Dreams, Graduation and No Money – 1963 Bel Air

Contributed by Ecklers, written by Patricia Shafer, photos by Jim Knight

Owners: Warren & Patricia Shafer, Palmetto



Ecklers 63 Bel Air Pic 1

1963 was a good year. Warren and I both graduated from high school in central Illinois. Beautiful cars with big engines were the epitome of having it made. Unfortunately, continuing education took priority for us so owning one of those wild machines would have to wait.  Now that we have our own businesses in Florida, we can afford to fulfill the desires of owning these beautiful cars. Over the years we have owned, restored and sold many beautiful classic cars. Warren wants to collect and keep his favorite cars from the year of our high school graduation.

About 15 years ago, a friend offered us this 1963 Chevrolet Bel Air. At the time we were restoring other cars and declined his offer. In 1998, as Warren was leaving town on a CCI tour he spotted this car again sitting in front of a shop about a mile from our business location in Tampa. He phoned our son, Shawn and instructed him to immediately buy the car and trailer it back to our facility in Tampa.

Ecklers 63 Bel Air Pic 2 The car was built in Atlanta in March of 1963. In 1998 it was a nice, rust-free car; no hidden problems were found. The car was purchased to be a restoration project. Our company, Shafer’s Classic Reproductions, Inc., often purchases good cars to use to manufacture new parts that can be offered for sale in our classic car parts business. We have been reproducing and supplying parts to the classic car industry for over 25 years. These cars often have original equipment parts that can be used for samples. If not, we use the cars to fit parts that we manufacture to insure that our parts are like the original equipment. The cars are restored to either their original condition or in some cases built to be modified cars.

Ecklers 63 Bel Air Pic 3

In this instance, the car was stored for over seven years before the restoration started in 2005. The car was delivered to Chuck Miller Restorations in Piedmont, SC. It was completely disassembled and the paint was stripped off using a soda blasting process. The body was removed from the frame and put on a frame turner to do the body and paint work. We took the frame back to Florida to complete that portion of the restoration in our shop in Tampa. The engine was removed from the frame and transported to Kansas City, KS for a complete rebuild at Day Automotive, Independence, MO by Tony Shaffer (no relation). The engine is an original 409ci dual 4-barrel 425hp version with factory cast iron headers. The block was bored .030” over. A 454ci engine forged steel crank was machined and installed in the block. New 454 heavy duty rods were installed on the crank with 700 gram lightweight pistons. We used the Z11 solid lifter camshaft. Using this modification makes the 409 bottom end much stronger than original. The entire rotating assembly was balanced before installation. Using the 454 crank and rods strokes the engine creating 474 cubic inches with stock bore and approximately 480 cubic inches at .030” over. Day Automotive specializes in rebuilding 348 and 409 engines using the 454 rotating assembly in this modification. Dynamometer tests usually produce horsepower in the range of 490-500. The transmission is the correct date coded 1963 Borg-Warner T-10. A 3.70 Positraction rear end was used. To strengthen the rear end, we used a pair of Dutchman axles. The frame was disassembled, sand blasted and powder coated a semi-gloss black. It was reassembled using new or rebuilt parts. We installed a 304 stainless steel exhaust system and stainless steel gas and brake lines. The interior was manufactured by CARS, Inc. from Michigan using NOS seat material. The car had a heater and the radio delete option. All the aluminum trim on the outside is NOS. The car is painted Ember Red, the non-metallic original factory color. From beginning to completion, the restoration took about a year. The first and only showing was at the Eckler’s/GM show in Detroit in August, 2007. The car got voted “Best of Show” in the 1958-64 class.

Ecklers 63 Bel Air Pic 4

This project was a family affair since our son Shawn assisted in rebuilding the car as well as purchasing it initially when we were out of town. Shawn owns two classics and wants to restore a First Generation Camaro in the near future. He also is the Vice President of our businesses.  This 1963 is one of many classic cars that we have restored and we’re sure there will be many more to follow. Our interest in classic cars has endured since before we turned sixteen years of age.

We currently own the following restored cars:

1973 Corvette with a 454ci engine, loaded

(my passion is Corvettes. In addition I own a C5 convertible).

1966 Chevrolet Caprice with a 396ci engine, loaded (owned by Shawn, a college graduation gift from us).

1929 Ford Model A street rod, originally purchased new by Warren’s great grandfather.

Under construction is a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air 2-door hardtop. This car will have a 350ci Tri-Power engine with a 700R4 transmission, power steering, power brakes, power windows, air conditioning, navigation system, XM radio and will be a “period restoration” car. We eventually want to acquire a 1963 split window Corvette, which we had owned in the 1980’s and sold it—regretting that move every moment since. Obviously, our family continues to fulfill our dreams and passions of classic car restoration and ownership.

Author: Tara

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