1962 Chevrolet Bel Air review design specs: elegant in black

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Sometimes the best solutions are obvious. The fellow who built this car had, in one corner of his garage, a fairly straight, but tired 1962 Chevy Bel Air coupe. And in the other corner, a 454 cubic inch Chevy V8 that needed a good home.

Add in conveniences like AC, power steering, Wilwood 4-wheel disc brakes and a brilliantly detailed chassis, and you get one of the most understated, yet potent cars we’ve ever featured

BODYWORK/TRIM

1962 chevrolet bel air review design specs

Classic black never goes out of style, and on these early ‘60s Chevys, it’s just plain elegant.

The bodies were beautifully styled, and the excesses of the 1950s were clearly behind them as the stylists brought out the all-new Chevrolets. The canted greenhouse works with the angled relief lines along the sides of the body to make the car look like it’s moving forward, even on stock Bel Airs that don’t have that classic hot rod rake like this one does. Speaking of this one, it was taken down to bare metal and placed on a rotisserie for its rebuild, and, based on appearance, it was a very solid, clean car to begin with. But since the intent was to restore original code 900 Tuxedo Black, I’m sure the guys working on it realized that merely clean wasn’t good enough. Body gaps had to be precise, the panels, including those massive rear quarters, had to be arrow-straight, and the car had to fit together better than it did when it was new. Bit by bit, everything came together, and as each section of the car received its final coat of inky black paint, it was rubbed and buffed to a mirror-like shine. And, upon final assembly, the entire body was double-checked for straightness, gaps were adjusted, and it was given a final once-over with the buffer. Look at our high resolution photos again—there’s no orange peel or waviness in that paint, and the effect is jaw-dropping.

Most early ’60s Chevy full-sizers get dressed up as SS clones, but the builder wisely decided to let this one stand on its own. That means simple Bel Air badges and a simple strip of stainless running from end to end. The bumpers have been professionally refinished to show standards, and the grille is excellent. Since this isn’t an Impala, there are only two tail lights per side instead of three, although the Chevrolet emblems front and rear are the same. Subtle 427 cross-flags have been added on the front fenders. Hey, you can’t blame a guy for advertising!

ENGINE

In reality, those emblems are kind of understating the situation here—what lives under the hood is actually a 454 cubic inch big block that makes more than 450 horsepower. Fully dressed for show—because there was no intent to disguise it as a stock piece—the engine bay is as brilliant as the body is subtle. Sporting a trio of 2-barrel carburetors from Demon, it does an awfully good impersonation of a Corvette L72 427/435. The air cleaners are polished and finned bricks which add cool aftermarket flair. The block and heads are Chevy Orange, which stands out in the Satin Black engine bay, while the accessories have all been chrome-plated or polished and spin on a billet serpentine drive. A Tapp aluminum radiator lives up front and is cooled by a mechanical fan in a polished shroud. Power steering, which features a CPP quick-ratio steering box, combines with Wilwood power disc brakes that were installed right here in the RKM Performance Center. Hot Rod air conditioning integrates modern convenience. Wiring and plumbing has been neatly arranged to reduce clutter, while little details like the original bottle of washer fluid on the radiator cradle will make you smile. And massive Sanderson headers allow the big block to breathe easily.

DRIVETRAIN/SUSPENSION

There aren’t many transmissions that can stand up to the kind of power a big block cranks out, but the Muncie 4-speed in this car is certainly one of them. The frame, in a brilliant move, has been painted silver, which really pops against a black underbody, providing the perfect background for the highly detailed suspension. The suspension appears to be original style, but using dropped spindles and CPP upper control arms up front to achieve that awesome stance. The rear suspension uses coil springs, control arms, and a Panhard rod to locate a 3.70 posi rear axle. The exhaust system looks like it follows original specifications, although it now uses welded, dual-chamber mufflers to give the 454 an authoritative voice. A painted gas tank has been tucked up behind the axle, and all the lines feeding the engine are, of course, weather-free. And rolling stock consists of color-keyed American Racing hoops, which spin 225/50 Nitto NT450 Extreme Performance redlines in front of 255/50 Nitto NT450 Extreme Performance redlines.

INTERIOR

1962 chevrolet bel air review design specs

Fortunately, this was also a code 872 Red interior car.

So there was really no decision to be made regarding what the insides should look like, as it doesn’t get much better than a black-on-red car. Beautifully restored to stock specifications, there was no reason to go wild with something custom because the factory nailed it right off the showroom floor. Even the original bench seat was retained, and it now sports reproduction Bel Air grade cloth and vinyl covers. The carpets are correct black and red loop with reproduction red floor mats. And the dash pad is straight, as are the headliner and door panels. Nicely integrated auxiliary gauges from Classic Instruments have been installed below the original speedometer, and without looking at the brand name, you might be fooled into thinking they were original. The Moon tachometer on the steering column is a cool period accessory, easily visible between the spokes of a restored steering wheel. The shifter, topped by a traditional white cue ball, lives in its own little mini console. The aforementioned AC has been beautifully integrated in to a low-profile housing that rides under the dash. Secret Audio provided the entertainment system, which is operated via remote so the original dash could remain clean and uncluttered. And speaking of remotes, this car also has a keyless entry system that works in conjunction with its original handles.

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