1962 Chevrolet Bel Air… My First Car

When I was 16, I didn’t have a lot of money. I was still in high school and I had a part time job. I wanted a car really bad. My friend’s dad had a busted up old 4 door 1962 Chevrolet Bel Air that was just sitting down in the woods behind their house. It wasn’t very easy on the eyes, and the back window was missing. His dad said I could have it for $100. That was the day that changed my life forever.

I saved up for a couple of weeks then went and laid down that $100 like I was a big shot car buyer. The car started and was even drivable, but his father insisted that he drive it back over to my house because the brakes were somewhat shoddy. He parked it over to the side of my driveway and left it there.

For the next 3 months, I discovered what car repair was. Luckily older cars like the 1962 Bel Air were very easy to work on. I started with the brakes. I knew a little bit about them from helping one of my neighbors work on his classic 1967 Chevrolet pickup’s brakes. The mechanical system was nearly identical, but I still didn’t understand the system completely. I was very fortunate that another one of my neighbors saw me working on my car and stepped in to help. The brakes were as good as new in no time.

For the most part the rest of the car was in decent shape. The in line 6 cylinder engine ran just fine, except it needed a header gasket. This proved to be very easy to replace, and I gave the old thing some brand new oil. I still remember the clicking noises that the camshaft made on the sticking valves.

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This car was a 3-speed manual transmission on the steering column. It took me a little while to get used to that. I learned how to drive using my mom’s 1984 Chevrolet Cavalier station wagon. This car was nearly three times the size of it. My friends used to call it the “Land Yacht”. I didn’t care though, it was a very unique car.

After I got all the mechanical work done, I started looking at the appearance of the vehicle. The original color was gold, but it was now dulled by decades of sunlight and non-maintenance and with plenty of rust spots. There were no holes it was mostly superficial corrosion so it was easy to sand out. There were some large dents that I got out by using a rubber hammer. Once I straightened everything out as much as I could, I filled some of the dents with bondo. Then I sanded the entire thing by hand about 3 times over, and spray painted it all primer grey. This made the vehicle look a lot better.

Now I had only one more thing to get to driving my car around town; the back window. One of my friend’s father actually worked in a windshield repair business. He told us that if we found a windshield for it, he would install it properly for free. I looked in the yellow pages for junkyards around the area, and then my plan was to systematically drive to each one and look for a vehicle to yank the back windshield out of. I couldn’t believe my luck when I found it at the very first place I searched. These guys actually had about 5 of the old vehicles in various deteriorating states. I think 2 of them had back windows still in them. My friend and I meticulously took the trim off, then the old dry rotting rubber and the window popped right out. The guy that owned the junkyard couldn’t believe we got it out, and he only charged me $20 dollars for it. We then drove back over to my friends father’s house and he put it in just like he said he would.

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Now my car was complete. I had plans to get it repainted, but I never could come up with the money. I wish I had kept that old car. It was fun to drive.