the car looks. No shiny rims here, just those now molten BFG's wrapped around a set of 14x6 steel wheels with the dog dish hub caps. The car sits normally thanks to the stock Chevy suspension components. Maybe later on when you hit the strip, some changes can be made to get the weight to transfer, but for now, she sits just right.

The Tuxedo Black PPG single-stage paint job belies no ulterior motive other than to stay under the radar until the throttle is held wide open. While the chrome bumpers and trim give off enough shine to make the Bel Air gleam in the sun, you make damn sure you stand in front of the 409 fender badges. No one needs to know what your baby is packing until it's too late to get their money back.

Sucp_0904_11_z 1962_chevy_bel_air Front_driver_side_view 11/12

For Mike, he gets to live this dream every time he hops into his Bel Air. Thanks to Don Scinto Automotive, who assembled the legendary W-motor, cousin Bob Cortina, who handled the paint and body work, and Frank Faille, who tackled the final assembly with Mike, a dream like that gets to live on.

While Mike plans to build a Pro Mod-style '67 Nova packing a sauced-up 632 fat-block next, any time he wants to go back in time, he can take a short walk to the garage and turn on the tunes from the Bel Air. It's guaranteed to be a chart topper.

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