Home-Built Hero: Rick Cotton’s ’62 Bel Air Sleeper

Smooth as glass is the best way to describe this black 1962 Bel Air bubbletop that belongs to Rick Cotton of Renton, Washington. He’s been the curator of this hot rod for more than three decades. Rick bought the car 35 years ago, but when he dragged it home, it was far from the beauty you see here.

The bubbletop Bel Air is a really cool, and an under-appreciated brother to the more popular Impala.

“I was looking for one of these back in the ‘80s. Super Chevy had a 409-powered Bel Air, and I wanted one. I didn’t know at the time they only made 6,900 bubbletop Bel Airs. We found this one in my neighborhood, and the owner at the time was using it to haul firewood,” Rick said.

Could you imagine throwing firewood in the back of a car like this? Some of us that grew up around these cars may actually have done something like that at one time or another!

“It was in poor shape,” Rick said. “From the middle body line down is all new metal, the trunk pans are all new, and it’s only got one original door.” Beyond the laundry list of body repairs that have been done, this original six-cylinder and three-speed manual transmission have been replaced. It’s come a long way to get where it is now.

Rick owned it for 20-years before he started working on it. This car is proof that some of those cars that have been sitting, aren’t for sale, and appear abandoned, really do get fixed up and put back on the road. Rick held onto it, and we’re sure glad that he did!

“I got married, got divorced, got married again, and had a kid,” Rick explained. “Life happened.” That’s what held him back from getting the car finished all those years ago, but when things calmed down, he got to work and got it back on the road. That Turbo-Thrift six was replaced by an impressive 496 cubic-inch powerplant.

Bel Air

This is a little bit better than a Turbo-Thrift straight six.

The engine is built with a hydraulic-roller camshaft, Air Fuel Research heads, and it’s fueled by an 850cfm Holley carburetor. The transmission is a Richmond five-speed, and the rearend is a 9-inch with 3.30 gearing and a Detroit locker. The car also sits on an air ride suspension from Ridetech.

The red interior is something that Rick knew he wanted from the beginning.

“This is like Grandma’s car with different wheels and tires,” Rick said. “You’d never really know the difference without opening the hood. It’s a really fun car.” It’s definitely a nice car that isn’t overdone. Without hearing it run or getting a peak under the hood, you’d hardly know  this was such a high-performance car. It’s definitely a sleeper. We love the look of this bubbletop Bel Air, and the fact that it’s got big-block power lurking under the hood makes it even cooler.

About the author

Kyler Lacey

A 2015 Graduate from Whitworth University, Kyler has always loved cars. He grew up with his dad's '67 Camaro in the garage and started turning wrenches at a young age. At seventeen, he bought his first classic, a '57 Chevy Bel Air four-door, and has since added a '66 Plymouth Valiant and '97 Cadillac Deville to his collection. When he isn't writing for Power Automedia, he's out shooting pictures at car shows, hiking in the forests of the beautiful Pacific Northwest, or working on something in the garage.
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