Photos & text courtesy of Mecum Auctions
Chevrolet’s 1961 introduction of the 409 CI “W-head” V8 was a game changer in drag racing’s Stock and Super Stock classes. The first 409 Chevys to appear before the public were “Dyno Don” Nicholson’s White Impala Sport Coupe and Frank Sanders’ Red Biscayne 2-door sedan. Both showed up at the 1961 NHRA Winternationals at Pomona, California, using engines delivered directly from the factory. The two waded through the field to face each other in the Super Stock final, with Sanders defeating Nicholson for the title. The following day they faced off again for the Stock Eliminator crown, and Nicholson returned the favor. Word of their dominance spread quickly; soon the 409 was powering a fleet of Bowtie drag racers driven by such stars as Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins, Dave Strickler, Dick Harrell, Ronnie Sox, Hayden Proffitt and for a time even Pontiac ace Arnie Beswick, and by 1962 the 409 was a pop-culture icon.
At first Chevrolet intended to limit 409 production to the Impala, but demand put an end to that plan and 409-powered machines like this 1962 Bel Air “Bubble Top” became a common sight in the nation’s cruising venues and drag strips.
This restored 1962 Bel Air is the quintessential sleeper with its 2x4 carburetors, dual exhaust 409 ci/409 HP big-block coupled with a 4-speed manual transmission and a 4.11:1 Positraction third member. Freshly painted in Roman Red over laser-straight sheet metal and sporting a red interior, it presents exceptionally well and shows great attention to detail. Fans of the breed will appreciate such touchstone features as the column-mounted Sun tachometer, red-painted steelies, dog-dish hubcaps and BF Goodrich Silvertown 8.00-14 blackwall tires.