Not Exactly Original: 1962 Bel Air

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Not Exactly Original: 1962 Bel Air

The ONLY thing left of the original car is the top of the quarter panels…

By Bill and Linda Nuttall • Boise, ID

Photography by Jim Knight

The first car I owned was a 1962 Bel Air 2-door sedan 6-cylinder, 3-speed. I don’t remember exactly when I saw a ’62 Bel Air Sport Coupe for the first time, but I do remember thinking that it was one of the best looking cars Chevrolet ever built.

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Many years later, while serving in the military, I began looking all over the United States for a ’62 that I could afford. I eventually found the car I wanted, a 1962 Bel Air Sport Coupe, in Burley, Idaho in 1994. One of the local kids had just inherited the car from his grandmother, who was the original owner. It took two years of contact with him before I was able to buy the car and drive it home.

For the next few years, the car was stored in my garage because I traveled a lot while assigned to a military base about 150 miles from home. When I finally got started on the disassembly, I couldn’t believe the amount of rust I found! The rust was everywhere, the cowl, the floors, the quarters and the top were all rusted beyond my abilities to repair. Surely, this rust would have doomed the car to the scrap pile had it not been for a great friend, Ted Behncke, who came into my life at just the right time to save the car. Ted is a true lover of old Chevrolets; he owns three and is extremely talented with body tools and welding equipment. With his many hours of donated help and a couple of donor cars, the Bel Air was soon back to rust-free condition and ready for bodywork and paint. Once completed, the car looked better than when new.

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My ’62 began life as a 327 powered Powerglide car with a radio as the only accessory. I still have the original motor and we showed the car for three years with that motor. However, I wanted more power under the hood so I had a 409ci motor installed in July of 2005 by Gary McCracken. The addition of the 409 really turned the car into the ultimate cruiser! We really enjoy driving our car around town and to local shows, which is why we built it. What is the point of having an eye-catching car if you’re not going to drive it around and enjoy it?

People ask me all the time if the car is original. I always tell them, “The ONLY thing left of the original car is the top of the quarter panels.” The car has been built the way my wife Linda and I wanted it, not the way GM built it. We updated the interior while keeping the original appearance. The seats have factory Fawn fabric with rolls sewn in and the door panels have the center panel replaced with fabric. All the logos and accents are embroidered into the vinyl. The credit goes to Linda for the interior; she selected all the colors, materials and designs.

Although I often say that I did all the work myself, I could not have completed the car without the support and help of many friends along the way who actually know what they are doing. Great friends like Ted and Rose Behncke and Bob Hampton, owner of Vette Magic in Twin Falls, ID, who donated days of shop time, a paint booth and much knowledge of modern painting and body working techniques.

We showed the car for the first time at a LGC event at the International Convention in Coeur d’ Alene, ID where it earned First Place and a Gold Certificate. We had previously attended three other conventions without our car, but having a car in the show really gives you the whole experience.

You cannot complete an eight-year project like this without the support of a loving wife.

I am very fortunate to have Linda’s loving support. She has given up many things over the years so that I could get this car to where it is now. To her I say, “Thanks and I do love YOU more than the car!” When we are driving the Bel Air around town, I often wonder if all the guys are whistling at the car or her.

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Comments

  1. Tony Justice(LGC1327) says:

    I really miss the Imagination that went into the lineup of cars from the fifties and sixties. The “cookie-cutter” cars that are made now, even though they have great gadgets on them, are just downright BORING! While my ’64 SS409 is pretty much a shoebox, it still showed some degree of fast style. At least the new Corvettes look like a Fun Race Auger.

    • joel hall says:

      wow! just wanderd here looking for BelAir “roller” (haha…fat chance).
      My childhood neighbor’s dad worked at GM. He always had the best cars. One
      day, he brought a white w/blue int. 409 car up the drive way.
      I was a mere kid. He gave us rides as he was probably 17?
      I told myself, one day I’ll own this car.
      Years later, he was drafted. Car was thrashed and the 409 “blown up”. I got it for $700.00
      Fat story thinner….. I went completely through it. new paint, new int., tricked out sb 332, T-10, posi 4.56
      American Wheels.
      Still had the 409 emblems on it and tow bar brackets.
      Someone decided to steal if from my apt.
      I haven’t seen it since 1970. It still hurts. Insurance gave me $700.!
      I still have 3 pictures of it. I almost weep whenever I see them.
      Oh to find the culprits.
      If anyone sees an affordable “bubbletop” (I never liked this term)…. I’ll go look!!!!

      this car above? gorgeous!

  2. I have a 62 Impala SS that I have been restoring for the past 30 Years. It is an original 327 with Three on the Tree. In too spent 20 years in the service so it has taken a back seat to other things in my life now I am back on track to get it restored. You do have a beautiful 62 Belair

  3. Ziggy Parda says:

    Great story and car. I have the sister car with similar love story. We should swap tales and info that can be shared with all interested. Mine came from Nebraska and now lives in New Hampshire. Get in touch.

  4. Dennis Bubp says:

    Great story. Unfortunately, Bill passed away Feb. or Mar. 2016. His son is taking over the ownership of his great car. He is on the 348-409 forum.

  5. Ted Behncke says:

    This is Ted Behncke and Bill was my good friend and I miss him very much. He had a dry sense of humor which was always fun. This 62 was Bill’s dream car and I felt honored to be part of the renovation. Bill wasn’t kidding about the rust on this car, it was among the most far gone I have worked on but I wanted to share a bit about the process for those interested. When Bill purchased the car it was complete and original but rusty on every corner. The floor, trunk, and quarter panels were gone. But also rusty were the roof, rockers, trunk lid, both front fenders and the cowl. Maybe most amazingly the door hinge orbits in the cowl were gone as well. Fortunately, Bill found a very good 62 four door hardtop with a perfect floor and trunk. The only problem is that when he got it home discovered it was a factory air car with an air cowl. After discussion, he decided to go ahead and make it a factory air car. We set up a four day weekend to do the major surgery. Torch in hand I explained the process and with great doubt he said “OK?!!” A way we went and by the end of the weekend the new creation sat on the original frame and the doors closed perfectly! Bill responded by saying, “I am ready for a convertible.” The remainder of the sheet metal was replaced at the factory seams including the roof. The car is actually a very rust free and beautiful car. It has to be the only 62 Bubbletop 409 out there with factory air–and the air works. God Bless you buddy.

  6. Dennis Bubp says:

    Ted, would you please email me with regard to this exact procedure which I am in the process of doing. Same model and yr. Thanks
    Dennis Bubp. drbubp@hotmail.com

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