Classic Car

Restoring a 1964 Chevy Bel Air

History of the 1964 Chevy Bel Air

The Chevy Bel Air was first introduced in 1950 as a premium trim level of Chevrolet’s popular sedans. By 1964, the Bel Air had established itself as an iconic American automobile combining powerful V8 engines with elegant styling cues.

The 1964 Chevy Bel Air came near the end of the model’s second generation, which ran from 1961-1964. This generation of Bel Airs featured cleaner, more angular body lines than previous models and ushered in a new era of Chevrolet style and performance.

Restoring a 1964 Chevy Bel Air

Major Design Changes for 1964

The 1964 Bel Airs saw modest but noteworthy changes over the 1963 models:

  • Revised grille styling with six horizontal bars
  • New body-color insert in the rear cove
  • Upgraded interior trim and fabrics
  • Minor updates to dash, instrument cluster, and control knobs

These changes modernized the look while preserving the proven core styling that made the Bel Air so recognizable.

Notable Innovations Under the Hood

  • Optional 365 and 375-horsepower Turbo-Jet V8 engines
  • Improved 2-speed Powerglide automatic transmission
  • Durable and smooth-riding coil spring rear suspension

These and other innovations bolstered the 1964 Bel Air’s performance credentials in the mid-1960s market.

Restoring a 1964 Chevy Bel Air

The 1964 in NASCAR

The 1964 Bel Air was a force on the NASCAR circuit thanks to its Aerowedge design and potent V8 powerplants. Notable drivers who raced the 1964 model included:

  • Bobby Isaac
  • Tiny Lund
  • Ned Jarrett

Their successes cemented the 1964 Chevy’s performance reputation.

Features and Specifications of the 1964 Chevy Bel Air

The 1964 Chevy Bel Air came well-equipped even in its base models. Upgraded trim lines added further convenience and styling touches.

Standard Equipment and Features

Every 1964 Chevy Bel Air came standard with features like:

Restoring a 1964 Chevy Bel Air

Powertrain

  • Turbo Fire 283 cubic inch V8 engine
  • 2-barrel carburetor
  • Column-shift 3-speed manual transmission
  • Rear-wheel drive

Exterior

  • Steel unibody construction
  • Coil spring front suspension
  • Mono-plate rear leaf springs
  • Steel wheels with hubcaps

Interior Comforts

  • Full carpeting
  • Front bench seating
  • Analog gauges – speedometer, fuel level, temperature, oil pressure
  • AM radio
  • Cigarette lighter
  • Rear ashtray
  • Dual sun visors
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Restoring a 1964 Chevy Bel Air

Safety

  • Seatbelts
  • Padded dash
  • Backup lights
  • Windshield washers

Popular Options and Upgrades

Optional equipment and package upgrades were plentiful for 1964 Bel Airs, including:

  • Air conditioning
  • Power steering
  • Tinted glass
  • Whitewall tires
  • Power brakes
  • Power windows
  • Automatic transmission
  • Stereo radio
  • Bucket seats

These let buyers customize their perfect Bel Air to suit preferences and budget.

Restoring a 1964 Chevy Bel Air

Engine Choices

A range of engine options gave buyers flexibility:

  • 235 HP Turbo Fire 283 V8 (base)
  • 250 HP Turbo Fire 327 V8
  • 300 HP Turbo Fire 409 V8
  • 375 HP Turbo-Jet 427 V8 (most powerful 1964 option)

Popular Models of the 1964 Chevy Bel Air

Chevrolet made the Bel Air model available across several body styles with unique appeal:

Hardtop Coupe

The sleek, pillarless design provided a modern, elegant look. Spacious front bench seating and roomy rear made this a comfortable cruiser.

Sport Sedan

This economical 4-door with slim roof pillars maxed out rear seat and trunk room. A perfect stylish family car.

Sport Coupe

A notch above base trim, the Sport Coupe added exterior trim and upgraded interior fabrics for eye-catching flair.

Restoring a 1964 Chevy Bel Air

Convertible

For open-air thrill seekers, the Convertible model folded its power-operated top down in seconds. Available across trim lines for maximum choice.

Restoration Tips for the 1964 Chevy Bel Air

Properly restoring a 1964 Chevy Bel Air requires research, expertise, patience, and often considerable expense. But for many hobbyists, bringing one of these classics back to original factory condition makes the effort intensely rewarding.

Planning the Restoration Scope

Determine how thoroughly you plan to restore and realistic budget, choosing from options like:

Exterior Body Work

  • Repair body panels and straighten/align as needed
  • Prime, seal, paint in original color

Chrome and Trim

  • Recondition or replace bumpers, mirrors, grilles, emblems
  • Ensure proper fit and alignment

Restoring a 1964 Chevy Bel Air

Mechanical Systems

  • Engine overhaul or replacement
  • Transmission rebuild or swap
  • Suspension, steering, and brake refresh

Interior Refurbishment

  • Replace worn upholstery and carpet
  • Upgrade sound insulation for comfort
  • Restore gauges and electrics to working order

Aftermarket Accessories/Upgrades

  • Audio/electronics upgrades -HID headlight conversion
  • High-performance ignition coils

Aim for factory-accurate restoration or customize to your tastes – either works!

Finding the Right Restoration Parts

Crucial sources for restoration parts include:

  • Wrecking yards – salvage usable parts from other Bel Airs
  • Online specialty retailers – companies like NPD, Year One, and Classic Industries
  • Enthusiast forums/groups – connect with owners selling vintage spares and memorabilia
  • Club events/swap meets – source elusive parts in-person from collectors and restorers

Shop around between sources for best prices and hard-to-find components. Don’t compromise quality for cost savings alone.

Restoring a 1964 Chevy Bel Air

Top Restoration Challenges

Some especially tricky aspects of Bel Air restorations include:

Rust Repair

  • Rocker panels, rear arches/quarter panels often corrode
  • Cutting out and welding new steel is extremely challenging

Interiors

  • Hard-to-match upholstery patterns and graining
  • Faded plastic and chrome trims

Mechanicals

  • Rebuilding dated carburetors and ignition systems
  • Finding reliable replacement brake/suspension components

Patience and specialist help is key to overcoming these hurdles properly.

Restoring a 1964 Chevy Bel Air

Maintenance Guide for the 1964 Chevy Bel Air

Once your 1964 Chevy Bel Air restoration is complete, proper maintenance is crucial to preservation. Implement a schedule of regular upkeep tasks like:

Fluids

  • Engine oil – change every 3,000 miles or 6 months
  • Coolant – flush/refill every 2 years
  • Transmission fluid – check level monthly, change every 25,000 miles
  • Brake fluid – flush every 2 years

Filters

  • Air filter – inspect every 6 months, replace as needed
  • Oil filter – replace at every oil change
  • Fuel filter – replace every 20,000 miles
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Battery

  • Inspect terminals/cables monthly
  • Load test annually, replace as needed every 4-5 years

Interior Care

  • Apply conditioner to upholstery 3-4 times per year
  • Use mild soap for carpets/vinyl every 6 months
  • Clean gauges and chrome with gentle cleaner only

Restoring a 1964 Chevy Bel Air

Treat sealants, waxes, and protectants can be applied to preserve exterior finishes. But use these sparingly/cautiously to avoid damage or discoloration.

Performance Upgrades for the 1964 Chevy Bel Air

One alluring aspect of classic Bel Air ownership is modifying and upgrading performance. Potential improvements span mild to wild:

Bolt-On Enhancements

Minor mods like front sway bars, traction bars, and upgraded mufflers give noticeable gains quickly without drastic changes.

Engine Swaps

Dropping a later-model V8 like an LS or even a modern LT crate engine delivers major power increases. But this requires custom engine mount and transmission adapters.

Forced Induction

Adding a turbocharger, supercharger, or nitrous oxide injection introduces much more air into the engine – yielding outputs exceeding 1,000 horsepower!

Restoring a 1964 Chevy Bel Air

Suspension/Brakes

Lowering kits and stiffer shocks/springs sharpen handling dynamics appreciably. Big brake kits enhance stopping power.

Transmission Builds

Beefed up automatic gearboxes or five/six-speed manual swaps put all that muscle to the pavement efficiently.

Just note legality, safety implications, and potential resale value impacts when modifying a classic Bel Air. Subtle improvements are often smarter than extreme performance gains.

Comparison with Other Classic Cars from 1964

The 1964 model year produced several landmark American automobiles sharing the Bel Air’s charms. How does Chevy’s flagship measure up?

Restoring a 1964 Chevy Bel Air

1964 Ford Galaxie

  • More affordable base pricing than Bel Air
  • Great styling fronted by stacked quad headlights
  • Handling and braking not on par with Chevy

1964 Pontiac GTO

  • Considered founding muscle car with 325HP V8 option
  • Extremely quick in a straight line
  • Less emphasis on luxury than Bel Air

1964 Ford Thunderbird

  • Iconic squared-off styling this generation
  • More powerful engine options than Bel Air
  • Far higher pricing limits appeal

1964 Buick Riviera

  • Stunning fastback coupe profile still turns heads
  • More focus on comfort and technology
  • Buick’s premium brand image apparent throughout

The Bel Air strikes an appealing balance – more refined than stripped-down muscle cars but sportier than broughamy sedans. This versatility is central to its lasting popularity.

Buying Guide for a 1964 Chevy Bel Air

Seeking out a 1964 Chevy Bel Air to purchase for restoration or collection is an exciting endeavor. But approach any potential deal cautiously using these tips:

Research Common Issues

Arm yourself on known trouble areas – rusted rear arches, shot front suspensions, leaky transmissions – to sniff out during inspection.

Assess Restoration Needs

Evaluate all mechanical, electrical, interior, and body restoration needs objectively. Will the car be a mild freshen-up or full frame-off rebuild?

Consider Provenance

Documented owner history, service records, and original components suggest a sound example less likely to harbor surprises later.

Restoring a 1964 Chevy Bel Air

Explore Financing Options

Secure funding from savings, loans, or equity from other vehicles. Never overextend your budget just to clinch a deal.

Engage Professional Appraisal

An expert pre-purchase inspection detailing condition assessments and value estimates protects against overpaying. Budget $250+ for this prudence.

Negotiate Fairly But Firmly

Make valid offers backed by appraisal data and your restoration cost estimates. But expect superb survivors to still command premiums.

Not every 1964 Bel Air makes financial or practical sense to purchase. But due diligence helps find one suiting your restoration plans and budget realities.

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Famous Owners of the 1964 Chevy Bel Air

The 1964 Chevy Bel Air’s handsome styling, ample performance, and American heritage understandably attracted many celebrity owners. Famous pilots of this auto icon included:

Restoring a 1964 Chevy Bel Air

James Garner

Legendary TV and movie star purchased a 1964 Bel Air convertible in 1970 during filming of “The Racing Scene”. Garner enjoyed the drop-top Bel Air well into the 1990s.

Eric Bana

Hollywood leading man and genuine gearhead Eric Bana rescued a ’64 Bel Air two-door from an Australian wrecking yard according to published reports. After full restoration, he frequently drives the bright red Chevy at events.

Sergio Barreto

This innovative Brazilian mechanic fabricated his own 1964 Bel Air convertible by sawing a hardtop in half and inserting panels to create a Frankensteined drop-top. Barreto’s ingenuity demonstrates the model’s customization potential and enduring cachet.

Carroll Shelby

The legendary racer/entrepreneur reportedly once use a 1964 Bel Air to discreetly transport Cobra roadster chassis to his facility for completion. If true, this qualifies as an impressive hauler assignment from an automotive luminary.

Restoring a 1964 Chevy Bel Air

Brandon Lee

According to insider accounts, Bruce Lee’s son daily drove a 1964 Bel Air around Los Angeles until his untimely death in 1993. Brandon clearly shared his father’s appreciation for American iron.

Future Value and Collectibility of the 1964 Chevy Bel Air

For over 60 years, the Chevrolet Bel Air has maintained strong standing among collectors, customizers, and general enthusiasts attracted to its style, performance, and history.

And with the 1964 model year marking the end of the attractive second generation, excellent examples only gain value as their numbers dwindle.

Key Factors for Collectibility:

  • One year only distinctive styling – 1964 saw one-year-only frontal styling that separates these cars from earlier and later Bel Airs.
  • End of iconic design era – 1965 welcomed all-new styling that changed the Bel Air’s essence appreciably. The 1964s represent the last of their sleek kind.
  • Big-block performance credentials – Top 1964 engines like the 409 and 427 V8s make these cars prime 1950s/60s American muscle.

Future Outlook?

Expect top-condition low-mileage 1964 Bel Airs to reach well past $100K very soon, following the trajectory of other collector-grade 1950s/60s American classics in recent years.

Even base V8 cars with average condition should stabilize around $30K based on current value trends. And that still makes for an accessible slice of Chevy history.

Restoring a 1964 Chevy Bel Air

Just don’t expect less desirable four-cylinder models or rust-ravaged projects to realize such strong appreciation. Focus only on the V8 survivors to find blue-chip classics of the future.

The 1964 Chevy Bel Air secured iconic status thanks to timeless style, ample V8 performance, and ample charisma. For collectors and enthusiasts alike, these attributes promise to keep this model cherished for decades yet to come.

Conclusion

More than just another classic car, the 1964 Chevy Bel Air epitomizes the confidence, craftsmanship, and flair that defined General Motors and America itself during the prosperous postwar boom.

Restoring one of these chrome-laden cruisers maybe challenging. But resuscitating any barn-found Bel Air to its former V8-powered glory promises endless pride and enjoyment behind the wheel of an enduring automotive legend.

Restoring a 1964 Chevy Bel Air

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