Produced from 1949 to 1980, the Chevrolet Bel Air has spawned eight different generations. However, it’s the second-gen version that takes all the glory nowadays. I’m obviously talking about the Tri-Five series, which rolled out of Flint, Michigan, from 1954 to 1957. But as much as I love the Tri-Five series Bel Air, I think that the sixth-gen model deserves just as much attention.
Introduced in 1965, the sixth-gen version marked the Bel Air’s entry into the muscle car scene. Yes, Chevy had offered big V8s on the Bel Air before, but the late 1960s saw the introduction of the fire-breathing 427-cubic-inch (7.0-liter) big block. 1969 was a particularly good year, as the 427 pumped as much as 425 horsepower to the rear wheels.
Chevrolet built more than one million sixth-generation Bel Airs from 1965 to 1970, so this full-size is far from rare. But many of them have been left to rot away in barns and junkyards, so finding one in pristine condition is quite the challenge. The best option is to source one in fair condition and restore it.
If you feel adventurous, you can also pull an abandoned unit from a barn and get it running again. That’s exactly what the folks over at IowaClassicCars did when they stumbled across a 1969 Bel Air that’s been sitting for more than a decade.
Granted, a decade off the road isn’t all that much for a classic, but this Bel Air appears to have been stored rather poorly after a lifetime of abuse. Not only it’s covered in dust and bird poop, but both the body and the frame show a lot of rust. What’s more, the car has been repainted at some point with… wait for it… a roller!
Finally in the right hands, the Bel Air gets a proper clean-up and a good inspection under the hood. Speaking of which, don’t get too excited about seeing a big-block V8 because this Chevy is a base model fitted with an inline-six mill. However, the 250-cubic-inch (4.1-liter) six-cylinder that came with these cars in 1969 was quite potent at 235 pound-feet of twist. Sure, the six-banger delivers only 155 horses, but it’s nothing to sneeze at.
Not surprisingly, the engine is in bad shape and needs all sorts of new components to run like in the good old days. But it eventually agrees to fire up, which means there’s hope that this Bel Air can be saved from spending the rest of its life in a junkyard.
This thing has “rat rod” and “LS swap” written all over it and I hope it gets the treatment it deserves.