This car was the first "child". I bought this car in 1990 when I was 16 years old. My dad had his fair share of hot rods when he was younger and I was dying to get a car in anticipation of getting my license. The car bug bit him too and we started looking at '66 thru '70 Chevelles. We both really wanted to find a '66-'67, and after a couple of months of looking, we found the car. It was a 1967 Malibu with a 283 and Powerglide with bench seat and column shift. Not exactly the hot rod I wanted but it was relatively rust free which was the main thing. The guy I bought it from had inherited the car from his aunt who was the original owner. He had just graduated from college and was buying a new car. It has 91,000 original miles and it ran good, except for the timing chain slapping a hole in the cover. $1,000 later we flat bedded the car home and so the saga began.
The next step was figuring out what I wanted to do with the car. The plan was to make the car into an original looking SS with the exception of some modern day suspension components. Tons of magazine research (yeah magazine, for me the internet wasn't discovered yet) was done and we learned everything about the '67 Chevelle SS. We decided to do the car right, and the only way to do that was to do a frame off restoration.
The first thing we did was hit the fall swap meet at Englishtown. This is one of the biggest swap meets in the northeast and we had a list of stuff we were really looking for, the main thing being the SS hood to replace the stock flat hood. At the time, nobody made a reproduction hood so they were commanding top dollar. We found a nice one with no rust or damage, even the chrome inserts were decent, but the price was up there. Well, after looking at about 3 more hoods for a little less, we went back and bought the clean but expensive one. We also picked up the front bumper filler panel brand new and a brand new SS grill without the emblem hole in it. The other good thing is that we established some good contacts for parts and such for the future. My dad had a contact at a Chevy dealer who got us both front fenders and the one quarter that was still available from GM. We figured we might as well get all the GM sheet metal that we could while we could. I then got the trunk floor, trunk braces, and left side floor pan because these needed replacement.
The next order of business was to get the drivetrain sorted out. My dad had an old contact from his street racing days that we called to see if he had any motors and of course he did. He had an old barn full of parts, engines, whatever you could think of was lying in this barn. He had two 396's, one 454, and a 350 with 4 bolt mains that he said we could choose from. He also had an original 427 with aluminum heads and intake but said that was not for sale. We picked out a 396 of 1968 vintage with oval port heads and hydraulic cam, your standard 325 hp engine. He also threw in a TH400 tranny he had there too and we were off with an engine and trans for $500. Another friend got us in touch with a guy that had a 442 he was parting out. The 12 bolt rear in that car would fit right into the Chevelle. $150 and a night of wrench turning got us the rear. No posi and a 3.31 gear ratio was the downside but the price was nice and cheap.
Next was the disassembly of the car. The entire front clip was removed, the seats and the entire interior was removed, including the side glass. We then disconnected all wiring and linkages connecting the body and frame, and finally all the body bushings and bolts to remove the body from the frame. We used a gantry, which looks kinda like a swingset, and straps to lift the body off. The body was then placed onto a rolling cart so it could be easily moved around. Then the 10 bolt rear was swapped out for the 12 bolt. This was all done in my driveway with hand tools. Next up, rebuild the motor.
The game plan was to build the motor to the 350 hp specs according to the GM Performance Parts book. If you're building a GM engine, you have GOT to have this book. It's got all the proper torque specs, tolerances, and camshafts as well as part numbers. The block was cleaned, bored 30 over, and prepped by a friend of ours who has an engine shop. While that was being done, we ordered the bearings, gaskets, TRW forged pistons, rings, and the Crane cam, which was almost the exact GM spec, and Crane lifters, pushrods, and 1.6 steel rockers. I measured each piston in each cylinder for the proper clearance, marking each piston when I was satisfied. I then dropped the rods and pistons off at the motor shop for wrist pin assembly. Then we got everything back from the motor shop and I assembled the bottom end. I used plastigage to ensure proper tolerances on every rod bearing. Now on to the heads.
I disassembled the old heads and gave them a thorough cleaning. I then marked off the intake and exhaust ports using the gaskets. I then spent the next week or two with the die grinder porting out heads to match the gasket markings. The bowls were basically just deburred and smoothed over. I really didn't go crazy in there at all. Next, I sent them out to a local shop where they were cleaned, decked and reassembled with 3 angle valve job and new hardware. While that was being done, I gasket matched the intake manifold ports. With the freshened heads back, they were reinstalled and torqued down. Finally, the motor was all put together and ready to go in, but before that the frame was given some attention.
The frame was scraped and sand blasted in some spots to remove all rust and old undercoating. Then we painted the whole chassis with a semi-flat black rustoleum paint. New motor mounts were installed as well as the tranny mount and the engine was ready for installation. The one problem encountered was that the oil pan was different so I had to change the oil pan before we got the motor and trans in place. At this point, I needed to get a new power steering pump and reservoir because the big block setup is different from the small block.
The project went on hiatus when my dad died in 1993. I lost the shop space we had to work on the car and so it sat outside for a while. I ended up getting a garage with a guy I was in college with. He was restoring a '56 Chevy and he found this garage that we could share. I moved the car in and had gotten the power steering pump and reservoir and header panel on the car. I also bought all new front end bushings, tie rods, big block springs, and an all new power disc brake setup. I figured on tearing apart the a-arms and front end and replacing everything all at once. Well, I got the springs out and was informed a couple of days later that we had to get out of the garage for reasons out of my control. I put the front end back together to move the car and haven't had a place to work on the car since.
As you see it below is how it is now. I haven't worked on the car in several years now, but I will finish it some day. I've had offers to buy the car and all the parts that I do have to finish it, however, to me the car is priceless because of what it means to me. It's more than just a car and I'll get it done for my dad....eventually.
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