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.

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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.

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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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