“What have I done?”
This is was my thought as I was backing my newly acquired 1965 Bel Air off the trailer. It was the morning after I towed the car 170 miles home. That “pleased as punch” buzz that one gets when you buy a new toy – a feeling that I’m well familiar with, had worn off. I was beginning to wonder if I was now experiencing a “new toy hangover” – the kind you get when you bought something you had no business buying. I know that feeling too.
This new toy hangover was now a distinct possibility. This could have been due to the flat cracked paint, the rust, the decrepitude of the interior, or the fact that the car had the agility of an air craft carrier. Perhaps is was simply due to the number of doors. Either way, there was no turning back. My $2,500 was gone and I was the unnerved owner of a jalopy that could prove challenging to unload should I have a change of heart.
This was back in 2011. The torn headliner provided the occasional flurry of ceiling insulation if the lowered windows created too much cabin turbulence. The rear deck was covered by a piece of carpet, which muted the radio pretty well. The Bel Air wasn’t a barn find but it had been stored in a barn for a good portion of the previous 15 years. The car was mustier than the backside of gorilla. The seats were shredded and covered in a moldy blanket cover. It smelled so bad that my wife and daughter were reluctant to sit in the car, much less go for a drive.
The car sat low on tired springs and small 14 inch rims. The suspension was soft. The beast would lean and squeal if I pushed the corner in the slightest.
The brakes were kind of… variable? Sometimes the brake pedal grabbed at different levels. The pedal also felt like it would continue to give if I increased the pressure when at a stop. A feeling I wasn’t ready to fully test.
The 283 ran and idled evenly but it felt like it had less power than a ride-on lawn tractor. Some of the
languor was attributed to the 2 barrel carburetor and the 2 speed Powerglide tranny, which also worked fine but needed a lower first gear to be fun.
And then there were the doors. A four-door?!?! WTF?!?!
Yes. Apparently I’m into 4-doors now. As I’ve gotten older my taste has gotten stranger by the year. I’m now smitten by straight 6 cylinder engines, AMC Ramblers (Thanks Doug Glad of Car Craft!) and 4 door sedans. 20 years prior, I never would have looked at a four-door as a toy – maybe as a regular driver but never as a toy.
However, I always had a soft spot for big American cars. I’ve never been a Corvette type of guy. They’re awesome, just not my style. I’ve owned a couple of Camaros but I was once told that I was more of a Chevelle guy than a Camaro guy, whatever that meant. As the years past, I realized she was right.
Do you remember the first time you watched Star Wars? I think a lot of car guys were enchanted by all the machinery. The details on the battleships, the death star, the droids, the Tie fighters, and the X-wing fighters. Ahhh! The X-wing fighters! How many young boys dreamed of flying those futuristic exotics of space? Not me. I was enchanted with the Millennium Falcon. The Falcon was the hot rod of Star Wars. It was a beastly, semi-reliable freighter that was souped-up beyond belief. The Falcon was considered one of the fastest ships in the galaxy with its hyperdrive engine, enabling it to outrun Imperial Star Destroyers. The Falcon was used by smugglers and as such it had advanced modifications including weapons and hidden storage compartments… kind of a futuristic rum runner. It was bad-ass and I loved it.
In keeping with that, once I was old enough to drive, my taste in cars followed suit with acquisitions including several GM B-bodies, SUVs, and a small fleet of the GM A-bodies.
Getting back to the original story, it didn’t take long for me to shake that “new toy hangover”. I took the Bel Air around the block and despite how it drove and smelled, I was smitten once again and my weird vision for what it would evolve into was quickly restored.
Stay tuned as I chronicle the evolution of my latest toy and seasonal daily driver.
Coming up in future parts; The vision for the Bel Air, a quick & dirty hack job seat recovering, power disc brakes, conversion to stick, drive train swap, stance and suspension, etc.
PS – We are on the lookout for other builds and cars to feature. If you have a story and some pictures, feel free to reach out. (dvisaggi@RubberHitsTheRoad.INFO)
Engine: 283 ci small block Chevy, 2 barrel carb, tiny diameter single exhaust.
Trans: Chevy Powerglide
Suspension: stock – soft, worn, and low.
Brakes: sloppy manual drums
Exterior: basically straight with an amateur repaint job that was cracking an peeling. Also had some bad rust repair in the front fenders.
Pin hole rust in the trunk floor from a leaky window. Some rust holes in the floor too.
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