1962 Chevy Bel Air - False Proffitt

The Official 542HP Hayden Proffitt '62 409 Replica.

Doug Marion Sep 1, 2010 0 Comment(s)

The man himself says a few Ramchargers team members kept rattling their verbal sabers at all of the 409 Chevys and Hayden in particular during much of the event. (The Ramchargers were a team of factory Dodge racers in their off time and Chrysler engineers when on the clock.) This was supposedly a way to rattle the nerves of a competitor and cause them to drive poorly or jump-start the flagman (leave too soon). You don't hear much about lip service today, but back in the day, it happened a lot. Believe it or not, it also made many drivers perform better. For the record, Hayden was a native west Texan who stood 6 feet 2 inches and weighed 190 pounds. "Fear" was not in his dictionary. Neither was lipping-off. Let the faster car/better driver win.

So, wouldn't you know it, the last two cars in coveted U.S. Nationals SS/S Eliminator competition were Proffitt and the Mopar factory Ramchargers big, bad 413 Dodge. To watch Hayden in the left lane in the finals was like watching a man possessed. He knew the track conditions and he knew his 409 Chevy and he knew that if he could beat the Dodge off the line, the race and the coveted title was his. He felt the 413 Dodge could not match his 409 on the top end.

Everyone at Indianapolis Raceway Park was on their feet yelling and cheering (the overwhelming majority for the Chevy). When the flagman pointed his red flag at each car then waved the green flag in the air Hayden launched first. He feathered the clutch and hazed his 7-inch-wide slicks absolutely perfectly. From all those test runs for Mickey Thompson, his reaction time was also superb. His Bel Air had the Dodge by just over a car length at the instant he power-shifted into Second gear. At the end of Second gear, add another car length. By Fourth gear, he was four-plus car lengths out in front of the lip service Dodge. Remembering their verbal banter all week, he grabbed the steering wheel with his left hand, then reached back and extended his long right arm and hand back to the "bubbletop" rear window. He then gave the Ramchargers Dodge the "bird" all the way across the finish line. Yes, that was indeed the sporting thing to do. Wait, there's more ...

For the record, when Hayden first told me what he did in besting the Dodge (circa 1974), he made me promise never to tell anyone. Being a man of my word, I did-until I realized that telling would benefit him. Super Chevy magazine inducted him into its then-Hall of Fame 22 years ago in '88 at the SCS event at Texas Motorplex, Ennis, Texas. He and I stood together on the starting line next to another red '62 replica (created by Odessa, Texas, friend Delmer McAfee). Here we were in front of thousands other Texas Chevy fans. I decided instantaneously to tell his '62 Indy S/S story.

As I spoke you could hear a pin drop. I thought that he might be giving me the bird, but no, he stood there like the great man he was so I continued. When I ended the story with the "gesture" he gave the Dodge, everyone in the grandstands howled and hooted with overwhelming approval. Hayden was a lad of 62 years in '88. His unassuming, quiet reaction was, "Ah, it was nuthin'-don't mess with a Texan!" Today, he is just as loved, honored, respected, appreciated, and funny at age 84.

Enter Clay. His decision to build his beautiful replica was made in large part by knowing all the help he was going to need (and get) from Classic Motors' Reed. (Historical note: The original '62 Hayden Bel Air body no longer exists. It was destroyed in an accident in '64.) Most Chevy veterans think of Reed as the granddaddy in the '58-up Chevy parts/cars/engines/you name it business. Back at the '88 SCS Texas event, he had a midway display with Hayden happily signing autographs, shaking hands with fans a mile deep, and more. Hayden and Reed have been friends ever since.

Clay's replica '62 buildup was no small potatoes, cost-wise or even an easy deal. These '62 Bel Air sports coupes are not easy to find these days in any condition. But he had a good one-he thought. But it turned out to be a real rust bucket. No thanks. There is a fairly new term today called "re-body." It used to mean putting another body on to your frame then putting your old body's ID tag on it. It was "re-bodied." Clay has re-defined "re-body." He combined what he could use from his rusty '62 to a mint '61 Impala bubbletop. All he could use from the '62 was the firewall and the roof.




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