With a mix of sharp creases, round edges, and a big bubbletop, the lines of the ’61 Bel Ai
While his grandpa’s Bel Air was long gone, Jeff found a perfect restoration candidate sitting in a West Texas field. “The owner bought the car in the early ’90s, but never got around to restoring it. He included a 409 big-block out of a ’62 Impala that was sitting in a dirt floor barn that was about to fall over,” he says. Once back at the shop, Jeff’s brother, Tom, replaced the car’s quarter-panels, trunk lid, and rockers, which wrapped up the bulk of the sheetmetal work. Jeff then rolled it into the paint booth and sprayed it in PPG Jet Black.
A drag racer at heart, Jeff regularly runs his 8-second Ford Anglia Super Gasser down track. Although he briefly considered ditching the 409 for something more modern, he decided to keep it for nostalgia’s sake. “The more I thought about building a W-series motor, the more I liked it. I was a big-time drag racing fan growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, and I vividly remembered Lamar Walden racing with 409s in Super Stock.” Fortunately, the recent development of aftermarket parts for the W-series big-block Chevy means that it needn’t sacrifice tons of power to its Mark IV successor anymore. To put the old-school lump together, Jeff enlisted the services of the man himself, Lamar Walden. Taking advantage of the similarities in architecture between the first- and second-generation of Chevy big-blocks, Walden turned the main journals of a stock 454 crank down from 2.750 to 2.500 inches and installed it in the 409 block. This effectively increased the stroke from 3.500 to 4.000 inches. Matched with stock 454 rods and an enlarged 4.375-inch bore, the cubic inch total jumped to 482. To feed all the hungry cubes, the 482 was topped with aluminum heads and a dual-quad intake manifold, both from Edelbrock. With a COMP 254/254-at-.050 hydraulic roller actuating the valves, the combo kicks out an impressive 552 hp.
Dooley and Sons takes great pride in its custom interiors, but Jeff wanted to keep things
With the power now cranked way up, Jeff turned his attention to the chassis. To ensure that the Bel Air would be able to turn and stop as well as it could lay patch, Jeff ordered up boxes of goodies from RideTech and Classic Performance Parts. Rounding out the underpinnings are RideTech control arms, sway bars, air springs, and shocks in the front and rear. CPP disc brakes at each corner provide the whoa, while Intro wheels wrapped in Nitto tires stick it all to the pavement. With the airbags deflated and the wheels tucked tightly into the fenders and quarters, the look is downright sinister. If there’s only one good reason to expand your horizons beyond the ’64-72 norm, this is it.
When it comes down to it, cars are merely machines, and rarely does one car represent so much, but that’s precisely what we have with Jeff Cameron’s Bel Air. It’s a tribute to Dooley and Sons’ 50th anniversary and grandpa Cameron’s original Bel Air—but most importantly—it symbolizes how the Cameron family has managed to transcend every obstacle thrown in their path to peace and happiness. The fact that their story unfolded the way it did is just a reflection of their humble and laid-back approach to life and to building cars. “There are people who do lots of talking without the results to show for it. My grandpa always said what you can do with your hands speaks louder than words,” Jeff says. “That’s the way the Cameron family has always been. We can hold our own with most of the big-name shops out there. We’re just not going to brag about it.” That’s OK, because once the word gets out about Dooley and Sons Rods and Customs, everyone else is going to do the talking for them.
Fitting the enormous 295/25ZR22 rear Nittos required narrowing the stock 10-bolt rearend b