Ride of a Lifetime

Jim Meyer’s 1962 Chevy Bel Air

By Nick Licata – Photography by Grant Cox

Jim Meyer was a retired machinist, but he was also a craftsman who built cars for the love of building cars. He didn’t do it for attention, even though the cars he built over his 50 years in the hobby got plenty of it due to the quality of his work. He made a name for himself in the Wichita, Kansas, area for his prior builds, which included everything from 1955 Chevys to Model T hot rods. He simply liked going to car shows with the family and hanging with his buddies who shared his passion.

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“Growing up we went to every local car show and rod run in the Wichita area,” Jim’s son, Dusty, remembers. “Whatever car he was working on at the time he would enter in the show; those weekends made for great family memories.”

Although Jim died in 2019, he left behind a legacy of great builds, including this 1962 Bel Air. Finished in 2016, this 1962 Chevy was his final build. It represents the ride of a lifetime—a lifetime of knowledge, experience, craftsmanship, detail, and, most importantly, passion.

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“The car had never been entered into a show until after he died,” Dusty states. “I’m not sure he would have even entered the car in a show, but I decided to enter it in the Cars for Charity show here in Wichita, and it won Best Chevy, Favorite Vendor Award, and was nominated for the Magnificent 7.”

Power comes by way of a stock LS1, as Jim’s idea for the portly Chevy was to keep it chill—just a mild street cruiser. Again, he built cars for himself, not for outside approval, yet the smoothed firewall and extremely sanitary engine room would suggest otherwise. The custom stainless headers add to the attraction and dump onto a 2-inch exhaust baffled by a set of Dynomax mufflers for a sedate yet authoritative rumble.

A factory 4L60E transmission worked over by the crew at The Tranny Shop sends grunt through a two-piece driveshaft spinning 3.73 cogs housed in a 9-inch rearend armed with Moser axles. Yes, the car has three pedals and a floor-mounted shifter, with the shifter ball indicating a four-speed manual transmission exists. Dusty explains, “The simple reason is that my dad just liked the way a manual transmission setup looks, so he made it appear like the car has a four-speed.”

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With presentation and driveability at the forefront, Jim reinforced the notoriously flimsy X-frame chassis and dialed in a RideTech air-ride suspension system to highlight the car’s distinct personality in a static situation or while cruising down the road. That necessitated modification of the front inner fenders to accept the car’s low profile and larger-diameter wheels and tires.

Baer 13-inch rotors front and rear provide excellent stopping power, and the hydraulic assist brake booster ensures easy pedal effort to get the job done.

Keeping the spirit of the car’s vintage muscle car pedigree, Jim chose the timeless look of polished American Racing Torq-Thrust rollers, 18-inch up front and 20-inchers out back, all sealed in BFGoodrich rubber, 225/45R18 and 275/40R20, respectively.

A unique aspect to the Bel Air is that all the car’s trim is factory. Jim liked to work with his hands. He preferred the idea of shaping, manipulating, and straightening the bits from this and donor cars instead of hitting up the aftermarket for non-original parts. It’s this attention to detail that typically goes unnoticed, but Jim wanted it done right.

The interior is a welcomed step back in time as the original steering wheel was used, only cut down to a smaller diameter for functionality, and the factory dash was painted and populated with the original-style dials. A vintage Sun tach looks the part perched on the side of the steering column. The Vintage Air A/C system provides modern climate control while not to interfere with the interior’s classic scene. John Bedford and Zack Noel at Downy’s Auto Upholstery preserved the factory seats and door panels using black leather to keep the car’s original theme in check.

The compelling feature of the car is the precise bodywork performed by Butch Dysart and the immaculate paintjob laid down by Lonnie Baxa. The BMW metallic Burnt Orange hue commands attention and the white top gives the massive Bel Air an exclusive vibe all its own.

“When I look at this car, I see my dad’s stellar craftsmanship and precise attention to detail,” Dusty says. “It took him seven years from start to finish, but that time indicated his love for the hobby and it absolutely shines through in his final build.”

Yes, Dusty, it does. We are honored to show off his efforts in the pages of All Chevy Performance magazine.


Owner: Jim Meyer
Wichita, KS
Vehicle: 1962 Chevy Bel Air

Type: LS1
Displacement: 346 ci
Compression Ratio: 10.25:1
Bore: 3.89 inches
Stroke: 3.622 inches
Cylinder Heads: Aluminum, Cathedral port, 2.00/1.55 stainless steel valves, 67cc combustion chambers
Rotating Assembly: Cast-iron crankshaft, powdered metal I-beam connecting rods, flat-top hypereutectic aluminum pistons, six-bolt main caps
Valvetrain: 1.7:1 roller rockers, 7.385-inch pushrod length; hydraulic roller lifters, beehive valve springs, 2.000-inch intake valve, 1.550 exhaust valve
Camshaft: Chevrolet Performance hydraulic 0.0500/0.0500-inch lift, 196/208 deg. duration at 0.050
Induction: Stock LS1, 78mm throttle body, 27.3-pound injectors, Spectre HPR air filter
Exhaust: Custom stainless steel 1.5-inch headers, 2-inch exhaust, Dynomax mufflers
Output (at crank): 350 hp, 365 lb-ft

Transmission: GM 4L60E by The Tranny Shop (Wichita, KS)
Rear Axle: 9-inch, limited-slip differential, 3.73:1 ratio, Moser axles

Front Suspension: RideTech air-ride suspension system
Rear Suspension: RideTech air-ride suspension system
Brakes: Baer 13-inch rotors, four-piston calipers (front); Baer 13-inch rotors, four-piston calipers, hydraulic assist brake booster (rear)

Wheels & Tires
Wheels: American Racing Torq-Thrust, 18×8 front, 20×10 rear
Tires: Toyo 225/45R18 front, 275/40R20 rear

Upholstery: John Belford and Zack Noel at Downy’s Auto Upholstery (Wichita)
Material: Leather
Seats: Factory refurbished
Steering Wheel: Factory with reduced diameter
Shifter: Faux Hurst
Dash: Factory, refurbished
Instrumentation: Factory refurbished, Sun tach
Wiring: Painless Performance Products by Belford Electric (Wichita)
Audio: N/A
HVAC: Vintage Air

Bodywork: Butch Dysart (Wichita)
Paint By: Lonnie Baxa (Wichita)
Paint: BMW Burnt Orange Metallic
Hood: Factory, reinforced
Grille: Factory
Bumpers: Factory

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