Jack Powers was a long way from cruising in his favorite car back home during his one year of service during the Vietnam War, but he never gave up on his dream. In the following years he owned several exceptional classic cars, which he displayed at shows and cruise-ins.
General Motors launched the Chevrolet Bel Air series in 1955 and continued it through 1975, selling more than 500,000 of these cars as a midpriced line between its Biscaynes and Impalas. The fifth-generation Bel Air, 1961-64, was popular because of its great value – a starting price of $2,400 – and a choice of four engines, which cranked out between 140 to 425 horsepower. The station wagon version of the Bel Air was a huge seller.
Jack purchased his 1964 Bel Air in early 2014 and spent the winter making it show worthy. The seats were still covered with the original clear vinyl plastic, and the floor mats were still factory fresh. A major improvement consisted of moving the three-speed shifter from the steering column to the floor with a Hurst shifter from the 1960s.
He also replaced the 14-inch bias-ply tires with modern Goodrich TA-15 inch radials mounted on Corvette-styled rally wheels. Chrome trim and bumpers were refreshed, and minor painting upgrades were needed to restore the luster to the hood, roof and rear deck. The engine was removed, cleaned and repainted. All hoses and belts and the alternator were replaced. A chrome air filter and valve covers with a rebuilt carburetor and new intake manifold completed the 283-cubic-inch (4.6 liter) three-speed engine.
Under the dash and between the seats, Auto Meter mechanical gauges for water, voltage and oil pressure were installed for a stunning interior visual effect. The V-8 engine produces 195 horsepower. This Chevy, which shows 86,000 miles on the odometer, is proving to be quite the head turner.
The Bel Airs of the early 1960s are most remembered for their plush interiors, sport coupe bodies and various engine sizes. Jack’s car would grow in size for the 1965 model, which ushered in the sixth generation with a total change in styling.
Until next time, happy cruising!