American Car
Period pavement-pounder – 409 powered Bubble Top Bel Air breaks into the top-10

In 1962, full-size Chevrolet shoppers could order a V-8 in a variety of Biscayne, Bel Air and Impala models, with a factory-rated output of up to 425 409 horsepower. Drag racers with ties to Chevrolet were producing considerably more horsepower than that, thanks to special parts not available to the general public.

1962 Chevrolet “Bubble Top” Bel Air. Photos courtesy Mecum Auctions.

Today, many of these once-unobtanium parts can be sourced, so if building a period-correct hot rod, why not go with the tried and true? One such car, a 1962 Chevrolet “Bubble Top” Bel Air, now powered by a Z11 409 V-8, proved the merits of this approach by selling for $110,000 in Portland last weekend, enough to crack the muscle-car-heavy sale’s top-10.

1962 Chevrolet Bel Air

The previous owner of the Bel Air made no claims to the car’s pedigree or authenticity, though it may well have left the production line with a non-Z11 409 between the front fenders. Now a fully restored car, the Z11 409 beneath the hood was reportedly built and tuned by 409 guru Lamar Walden, and produces a dyno-tested 540 horsepower, sent through a T-10 Borg Warner four-speed to a Positraction rear end.

1962 Chevrolet Bel Air

Inside, the interior is as minimalist as one would expect from a car built to add mileage in quarter-mile increments. There’s certainly no air conditioning (an expensive and heavy luxury item in the early 1960s), but there’s also no radio or heater. There is, however, a wide cloth-covered bench seat, a cue ball four-speed shifter that falls readily to hand, and a Sun tach, offset to the left of the steering column; in other words, everything one needs to go fast in a straight line, and nothing superfluous.

1962 Chevrolet Bel Air

There’s no mention of when the restoration and build was completed, but the Roman Red Bel Air is reportedly a 2016 GoodGuys Muscle Car of the Year finalist. The quality of the work certainly had an impact on the selling price; while a 1962 Chevrolet Bel Air with the factory 409 and the dual four-barrel carburetor option has an NADA “High Retail” price of $73,500, this tastefully resto-modded example beat that by $36,500.

1965 Shelby GT 350

1965 Shelby G.T. 350.

Other lots in the Portland top-10 included a 1965 Shelby G.T. 350, in the care of a single owner for the past 38 years, which sold for $305,000; a 1969 Ford Boss 429 fastback, which sold for $240,000; a 1970 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda coupe, which sold for $190,000; a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette convertible, powered by the 427/435hp, which sold for $160,000; a 1968 Chevrolet COPO Nova SS, said to be one of 50 ordered by Fred Gibb, which sold for $145,000; a 1968 Shelby G.T. 500 convertible, which sold for $120,000; a 1968 Pontiac GTO restomod, which sold for $105,000; a 1974 De Tomaso Pantera, which sold for $100,000; and a 1966 Chevrolet Corvette coupe with the 427/435hp V-8, which sold for $95,000.

1977 Austin Mini Cooper

1977 Austin Mini Cooper.

There were bargains to be had in Oregon as well. A 1967 Ford F100 pickup, owned by the seller for the past 14 years, sold for $2,000; a 1929 Plymouth coupe sold for $3,000; a 1973 Volkswagen Beetle sold for $3,500; a 1976 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL sold for $5,500; a 350 V-8 powered 1976 Chevrolet Vega GT sold for $7,500; a 1926 Ford Model T doctor’s coupe sold for $7,500; a 1953 Cadillac Series 60 sedan sold for $7,500; a Chevy V-8 powered 1969 Toyota Land Cruiser restomod sold for $8,000; a 1929 Ford Model A sport coupe sold for $9,000 and a 1977 Austin Mini Cooper sold for $9,500.

For complete results from the Portland sale, visit


Related Post