Member’s Feature
Bob & Sherry Reid, Member #3
1964 Chevrolet Bel Air
Truro, Nova Scotia

Story & photos by Gary Porter

She’s real fine, my 409 . . . I’m sure I’m not the first person to use those famous Beach Boys’ lyrics to introduce a story about a 409-powered car. For anyone who grew up in the 60's, hearing 409 conjures up memories of guys like Dave Strickler, Bill Jenkins, Ronnie Sox and Don Nicholson piloting those big Chevys down the quarter mile with e.t.’s in the low 12's. Not particularly quick by today’s standards, but it was back then.

Chevrolet’s first W engine, so called for its unique shaped valve covers, was introduced in October of 1957 displacing 348 cubic inches. By the time the 60's had arrived other auto makers like, Pontiac, Buick, Plymouth, were all coming out with bigger engines in the 400 plus cubic inch range. Chevrolet needed a similar sized engine to keep up at the drag strips. Late in 1961 the 409 engine was released. Because of its late arrival, production was only 142 cars for the 1961 model year.

For 1962, the base 409 was increased to 380 horsepower. The big news that year was the 409 horsepower version which came equipped with two Carter AFB four barrel's. 15,019 Chevrolets had 409 power in 1962.

Typical for the times, the ante was upped in 1963. Three new horsepower 409's were available; 340, 400, and 425. The 340 had hydraulic lifters, while both the 400 and 425 versions came with solid lifters, and special cam. This was the first year chrome was used on the 409's. 16,902 Chevrolets were equipped with 409 cubic inch engines in 1963, making it the highest production year.

The engine lineup was unchanged for 1964 and sales dropped to 8,864 409 powered cars.

In 1965 the 340 and the 400 horse power 409's were the only sizes available. Sales dwindled down to 2,828 units (2,086 340 h.p. and 742 400 h.p.). The last 409 powered Chevy rolled down the assembly line in January 1965. It was replaced by the 396.

Bob and Sherry’s ‘64 was sold new in Ohio and at that time was powered by a six cylinder, powerglide combination. It spent the next 25 years or so in Ohio used for basic transportation. Around 1990, the original owner’s grandson got a teaching job in Antigonish. In order to get himself to Nova Scotia, he needed transportation. Granddad’s ‘64 was the biggest vehicle available to him, so he packed it full of his belongings and off he headed for Nova Scotia. After he arrived here and got settled, he had no further need for the car, so he put it in the Auto Trader. It was first spotted by fellow club member, Brent Henderson. At this time, Bob found himself without a car and was looking for something unique with a reasonable price tag. The ‘64 met that criteria and soon it was Bob’s.

The ‘64 was in quite good condition when Bob first got it and he drove it as is, complete with six automatic for the first year or so. However, this was never intended to be a numbers matching restoration. Like many of us of this generation who grew up in the 1960's, we remember the factory hot rods of the day. This was a perfect candidate to build the sleeper that some of us dreamed of back then; a plain model, no Super Sports or convertibles, with the look of a six, but packing maximum power. Even though a 283 or 327 would have made a nice
package, Bob opted for the legendary 409.

Bob’s 409 once resided in a ‘64 Impala convertible in Syracuse, New York. However, the 409 was removed from the Impala and taken to Kingston, Ontario where it then sat under a bench in a bakery for 14 years before Bob purchased it. The 340 horse engine was then rebuilt and dropped in the Bel Air, mated to the air-cooled powerglide that once backed the six.

Bob had the local G.M. dealer, where he worked at the time handle the body work, while Percy Smith was called upon to lay
down some fresh blue paint. The suspension was improved with front and rear anti-sway bars along with Koni shocks. The Chevy now rolls on 15 inch G.M. rally wheels, 7's in front and 8's in the rear.

The old Chevy now has 130,000 miles on the odometer, 35,000 of which have been put on by Bob and Sherry over the last 18
years. In addition to traveling to shows and events around the Maritimes, it has been to Epping, New Hampshire numerous times to the Super Chevy Show, Ontario five or six times and New York State, picking up a few long distance awards along the way.

Bob is one of the three who have continually been members since the club was formed. He and Sherry can be found at the majority of club functions. If they are not in the ‘64, you might find them in their ‘58 Chevrolet Yeoman two door wagon or their unrestored ‘66 427 Impala Super Sport. However, you can be sure they will be driving a Chevy.