Frankly, even if this 1961 Chevrolet Bel Air isn’t one of the cars that NASCAR legend Rex White ran, we would still encourage you to smash the piggybank open. Why, though? Because it’s a bubbletop NASCAR, complete with stock VIN plate, that’s why. We don’t care if the car was built during the winter of 1960 or 2016, this thing is wicked, and while there are details that don’t quite jive with what really was going on for the 1961 racing year, we think you won’t mind the changes.
The car’s story is best told by the seller: “Folk law has it is that this was Rex White’s NASCAR Championship runner up car to Ned Jarrett in 1961. Rex won the Championship in 1960. Rex has signed this car. He is still alive and lives in GA… Ned Jarrett drove a 61 Bel Air as did Johnny Beauchamp who crashed his at Daytona flying out of the track with Lee Petty. You have seen those pictures. In subsequent years African American driver Wendell Scott picked up his only win and that of an African American in a 61 Bel Air he competed with.”
“We know Rex had at least two Bel Airs in 61. We think he had three. One was made as a “zipper car”. They would take the top off to enter what was then the convertible NASCAR series, then weld it back.
Rex won 7 races in 1961. Rex has seen this car but can not confirm or deny it was his. It is signed by him! We know that the vintage fabrication work is period correct. The car is very primitive. We did find what we feel is the “smoking gun”. We found a panel pop riveted closed on the right front foot well. This was the correct area where they used a pulley to pull up floor hatch to check the tire wear on the right front tire at speed. It was activated by cables from the driver. No one noticed it prior.”
The connection to Rex White is notable. Without question NASCAR’s oldest champion at the age of 87, White grew up tinkering on his family’s Ford Model T as a kid and was an active driver from 1956-63, usually placing in the front end of the field when he ran. Out of 233 races ran, 70% of the time he finished in the top 10, which was impressive for a 5’4, 135 pound flyweight of a man who has a withered left leg from polio. He was unable to confirm 100% that the car was his when he was shown it, however he wasn’t able to outright deny it, either.
In it’s current form, there are changes from what it would have been. For starters, instead of six-lug truck hubs, the Bel Air sports five lugs and has front disc brakes. Where a 348 or 409 would have sat in the engine bay is now filled by a snotty 327, and an aluminum radiator is installed instead of a GM unit. To top off the updates, a modern removable steering wheel, modern seat and modern belts are fitted out. Some purists might be turned off by all of the upgrades, but be serious…would you really kick this thing out of your garage for some minor updates?