Retired and 68 years old, Dick Bales has a lot of options in his life. But hot rods have always been a part of it and, living in Easley, South Carolina, he’s owned a few. As a teenager he drove dirt track cars and by the time the ’70s rolled around, he had gotten into street rods.

But he’s always remembered a ’62 bubbletop the father of a high school buddy drove and a few years ago he decided he’d build a ’62, too. Dick hooked up with Don Jacks of Sheet Metal Fabrication to discuss how they’d go about building the car and, because of the large displacement motor that was planned for the car, they decided to toss out the stock X-frame in favor of a custom 2x4-inch perimeter chassis built by Kenny Thompson.

Suspension is performance-based with Moser 12-inch-type rearend 3.73:1 gears and heavy-duty Moser axles. A special four-link system (made with 1-inch bars) was designed for the car and a NASCAR-type sway bar, Eibach springs, and Bilstein shocks all help guarantee a sure footing.

Braking is improved with the addition of Wilwood six-piston calipers and 13-inch rotors at each corner, and big 19- and 20-inch Schott wheels (wrapped in Goodyear 225/45-19 and 275/45-20 rubber) provide the grip. Dick’s car also uses a Kugel Komponents underdash brake and clutch pedal assembly, as well as a Flaming River steering column.

Though as subtle as this build was going to be, Dick decided to go all out with the engine, contacting B&B Performance in Louisville, Tennessee, for a 598-inch Chevy-based powerplant. B&B did all the machining needed on the Dart block, boring the piston holes to 4.601 inches and adding a 4.500-inch Callies crank, I-beam rods, JE 767F pistons, and a COMP flat-tappet camshaft.

Dialed in with a 10.9:1 compression ratio, B&B then topped the engine off with a set of Pro-Filer Performance Products heads equipped with COMP springs and Pro-Filer roller rockers. And as big as the engine is, it doesn’t look “over the top” when Dick pops the hood. But you probably would notice how the air cleaner for the Quick Fuel 850 carb gets fresh air from the custom cowl vent, or the one-off valve covers and intake manifold (both made by Kenny Thompson), or the Front Runner belt system from Vintage Air.

Once Street Metal Fabrications was done with the bodywork, Don Jacks rolled the car into his paint booth and covered it with Sunlight Gold Opal—a base and clearcoat from Spies Hecker. Now in the home stretch, Dick took the Chevy to Paul Atkins Interiors in Hanceville, Alabama, for some contemporary threads.

Atkins used two shades of gray leather to cover the interior: a light version for most of it (including the custom bucket seats) and a darker shade for accents along the custom center console and dash top. The dash itself, with its custom gauge pods, came from Dashworks, another company owned by Atkins. The Dashworks dash transforms the squarish factory design to something more from this century, and is a perfect update for the bubbletop.

A Centech wiring kit was used to link the Classic Instrument gauges, and a ’66 Corvair steering wheel (with horn ring) is a great choice for the car. What little plating needed for the car was capably handled by Advanced Plating in Nashville.

One other custom touch, the “Bales Air” nameplates (handmade for the car by longtime friend Bobby Richardson), is emblematic of how this car was built: with a lot of attention to detail. Since hot rodding is in his blood, the long line of vehicles Dick has owned and built didn’t end with this ’62. He’s recently finished a ’37 Ford woodie, and will get it out on the road shortly as, above all, Dick Bales likes driving his hot rods.