The bubbletop look is so synonymous with the Impala name, that most people don’t even realize that the Bel Air trim level was also available with the bubbletop body style. While the Impala took over as the top trim level for Chevrolet in 1958, the Bel Air remained in the Chevrolet line-up for years as an upper/mid level car that shared many of its design characteristics with the Impala.
This Bel Air features the iconic Chevrolet bubbletop look that was prevalent in the General Motors lineup across all brands from 1959 to 1962. The top is round, thin, and held up by only narrow strips of nody at the back and around the front windshield. This look, along with the unusual blue interior color, are what attracted Jim to this car. “My main thing that I like about it is the body and the bubbletop,” Jim said. “Whoever designed that really had their stuff together.”
Jim Terhar is a resident of Tacoma, Washington, and he’s been a car guy his entire life. What’s more, he’s always loved the ’62 bubbletop body style. He was cruising the web one day, looking at cars when he came across this one. He immediately knew that it was worth a second look. He found it in Tennessee, at a place called Smoky Mountain Traders.
“I bought it in February of this year,” Jim told us. “So I’ve had it for eight months.” Although he’s had it a short time, we get the impression that this car is not going anywhere. Jim is having some really interesting changes made to the car right now, but we’ll get into that later. “I have always liked ’62 bubbletops and I found a few of them during my search. I gravitated to this one because of the black with blue interior.”
“Most of the black ones have a red interior,” he continued. “It just really caught my eye with that combination.” We agree with Jim’s opinion as well. The blue interior looks absolutely stunning with the black exterior paint. The two colors work well together to create an awesome look. The thing about the blue interior is that it’s darker and calmer than a red color would be. It rounds out the dark look of the car and doesn’t draw too much attention to itself.
“When I first got it home, it had the stock suspension. It just kind of “marshmallowed” down the road and the steering was loose,” Jim explained. “I thought ‘Good god, I can’t drive this thing’. I’m sure it was up to 1962 standards, but I wanted it to be better.” With that came the 14-inch Baer brakes and Ridetech coilover suspension. The ride is now much tighter and more like what Jim had in mind.
The Bel Air came to Jim with a 409 cubic-inch big-block and a Saginaw four-speed transmission, but those also ended up on the chopping block. He has a more modern, more powerful setup in mind. The Bel Air is at J-Rod & Custom right now, getting treated to a new drivetrain. Once completed it’ll have a 525-horsepower LS3 engine, six-speed Tremec manual transmission, and 4.11 geared 9-inch rearend.
“I just wanted something more dependable and with more power. Just more fun. You have to have the fun factor in there,” Jim said. There’s no doubt it’ll be fun with the LS powerplant and six-speed transmission. Going with the modern drivetrain will give him more power, lighter weight, and the computer control technology to get the most out of the power that’s there. We can’t wait to see it again when it’s done.
What are your thoughts on Jim’s Bel Air? Would you keep the classic drivetrain or bring it up to speed with the modern equipment? We love Jim’s car, the bubbletop is unbeatable and it’s cool to see a Bel Air get this treatment.