"What big teeth you have, grandmother!" Little Red Riding Hood had no idea what she was getting into. Sleepers are like the predatory wolf wearing grandma's duds, disguised as a benign being. What is it about sleepers that we really like? Is it the ability to sneak around under the radar without raising eyebrows? Or is it the shock produced by whipping high-profile cars at their own game? Whatever the reason, sleepers are just plain cool. Drive one and you'll be noticed by only the most observant. Even the cops ignore you-which in itself should be good enough reason to build one. Ron Lynch's '65 Bel Air fits neatly into the sleeper category, from its unmodified exterior to its 500-plus-inch Rat motor. What big teeth grandma has indeed.
Ron purchased the '65 in the spring of 2001 after answering a classified ad on the internet. The ad stated falsely that the Bel Air had 20,000 original miles. Turns out it had 22,000 miles! The body and interior were so good that they required minimal attention to perfect. Aside from the body side moldings and sill plates, the trim, emblems, grille, and bumpers are as they left the factory. Ron simply polished the stainless and cleaned everything else. He then had the body resprayed at a local body shop in its original hue-black. The interior was bolstered with aftermarket gauges, and the Sony CD player was hidden out of view as the Bel Air is an original radio-delete car. Ron fabricated a shifter to work with the aftermarket manual trans.
Originally equipped with a 230-inch six-banger and a three-speed manual trans (on the tree), Ron gave his Bel Air the heart of a giant in the form of a Gen VI 502-cube big-block Chevy that he had taking up space in the corner of his garage. The slightly used short-block was freshened with new rings, a new hydraulic roller cam, and GMPP aluminum heads and intake, and he topped it off with an 850 Holley. The three-speed just wouldn't cut it in this day and age where five- and six-speed transmissions are the norm, not to mention the fact that it would have been reduced to shrapnel the first time the clutch was dropped, so Ron acquired a Tremec TKO II to back the potent big-block. The 0.83 Overdrive makes cruising a sheer pleasure. A 12-bolt out of a '68 wagon was modified by Currie Enterprises to complete the bulletproof drivetrain, with 3.31 gears backing the grunt of the big Rat.
Ron made sure the exterior screamed stock by avoiding the temptation of aftermarket wheels and other performance indicators. Now that it's done, Ron plans on some serious seat time. Not many will notice him, but he likes it like that.
So, if you're out prowling the streets, beware of this stock-appearing black Bel Air and the hungry wolf hiding underneath.
Car Craft Q&ACar Craft: Ron, were you out looking for a '65 Bel Air?Ron Lynch: Actually I was looking for a '65 through '69 fullsize sedan, but when there was talk about the state reinstating smog requirements on '66-and-newer cars, it narrowed my search.
CC: Did you set out to build a sleeper?RL: Yes, I did. It's amazing, but people don't pay attention to it until I pull up to a stoplight. It looks stock, it sits stock, and I only wish it had the original black license plates so people would think that I'm a leftover from the '60s! I planned the entire project out to the last detail before I even touched it. I built this car exactly as I envisioned it with the steel wheels and the stock ride height. Visually, the only giveaway is the wider rear tire I used.
CC: What do you intend to do with it now that the Bel Air is completed?RL: Drive it and look for another car to build. I really enjoy building cars. It's my hobby. When I finish a car, I have nothing to do.
CC: What are you looking to build next?RL: I don't really know. I guess whatever strikes my fancy. I'll probably build a midsize convertible like a Chevelle, or maybe even a Cutlass or Skylark.
The DetailsCar: '65 Chevy Bel Air
Engine: Chevy 502ci Gen VI
Heads: Aluminum, GMPP oval-port 2.25/1.88 intake/exhaust valves
Induction: GMPP aluminum dual-plane intake, 850-cfm Holley carb
Camshaft: GMPP hydraulic roller, 224/234 degrees duration at 0.050-inch lift, 0.527/0.544-inch lift
Power: 510 hp @ 5,200 rpm, 570 lb-ft @ 4,100 rpm
Transmission: Tremec TKO II five-speed, Centerforce 11-inch clutch
Rearend: Chevrolet 12-bolt, 3.31:1 gears, Currie C-clip eliminator kit, Eaton posi unit, Currie axles
Front Suspension: '68 Impala lower control arms, '70 Impala spindles, PST 111/48-inch sway bar, PST polygraphite bushings, Eaton springs, Delco gas shocks
Rear suspension: Stock, Eaton springs, vintage finned tube shocks, Airlift airbags, GM sway bar, PST polygraphite bushings
Brakes: '69 Caprice discs, front; Ford Explorer discs, rear
Wheels And Tires: 15x7 GM Rally wheels with BFGoodrich P225/70R15 Radial TAs fronts; 15x8 GM Rally wheels with BFGoodrich P275/60R15 Radial TAs, rear
Body Mods: Stock with all factory trim
Paint: Black DuPont Croma One, by Hanson's Auto Craft, La Habra, CA
Best e.t.: Never raced
Cost To Build: $26,578.28