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Automotive Traveler Magazine: 2011 02 1962 Chevy Bel Air Page 1

Not Found on eBay: 1962 Chevy Bel Air 409 Bubbletop

Richard Truesdell checks out a Roman Red Bel Air 409 from 1962, the last year Chevrolet offered the two-door bubbletop.

She's real fine my 409, sang the Beach Boys in a more innocent time. The lyrics became an anthem for Southern California hot rodders, who worshiped Chevy's all-powerful big block.

The year 1962 was a time of transition for the full-size Chevrolets. While they retained the same basic body shell as the 1961 models, the 1962 models were outfitted with handsome new front grilles and bigger bumpers.

To differentiate the top-of-the-line Impala, the two-door hardtop model received a formal convertible-like roofline. The mid-series Bel Air two-door hardtop retained the now-famous bubbletop styling treatment with the very thin C-pillars first seen on the 1959 Impala.

That year turned out to be the final one for the bubbletop two-door hardtops. In 1963, hardtops were not offered in the mid-line Bel Air series; all two-door hardtops were Impala and Impala SS models.

According to the 1962 full-size Chevy brochure, the 409-horsepower, 409-cubic-inch V8 was available in all full-size Chevys, even the station wagons. Yet most of the dual-carb Z11 409s probably found their way under the hoods of the two-door hardtops and sedans.

The two-door sedan, stiffer than its pillar-less counterparts, made for a potent car at the drag strip. The Z11 409s covered 1,320 feet in less than 13 seconds at a trap speed that often approached 115 miles per hour. In 1962, that was pretty damn quick for a full-sized street car. (Hayden Proffitt won the Top Stock classification at the U.S. Nationals that year, running the quarter-mile in 12.8 seconds at 112 miles per hour.)

While the big news for Chevrolet in 1962 was the introduction of the conventional Chevy II compact (designed to combat Ford's successful Falcon in a way the Corvair could not), the full-size Chevys weren't shortchanged.

As in previous years, Chevy's full-size lineup started out with the Biscayne sedans and station wagons, followed by the Bel Airs with the addition of the two-door hardtop, and then on to the top-of-the-line Impala--available as a four-door sedan, a two- or four-door hardtop, a six- or nine-passenger station wagon, and a range-topping two-door convertible.

Chevy offered a sporty bucket seat SS package for the two-door hardtops and convertibles for $53.80 plus $102.25 for the bucket seats.

Overall, an incredible 1,424,000 full-sized Chevrolets were built in 1962. That year, Chevy surpassed two million sales for the first time, outselling its Dearborn rival by 600,000 units.

Chevy offered six different engines and four different transmissions in its full-size lineup for 1962. These included the 135-horsepower Hi-Thrift 235-cubic-inch six, a 170-horsepower 283-cubic-inch V8, two different 327-cubic-inch V8s with either 250- or 300-horsepower, and two 409-cubic-inch V8s (380-horsepower when equipped with a single four-barrel carburetor, and 409-horsepower with dual four-barrel carbs, the Z11 option).

The transmission options included the standard three-speed manual transmission, an overdrive three-speed offered with the 170-horse-power six or the 170-horsepower V8, a two-speed Powerglide automatic offered with all engines except the 409s, and a four-speed stick offered on the 327 and 409 V8s.

The Roman Red 1962 Chevy Bel Air pictured here started showing up at the Southern California version of Cars and Coffee last year. Owner Börje Forslund of Yorba Linda, California originally hails from Sweden. A well-known collector, Forslund, like many of his fellow Scandinavian car enthusiasts, is an aficionado of classic American iron from the Fifties and Sixties, especially Mopars and big-block muscle cars.

His 61,000-mile Bel Air two-door hardtop, now available for sale, was built in Chevy's Van Nuys, California plant. When he purchased the car about a year ago from a private collection in the San Diego area, the previous owner told Forslund the Bel Air had spent much of its life in Wisconsin.

The VIN verifies that the car was originally equipped with the Z11 409 engine and a four-speed stick. Save for the 409, the four-speed stick, and the tach, the car is optionless.

In 1962, it represented the apogee of Chevy's muscle-car hierarchy and was the scourge of drag strips from coast to coast. Such cars could be driven right off the showroom floor and into the winner's circle.

When he bought the car, Forslund was told it had undergone a complete restoration about six years prior.

It has been driven fewer than 1,100 miles since its restoration and presents itself exceptionally well. At last year's Goodguys Del Mar show, it won the title of Best Muscle Chevy, beating out, among others, eight different Chevy bubbletops, including one major magazine cover car.

The chrome is near perfect, and the glass, all of it original, barely shows even the kind of wear expected on a 49-year-old car with just 61,000 miles.

Not long after Forslund purchased the car, its trunk lock broke. Repair required the removal of the rear seat. It was at that time that Forslund discovered the original cardboard separator between the interior and trunk compartment was still in place, an element not always found in early-Sixties Chevrolets.

The bench seat interior was redone at the time of the restoration and looks showroom fresh.

Forslund says the car is a fine driver, so much so that it was driven not only to the Goodguys show, but also as far away as Solvang, a 350-mile round trip from his home in Orange County. The trip constitutes almost one-third of the mileage put on the car since its 2005 restoration.

Its new owner will enjoy a blue-chip Chevy muscle car that can be driven to shows rather than trailered.

Forslund's Bel Air (presented exclusively on AutomotiveTraveler.com) is priced at $95,000. This represents an exceptional opportunity, considering the sale prices reached by comparable cars at this year's Arizona auctions and last November's Milton Robson collection auction.

For more information on this 1962 Chevy Bel Air 409, write to Börje Forslund directly at 1962Chevy@automotivetraveler.com.