1962 Chevrolet Bel Air - BelS9

What started out as a fairly straightforward street cruiser build turned into a ZR1-powered ’62 Bel Air

Patrick Hill Nov 16, 2011 0 Comment(s)
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The formula was a simple one: a clean, good-looking ’62 Bel Air bubbletop with an Art Morrison chassis and twin-turbo big-block for power. Easy enough for Darryl Nance and his crew at D&P Classic Chevy in Huntington Beach, California. A rusty but repairable car was found (Darryl’s proud that they didn’t cut up a pristine 409 car or anything similarly disturbing for Super Chevy readers), the new chassis delivered from AME, and work started.

Sucp 1112 01 O 1962 Chevrolet Bel Air 2/12

Then things took off on an unexpected tangent.

Darryl kept looking at the twin-turbo/big-block powerplant, and the herculean task of keeping a tidy and aesthetically pleasing engine compartment with all the necessary plumbing for the turbo system. Combined with the fact that numerous builds with a similar engine had already been done, it just wasn’t blowing up Darryl’s skirt. Then the axis-tilting LS9 came out in the new Corvette ZR1, followed shortly by the LS9 GM Performance Parts crate engine, and inspiration flew in and smacked him upside the head.

Sucp 1112 05 O 1962 Chevrolet Bel Air Driver Side Rear Quarter 3/12

A call to the car’s owner, Sean Spearman, planted the seeds for one of many changes the underway project would see. Spearman contemplated the idea, and with some more convincing from Darryl gave the OK for installing the GMPP blown crate engine. This required some serious modifications, though.

Since the chassis had been set up for a big-block, the placement of the rack-and-pinion steering system interfered with the dry sump oil pan of the LS9. Solution: Set the engine back in the chassis. This change then necessitated setting back the firewall of the car to clear the coil packs and top of the LS9. The domino that fell after that was placement of the hood hinges, with the stock ones not being in the right position to support the carrier-deck-length hood of the ’62. So, 2010 Camaro hood hinges and strut rod were employed to keep the hood up. Problem solved.

Sucp 1112 02 O 1962 Chevrolet Bel Air 4/12

Game changer number two appeared when Spearman came to the shop with a trick set of custom wheels for the car made by Asanti Wheels. Along with the new rolling stock, Spearman wanted the car to sit just short of an asphalt scraper, while using the 20-inch-diameter front and 22-inch-diameter rear wheels he bought for the car. Because the ’62 Bel Air’s floorpans actually drop below the framerails, this created an automotive juxtaposition when combined with the tall wheels. The LS9 install was now looking elementary in retrospect!

The solution was for D&P to build a whole new floorpan, front to rear, raising the bottom of the floor while lowering the body more onto the frame. Along with the wide rear wheels (12 inches), the car had to be tubbed, which also moved the rear seat location. By the time the metalwork was finished and the wheels test-fitted, the ’62 was down in the weeds without scraping its belly.

Sucp 1112 10 O 1962 Chevrolet Bel Air 8/12

Because of the firewall’s repositioning, when it came time to install the dash’s innards, more problems were encountered. A special A/C unit from Vintage Air was employed that cleared the slim space available, and the duct work, wiring, and sound system required creative thought for fitment as well. Once that was done, Stitchcraft in Westminster, California, went to work covering everything in Ferrari-inspired leather décor.

To handle the brute torque of the LS9, a GM Performance Parts 4L80E auto trans with 2,800-stall converter was bolted behind the 6.2L engine, spinning 3.73 gears and Posi-traction inside a Currie Enterprises 9-inch rearend.

The paint! We almost forgot the paint! Luckily for D&P, that was fairly easy. Their sprayer, Alex Rodriguez, loaded up PPG basecoat/clearcoat Mineral Gray for most of the car, and GM Bright White for the top.

Sucp 1112 07 O 1962 Chevrolet Bel Air Custom Door 9/12

Even with the radical setup, once finished the crew at D&P, along with owner Sean Spearman, were amazed at how well the car drove on the street. The ultimate goal achieved—classic good looks but with the feel and response of a modern supercar, inside and out.

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