BODACIOUS BEL AIR

Git-r-done on an over-the-top bub­ble­top

Chevy High Performance - - Contents - TEXT & PHO­TOS: Steve Tem­ple

While the Beach Boys crooned about a “re­ally fine ... 409,” how about a to­tally re­fined 409? That’s the lyric of this Bel Air bub­ble­top owned by James and Sandy Eudy. Its fuel-in­jected mill is thor­oughly mod­ern­ized, boast­ing 484 cubes and 557 fe­ro­cious horses. Not only that, it has an ar­ray of other su­perb up­grades.

Be­fore cov­er­ing the re­mark­able crafts­man­ship that went into the car, here’s some back­ground. In

1961, the Turbo-Fire 409 bub­ble­top (so named for its abun­dance of win­dow glass) launched the era of mus­cle cars. Be­fore there was ever a Chev­elle, Mus­tang, or Charger, be­fore the 454 LS6, 427 FE, or 426 Hemi ever thun­dered down the streets of Amer­ica, at the front lines was a new 409 big-block V-8. This en­gine would in­sti­gate a horse­power war among the Big Three auto man­u­fac­tur­ers last­ing well into the 1970s.

Ini­tially putting out only 360 horses (and fit­tingly, 409 lb-ft of torque), the 409 of­fered 19 more cubes than Ford’s then-new 390ci en­gine. This big­ger dis­place­ment in­spired the Beach Boys tune noted above, but the siren song of horse­power would soon get a whole lot louder.

Orig­i­nally, the 409 was sup­posed to be sim­ply a stroked and punched-out 348 Type W truck en­gine but ended up hav­ing a num­ber of dif­fer­ences. The 409’s crank re­quired heav­ier coun­ter­weights, and its shorter con­nect­ing rods had more an­gu­lar­ity and thus ex­tra side-thrust on the pis­tons. Due in part to this ad­di­tional stress load­ing, the 409 had forged alu­minum slugs, al­low­ing it to rev big time, top­ping out at 6,200 rpm. The higher spin rate re­quired beefier valvesprings for bet­ter seat­ing, and the cam was hot­ter as well.

As for carbs, in 1961, the 409 had a thirsty four-bar­rel Carter, but in the fol­low­ing year had dual four­bar­rel Carters. It also re­ceived some sig­nif­i­cant up­grades in the form of a re­cast block and im­proved heads with larger valves, plus a bet­ter in­take and higher com­pres­sion ra­tio. The 409 soon blasted out 409 horses, and in 1963 would hit a peak of 425 horse­power.

Which leads us to the Eudy’s bub­ble­top, built by Neil Lea of

Rods and Restos (Cen­tre, Alabama), from a con­cept draw­ing penned by Eric Brock­meyer. As noted at the out­set, this resto­mod’s en­gine of­fers a quan­tum leap in both dis­place­ment and out­put, cour­tesy of La­mar Walden Au­to­mo­tive (LWA).

Fit­ted to the en­gine’s cus­tom in­take is a batch-fire EFI sys­tem from FAST with a 90mm throt­tle body. Neil likens the sys­tem to the Corvette LT1’s. While not as so­phis­ti­cated as a se­quen­tial setup, it gets the job done.

Fit­tingly, Neil has a “git-r-done” ap­proach to build­ing rods and

cus­toms (his Alabama twang sounds re­mark­ably close to Larry the Ca­ble Guy’s). When the en­gine ar­rived at his shop he re­placed the wa­ter neck by fab­bing up an alu­minum-plate wa­ter box at the front, stud­ded with air­craft-style riv­ets, and he mounted the ther­mo­stat to the side. He also in­stalled reser­voirs for the wa­ter and power steer­ing with “float­ing” (blind) fas­ten­ers.

“It’s amaz­ing what you can fig­ure out when you have to,” he notes.

When Neil came across the car ini­tially, it was par­tially re­stored but still in a mil­lion pieces, with the doors off and no driv­e­train. He dis­posed of the spindly fac­tory frame, a sim­ple X-mem­ber with the door­sills serv­ing as braces. “It’s ter­ri­ble,” he points out, re­fer­ring to the chas­sis flex. While watch­ing an­other 409 bub­ble­top twist on the dragstrip, he was sur­prised that the win­dows didn’t pop out.

For im­proved rigid­ity, he re­placed the bendy X-frame with an Art Mor­ri­son chas­sis, length­ened two inches. “Like a Funny Car,” he notes, as he’s al­ways ad­mired that style and used it on a num­ber of pro­ject cars.

The sus­pen­sion pieces are tubu­lar Mus­tang-style at the front, and a Ford 9-inch in the rear. Baer six-piston disc brakes pro­vide mod­ern stop­ping power. An­other Funny

Car in­spi­ra­tion is seen in the 2-inch mini-tubs that al­low for deep-dish Forge­line wheels, mea­sur­ing 20x10 with 4-inch backspac­ing.

Af­ter us­ing fit­ment rims on hand to de­ter­mine the look and stance of the car, he then chan­neled the body, cre­at­ing a 6-inch lip for the wheel­wells. He cut and light­ened up the rock­ers, us­ing new floor­pans to hold the body to­gether. He also elim­i­nated the pinch welds. “I hate them,” he gripes. “So I smoothed them out.”

How much did he lower the ride?

“As much as it needs,” he quips, based on his years of ex­pe­ri­ence. “The stance is the most im­por­tant thing,” he adds. “If it doesn’t catch your eye from across the fair­grounds, you won’t go to it,” he wisely points out.

The en­gine sits higher as well, in or­der to “get the bay to look full.”

The cus­tom hood hinges were made by Ring­broth­ers.

At the front bumper are wire-mesh “speed grilles” that serve as air in­lets, along with a spoiler. The grilles in the rear bumper look like pres­sure-re­lief ducts but are re­ally just for looks. The bumper also flows un­der­neath into the cus­tom gas tank.

In­side, the dash was re­con­fig­ured by hand with nar­rower pods, but not so much that it “blas­phemed” the GM de­sign. The front seats are from a Lexus, up­hol­stered with dis­tressed or­ange leather and matched in the rear by Paul Atkins.

Step­ping back from the over­all pro­ject, “I tell you right there that the ’62 bub­ble­top is a hand­ful,” Neil ad­mits. “It’s such a big car.” Even so, it wasn’t all that bad, since he still was able to git-r-done! CHP

Bodacious Bel Air

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