Swap Insanity: Boosted 5.3 in a Tagged-Up 1963 Bel Air 4-Door

Ah yes…the venerable 4-door sedans of the early 1960’s. They’re big, they’re comfortable, and they can accept an LS swap just as easily as the more common Chevy muscle cars, while the owner can take pride in knowing his ride is something unique. Eric Hokenson, from St. Paul, Minnesota, is the proud owner of one such low-slung LS swapped 1963 Chevy Bel Air that he drives hard and often.

I actually bought the car with the intention of fixing it up and trying to flip it, but then I got a vision in my head of how cool it might actually look when it was finished.

Hokenson filled us in on the story behind the big Bel Air: “I’ve owned the car for about four years or so now. I actually bought the car with the intention of fixing it up and trying to flip it, but then I got a vision in my head of how cool it might actually look when it was finished. I also started to realize how I never seemed to have enough room for my family to go with me to car shows and events. I decided that the Bel-Air would actually be a cool family cruiser that everyone could pile in the car, and we could all go together and have some fun.”

The Bel Air came to Hokenson with a run of the mill small block, which at the time was just fine with him since he knew all about old school Chevy engines. But then, like so many of us, he started learning more about the LS family, and was hooked once he found out for himself just how advanced they were compared to the original small blocks.

Hokenson says, “I had all kinds of small block and big block parts stacked up in my garage from past projects, but I started getting curious about the LS engines. I picked up a 5.3 out of a Suburban, and the first time I opened it up and saw just how many of the common small block problems they had fixed, I could see how awesome it was. I went right into my garage and started cleaning out all the old small block and big block parts, thinking to myself, ‘Well, it looks like I’ll just be building LS motors from now on.’”

Most recently the Bel Air’s engine combo was that same stock 5.3L LS truck motor wearing a Powerdyne supercharger and a mild OEM LS6 Cam. It’s all run by the re-worked factory harness and ECU from the 2004 Suburban and tuned by HP Tuners Pro. The intake manifold is a stock LS manifold that Hokenson modified to have the look of hot rod stacks. “I liked the look of the individual throttle bodies, but I knew I couldn’t use them with a supercharger or turbos. It’s just there for looks, and it’s fun to mess with people at shows with when they think it’s functional. I tell them they are individual blow-off valves for the supercharger,” he says with a chuckle.

Now, in pursuit of even more power and shooting for slightly better cruising gas mileage, Hokenson has yanked the Powerdyne in favor of two 58mm turbos. He tells us, “With the turbo set up, I’m thinking it will make between 650 and 700 rear wheel horsepower. The goal is to also get 20 miles-per-gallon, because still like being able to drive it everywhere. Every day that it’s nice out, I drive it.”

On the aesthetic side of things, you’ll notice that the car is actually tagged up, but it’s not vandalism. Not as artistic as the Sharpie Camaro, perhaps, but as a way to engage others in the build, Hokenson actually invites people at car shows to write on his car with a marker. “I wanted to keep driving the car while I worked on it, and I want to wait to do the paint and body work. The flames and the paint job that the car already had on it when I got it weren’t all that great, so I came up with the idea of letting people write their names and any build suggestions they have right on the car with a Sharpie. Every show I go to the car just gets mobbed with people wanting to write on it and read the other comments.”

For more info on this unique Bel-Air build, and to keep track of its progress check out the build thread on Pro-Touring.com. Have your great idea for the Bel Air that you’d like to share with Hokenson? You can also leave a comment on Hokenson’s personal website at Erodzcustoms.com.

About the author

Clifton Klaverweiden

Clifton has been a car fanatic since his late teens, when he started the restoration of his '67 Camaro. He considers himself a student of automotive science and technology, and particularly loves all things LSX. And, although he has an appreciation for everything, from imports to exotics, his true passion will always be for GM musclecars.
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