Swingin' '60s; 1962 Chevrolet Impala and 1962 Chevrolet Bel Air by Rob Kinnam (Hot Rod, 11/96)


   Face it, there are only so many '69 Camaros to go around, so

sooner or later, a different body style must emerge. One we've

noticed starting to proliferate lately - and would like to see

more of - are the early '60s big cars. You know, Impalas,

Galaxies, Furys, that sort of thing. These cars are in many cases

big, sometimes heavy and sometimes with cosmetics that casual

observers take as strange. But they have character galore,

mammoth engine compartments, can usually be bought cheaply, and,

in most parts of the country (California included), they're

exempt from the nightmare of smog inspection.

   In case you aren't sure what kind of cars we're talking about,

the next few pages will offer a glimpse of some of the righteous

body styles waiting to be hot rodded, as Thom Taylor's spotter's

guide helps show what can be done to some of the non-Chevys in

our midst. The two cars shown on this page are Chevys, but keep

reading and look at what we found at the swap meet with "for

sale" signs in the windows.


   In 1962 you could get a two-door Chevy with several different

roof-lines. The most sought after is the bubbletop, so named

because the roof starts at the top of the curved windshield and

leads back to a thin C-pillar (no B-pillar or door post) and

large rear window, looking much like a bubble. Then there is the

hardtop, which doesn't use a door post and has a more

conventional squared-off rear section. The third is the roof line

found on the Bel Air, which is similar to the hardtop but with a

thinner C-pillar and a door post. The two cars shown here are

examples of the latter two.

   Scott Hocking's '62 hardtop started life as a back-halved

bracket racer, but it's currently a member of the Seven Second

Club in the Fastest Street Car wars. After a few years of the

bracket wars, Scott and his wife, Cheryl, decided to turn the Imp

into an FSC competitor, so he called Danny Scott to arrange the

chassis work. Danny agreed to do it, but only if the car was kept

as stock-looking as possible. Danny did up the roll cage and a

full tube chassis using a Jerry Bickel four-link kit, Strange

front struts, a 4.56-geared Dana 60 with Mark Williams 41-spline

axles and Koni shocks. With the chassis set for the 7s, Scott

called on Mike Blackstone for a nasty 632-inch motor.

   Blackstone did the deed with a

4.600-inch-bore/4.750-inch-stroke combination using a Bryant

crank, steel rods and Venolia pistons, then he dropped on a set

of prepped Dart Big Chief heads, a Dart intake and a pair of Carb

Shop Terminator carbs. The engine cranked out 1247 horsepower at

7200 rpm on Blackstone's dyno - and that's without the Jim

Dunford - tuned, three-stage nitrous system! Backing it up is a

four-speed Lenco with a Ram dual-disc clutch, and hooking it is a

pair of large-by-huge Hoosiers on Weld wheels. So far, it's been

enough to push the 3580-pound barge to 7.86 seconds at 175 mph,

and that's on a still-learning, conservative setup.

   What we like about the car is not just its outrageous speed,

but also that Scott kept the outside of the car clean. There

aren't any outlandish graphics; the wing won't support the entire

Von Trapp family; and all the original chrome trim and emblems

are still there, contrasting nicely with the chrome yellow paint

(from Jay's Collision in Fenton, Michigan). Bob Cross did the tin

work before Kimball's Auto Trim stitched the threads, and while

the interior is dominated by the cage, Lenco shift levers and

hardware, there's no mistaking the classic '62 dash, which is

still intact. In the Fastest Street Car arena, Scott's Impala

isn't the quickest or fastest, but it's close, making the perfect

ragged-edge Swingin' '60s machine.


   In contrast to Scott Hocking's '62 Impala, which is more race

car than street car, we present Jerry Sawyer's '62 Chevy Bel Air,

the perfect Swingin' '60s machine. This is what we mean when we

talk about Swingin' '60s: a clean early-'60s car with the right

rake and a driveable but powerful engine under  the hood. Jerry's

Bel Air has the door post, thin C-pillar and four taillights (as

opposed to the six taillights on Impalas). From the outside, it

looks as stock as your grandfather's old Chevy, but observant hot

rodders will immediately notice the very slight rake, the

wider-than-stock Chevy Rally wheels and an exhaust note more

authoritative than anything from 1962 short of a full-race 409.

   Jerry found the car in a local Auto Trader in pretty much the

condition you see below after Jerry Roeters built it. The car was

actually a 47,000-mile gennie but had taken its share of abuse,

so Roeters performed a body-off restoration, replacing everything

that moved and many things that didn't. The bushings were

replaced with polyurethane, Monroe air shocks were installed to

control the rear ride height, the '62 Chevy rearend was stuffed

with 3.73:1 gears and the aforementioned Rallys wheels - 15x6 and

15x7 front and rear, respectively-were added with DeFender tires.

Roeters and Jim King also straightened the body and shot it with

Code 40 GM White paint for a subtle look, painting the wheels to

match. The interior uses C.A.R.S. blue-cloth seat covers, but

everything else was perfect, including the dash paint, door

panels and headliner. On first glance, all the work adds up to

the impression of a nicely restored stocker, but a closer look

and listen shows the wolf hiding in sheep's clothes.

   Pop the hood and you're greeted by the wide valve covers of a

big-block Chevy. Racing Head Service built the 461-inch Rat

motor, which is conservative enough to idle all day in traffic

yet propels this driver to 12.20s in the quarter-mile. A TH400

with a 2,800 stall is the bulletproof trans of choice, making the

drivetrain simple yet highly effective at delivering both fine

cruising manners and respectable quickness. This thing would make

an absolutely bitchin' daily driver!


   Yes, there is life beyond Chevrolet. Take Jack Forrester's '61

Pontiac Ventura, for example. We spotted this black beauty at a

Los Angeles-area cruise scene and immediately fell in love with

its clean lines, nasty grille and bubbletop roof line. This is

one of those cars you don't see that often so when you do, it

stands out. Forrester thankfully left the lines of his Poncho

alone, but he cleaned them up a little by removing a few emblems

(from the hood and decklid) and ensured that the body panels were


   Believe it or not, Forrester bought this car for $50 in 1974.

It had a wasted engine and needed plenty of work, but he could

see its potential immediately. Over the next decade or so, he

rebuilt it to what you see here, and the car really hasn't

changed all that much since then. The paint is about 10 years old

now but still looks brand new, thanks to its years of garage

storage. But that's not to imply that the Pontiac doesn't get

driven. Forrester cruises it regularly, and the 428 mill under

the hood makes sure it's a healthy cruise.


   In just one morning of walking the Pomona (California) swap

meet, we found all these Swingin' '60s machines just waiting for

a hot rodder's touch. Any one of these cars would make a way-cool

driver that would really stand out in a crowd of Camaros and

Chevelles. The only limits are your imagination.

    RELATED ARTICLE: Swingin' '60s Sketchpad

   By Thom Taylor

   Behold the flamboyant world of early '60s sculptured flanks

and fins, as witnessed here with our five

"why-hasn't-someone-done-one-of-these-lately" nominees. There are

many more candidates out there in Rustville, USA, but I disgress.

We dearly love '57 Chevys, Mustangs, Camaros and GTOs. But there

are some other really cool, interesting, plentiful and cheap cars

out there just waiting for your personal hot-rodding touch to

bring them into the next century. Unfortunately, they barely rate

so much as a thought when visions of that next project start

sparking in your upper story. So to energize your creative

juices, we've conjured up images of low-down cool, rolling

sculptures with our selected subjects.


   To make the point as to how quickly things changed in the

'60s, compare our '60 Le Sabre to its one-year-later sibling in

this article. My pencil got worn to the nub just chiseling in all

of the heavy sculpturing displayed on this '60. So to celebrate

it, we tri-toned it. A fabricated aluminum insert that whips up

at the ends replaces the stock grille. The stock blade-bumper is

painted to tie into our ring-around-the-rosy graphic, but the

lower bumper valance has been modified. You can choose to alter

the bumper to achieve this configuration or take a splash of the

bumper in fiberglass, change it and clip it over the original

like the truck guys do with their "bumper masks." With the severe

lowering and 18-in Anteras, we have achieved a most dramatic

makeover, and a sure attention-getter at the next Power Fest!


   It's baaack! We're talking "big chunk" metalflake, not that

wimpy itsy-bitsy flake stuff we've seen of late. Metalflake isn't

about subtlety. It works perfectly framed in the sculptured sides

of our Olds. But there's more to our '88 than flake. Though fins

were persona non grata by 1961, GM still felt them de rigueur as

they wound up on the lower quarters of both the Olds and

Cadillac. We've enhanced this quirky feature in two ways: first,

by carrying it  under the doors with fabricated fiberglass

extensions that resemble some of the current aero kits for late

cars; and second, by running some long megs ending at an angle

that resemble the old "Bellflowers" used by customizers in the

'50s. The rear wheel openings have been moved up to mimic the

fronts and help show off those 18-inch three-spokers. European

cast wheels are really hot right now. Billet bites, so don't date

your project before you begin. For taillights, try early '60s

Fords or a '56 Chevy for a cleaner alternative.


   HOT ROD'S Rob Kinnan has been breathing hard over one of these

for quite a while. I've obliged by drawing it with his favorite

five-spokes, but how about in an 18-inch configuration? And how

about the beloved-but-forgotten metalflake, this time trapped in

the top? The chrome bumpers have been retained, with the center

of the front bumper reworked to smooth out that especially fussy

area. And while we are cleaning things up, how about extending

the hood down into the grille area then fabricating an aluminum

grille that runs over the set-back headlights? A bit of

dechroming and lowering make for one beautiful Buford. In the

drivetrain department, the sky is the limit, and your limit will

be extended by considering a less desirable car like this

Invicta. You see, if you can get into one of these on the cheap,

it gives you more cha-cha at the back end to spend on things like

better paint, tires, fuel injection - you name it. Sure, some

original parts are going to be harder to find than for a Camaro,

but we're not restoring the thing. Purchase the most complete car

you can find to keep from spending time and money trying to find

what should have been there to begin with.


   For some reason, the early '60s Chryslers have been slapped

with an "ugly" rap. It comes from the "gennie" geeks who follow

like sheep; they don't appreciate a few finds, a toilet seat on

the trunk and the occasional canted headlight or two. I think the

Chryslers throughout the '60s were way cool. And though we don't

have the space to prove my case, I can show you this '61 as an

example. Regarding some of the odd trim that befalls the New

Yorkers, I would suggest tearing it off or starting with the

cleaner Newport or "300." You'll have an excellent beginning for

a fun, different project. A simpler grille opening, lowering,

some dechroming and 17- or 18-inch wheels make for a standout

ride. Prices are edging up, so while I can't say this is a really

cheap alternative to the more expensive Fords and Chevys out

there, I think you will be surprised by how reasonably priced

they can be. And if you don't like fins, don't fret; '62s lost

them but kept the cool canted headlights.


   Ford's lineup for 1962 was devoid of the heavy sculpturing

from its GM counterparts, but that doesn't make the cars any less

interesting. The formal roofs used throughout Dearborn's finest

give our Galaxy a T-Bird look. By outlining the body with a

heavy, darker outline, we've slimmed the whole car down and given

it a fresh look without the requisite pocketbook-draining body

modifications. The spear at the back is reminiscent of an El

Camino that Moon Equipment had in the '60s. See, new ideas from

old ones! And though I'm not one for painting chromed bumpers, it

helps in this case to tie together the graphic light and dark

colors. The 18-inch Niche wheels, simple deck spoiler and 4-inch

exhaust peeking out from under the rear all help to lend a very

contemporary look to our '60s chic standout. Also, available this

year were 352s, 390s and even a tri-power 406, or you could opt

for replacing these with a later 302,351 or even a 460. Plus, now

that the new modular motor has found its way into everything,

soon you'll find it available in the boneyards, too.