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409 Bubble Top: 1962 Chevrolet Bel Air

The full-size Chevies were redesigned in 1961 after two years of sporting batwings at the rear. The result was refined beauty that was further developed with the 1962 models, which are some of my favorites. One of the special cars from those two years was the ”bubble top,” a sport coupe with very thin rear pillars. In ’61, it was an Impala exclusive, while in ’62 it was moved to the Biscayne and Bel Air models to offer a dressy, sporty machine in a practical car. This 1962 Bel Air is one of those bubble tops with a transplanted 409 V-8, but the car sadly looks to be held together by rust. Fortunately, it comes with a plethora of replacement sheet metal and can be found in Forest Hill, Maryland. There has been no action at the starting bid of $9,500 here on eBay and the whole package can be secured for the Buy It Now price of $13,500.

New head designer Bill Mitchell was responsible for the design of the 1961-62 full-size Chevrolets, and thus the bubble top was his baby. While the Impala got a formal roof in 1962 for its 2-door hardtops, the bubble top was relegated to the other two series. When combined with a 409 cubic inch V-8 capable of one horsepower per cubic inch, pre-muscle car magic was born (BTW, the sport coupe was lighter than the hardtop). It was a “minimalist performance machine in classic sleeper tradition”.

We’re guessing the seller of this 1962 Bel Air bought the car, the replacement sheet metal and rolling chassis that goes with it as a project to undertake. But it has turned into one that has tested his limitations, so it must move on to someone who has the vision and skills to take it to completion. This Bel Air started out life with a 283 under the hood and – at some point – a 409 from a 1963 Chevy found its way there, but with “only” 340 hp as the claimed output (still not shabby). The car runs and drives, but its stopping power is limited by bad brakes. It’s an original floor shift car and we assume a 4-speed manual has replaced a 3-speed that would have been partnered with the original 283.

Much the sheet metal has been feasted upon by the dreaded tin worm and the frame is shot from sitting in out a field. So, the car will come with a bunch of new or replacement stuff to rectify that matter. This would include fenders, doors, trunk lid, and a one-piece floor system with supports. Since the frame is a goner, the seller has secured one from a 1963 409 car to use as a replacement. The side trim pieces are in decent shape but will need some re-anodizing. This is not a project for the faint-hearted and I’m not certain that every metal part you would need is there.

But the good news keeps coming. Since the interior is a washout as well, the buyer will also get boxes containing brand new materials in red, such as carpeting, door panels, seat covers, headliner, visors, the works. Photos are not provided of those pieces as the seller was afraid he’d get it all unpacked and it wouldn’t go back in the cartons. That would only leave the dashboard and steering wheel to attend to, which don’t look bad. When you’re pulling the whole car apart, a check of the wiring system is advised as the seller believes only a few of the lights work.

The seller’s Bel Air Sport Coupe is one of 5,950 made. So given the likely survival rate, there can’t be many of these left, especially with a 409, transplant or not. Hargerty suggests the resale value on these cars from Fair to Concours is $15,000 to $34,000, and the bubble tops and 409’s have got to be much higher. There is one currently on Hemmings that is going for close to $100k, but it’s a beast. Given that most of what may be needed to restore this car comes with the car, what do you think it will take to finish the job?


  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    Don’t even want to think about how much money it will take but if the time it took to build and weld in this front section of the rocker panel on our race car build is any indication maybe we could finish this car by 2029.

    Like 7
    • Phlathead Phil

      Looks like someone forgot to “de-bur” the drilled holes?

      Things fit tighter when de-burred.

      Like 1
  2. Steve R

    This is one of the most beautiful cars GM ever built, too bad it’s so rusty. It’s smarter to keep looking and start with a better example, they exist and will save time and money over the long run.

    Steve R

    Like 16
  3. Gone baby Gone Luv is Gone

    Crusty NOM car is shot from frame to interior to body panels.

    Pull the engine and sit it back in the field to become one with the earth please.

    Like 10
  4. Joegt3cup

    I hate the term bubble top their I said it!


    Like 7
    • Steve Clinton

      Also the term ‘flat top’.

      Like 2
  5. Steve Clinton

    I won’t be surprised if this rust bucket Bel Air even gets an opening bid unless someone gets the auction virus.

    Like 3
    • Steve Clinton

      * Doesn’t get…

      Like 1
    • Phlathead Phil

      * I wouldn’t be surprised.

  6. Mike Ford

    Approaching 70 I would never consider it as I might no longer be able to drive when it was finished. Anything I buy now must be a rolling restoration but then my 17 y.o. daily drive Jaguar is just about one. 0ne good point is the interior is immaculate. Sadly a number of panels have been quite badly damaged by bad drivers in car parks. Besides being bad drivers they are gutless individuals for not owning up to their error and driving off! Rant over!

    Like 4
  7. david

    Only 4 speed came on the floor in the large cars.

    Like 7
  8. Dave

    I don’t know…for the price you’re sure getting a lot of replacement parts new in boxes. Send the drivetrain out to the motor spa (I love watching the fast motion rebuilds on YouTube!), break out the new welder you bought at harbor freight, and build yourself a car. There were local legends about new old car bodies rolling out of the Fisher Body plant…on the overnight shift, of course.

    Like 6
  9. Rick M

    1961 also offered Belair in 2dr hard top I had one in 1971.

    Like 3
  10. Kenneth Carney

    She’s real fine my 409. She’s real fine my
    409. My 409… Had a really ratty looking ’64 ragtop that I’d bought from an uncle in ’70 or ’71 and like this car, it
    was a real rust bucket. But under the hood there sat a really stout 409 with
    dual quads FROM THE FACTORY! That old car may have looked like hell, but man would it run! Burn-outs? Wind it up
    and lay rubber for 2 city blocks! Only reason I didn’t keep it was the fact that
    the body and frame were almost too far
    gone to save. Wound up pulling the
    running gear and scrapping the rest of it.
    The running gear found its way into a ’65
    Impala SS my BIL was building at the time. We painted that with 2 cases of
    dark turquoise spray paint we got at the
    auto parts store. Looked good enough
    for him to sell for a huge profit though.
    Oh the things you do when you’re 17!

    Like 9
  11. Maestro1 Member

    It was a wonderful design, my suggestion would be to find one in better shape. However; if you are willing tot take this on, be sure to own it for a while and enjoy it; the car will have strong upside value even as we go electric.

    Like 5
  12. Bobby Member

    No Biscayne bubble tops in 1962. Belair exclusive. Thanks for your outstanding efforts Mr. Dixon. I know you don’t get paid much. I wouldn’t spend a lot of time on research either.

    Like 1
  13. K. R. V.

    I personally never liked the bubble tops on anything but the early Corvairs. Otherwise they looked to fragile an deadly in a rollover. My actual favorite, of which I owned a beauty, was the 62, (best year ever of the mid 60’s Chevy), especially what was called the Hardtop Convertible Sport Coupe, that was steel, that had the fold lines a convertible top had when up, that had the same trim around the tops of the doors going around the base of the roof under the rear window! The other type of roof had the Pilar post with frames around the windows in the doors. That were on all wagons an Biscayne sedans. Mine was a SS, in white with beautiful red bucket seats and interior, with a 409/4 brl and lowly but indestructible PowerGlide.

    Like 2
  14. Jerry kisch

    He is correct I own a 61 bel air bubble top came with a 348 3×2 replaced with 409 2×4 in 1970 still own and drive

  15. Wayne

    Ok guys, please correct me if I’m wrong. Or my old brain has taken a vacation. But I’m pretty sure that Pontiac had the same rear glass treatment in 1961 and 1962. Someone can verify by visiting Bill’s Backyard Classics in Amarillo Texas. Bill is an old Pontiac freak and I believe there is at least 3 there with factory 4 speeds. I do like the Chevys. But I like the Pontiacs even more.

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