This past week two good buddies and I all piled into a 2007 GMC pickup and drove from Ames, IA to Bloomfield, NM. Our mission was to stop in with Jeff Allison at Allison Customs and see how the Chevelle build was coming along. Following that visit we were to head on to the Barrett-Jackson auction in Phoenix, AZ to see the sites and sounds of the world’s most famous auction. I’ll fill you in on the Barrett-Jackson auction at a later time because this post is going to concentrate soley on the latest status of my Chevelle! (As a side note, the auction was awesome. I touched the first General Lee and interviewed the guy that restored it. Yee Ha!)
We broke the trip from Ames to New Mexico into two chunks, stopping in southern Colorado the first night. The trip out was fairly uneventful other than the fact that my pal Matt (whose truck we were driving) was suffering from pneumonia like symptoms and was half alive in the back seat. I was really glad he was along as Matt is one of my closest friends and is a trusted business adviser; I really wanted him to get to see first hand what all was happening in my automotive world. He was also our camera man for the video shoots we had planned. He soldiered on and we all ate fast food, listened to interesting podcasts, and then played Blue Brothers on the DVD player. It’s 106 miles to Chicago…..
Matt’s new brother-in-law Ben was along for the ride as well, and while I didn’t know Ben too well when we left, I definitely do now (spending 5 days in a truck will do that)! It turns out that Ben is also a gearhead and enjoys buying and selling old Mercedes Benzes. He’s also an expert in the auto salvage industry and is someone I will probably be spending a lot more time with in the future.
When we arrived at Allison Customs Jeff was there waiting for us and had the place prepared for our arrival. He had three vehicles out front that he’s done in his shop, and the tone was set immediately for the fun that would ensue. We meandered around for a bit and he then let me in the door to see my Chevelle for the first time. While I’ve seen pictures all along of the build, getting to see her in person again alone was worth the drive!
Jeff had the chassis completed already, which I’ve outlayed in some previous build updates. The frame is race ready now, boxed, beefed, and rust free. The new Detroit Speed suspension was all on and for the first time I realized how utterly cool coil-overs are! It was my first time to see how he narrowed the rear frame rails to accommodate a larger rear tire, and it turned out better than I had hoped it would. Honestly speaking, if I weren’t an expert in A-Body frames I really wouldn’t have known he had thinned them out; they looked factory to me. I also got the chance to see all of the other special tweaks he’d done, and the boxed rame rails, custom tubular transmission cross member, and tubular engine K-member were all top notch. He’d also beefed up every area of the frame that he thought might have a chance to flex under racing conditions, and in all the frame looked bulletproof.
The body was a site to behold. It was sitting on a rotisserie and was literally wearing new sheet-metal underneath from the Allison-Customs tail panel to the original firewall (which will soon be replaced). National Parts Depot supplied all of the purchasable sheet-metal that we could get our hands on, and it seemed like there were miles of it that had been installed. The trunk, full floor, widened wheel tubs, and inner and outer rockers were all in place and ready to go. I had he chance to count up all of the body mount locations and see them first hand as well. In the past only the front four body mounts were even present, and today EVERY SINGLE ONE was there! Jeff also fixed the rust in the inner quarters and kick panels, making those pieces (like many on the car) completely from scratch.
Perhaps the coolest piece on the body though was the roll bar. Jeff had the main hoop and the halo bar in, and he’s purposely bent the hoop in such a way that it lays perfectly with the lines of the chrome on the rear window glass. This means that when looking at the car from the side (with the windows up) that the roll bar will be hidden. I really like roll cages that are as “tucked in” as possible on cars, and Jeff found a way to lay it in there just perfectly. It looked like a race car already!
I also got the chance to look at the new Wilwood 14″ rotors and huge calipers. They couldn’t be better. In addition our custom pedal setup was there, and each pedal will be connected to it’s own reservoir, and a dial handle will be used to adjust front/rear brake bias from within the car. Jeff showed my the hydraulic drifter brake setup as well, and it too will run off of a Wilwood hydraulic setup. It’s almost like God planned it that way! I got the chance to see our new Keisler hydraulic clutch setup as well, and while it won’t be installed for a few months, it looks pretty trick and is definitely going to make the car a lot more drivable.
We have a long way to go to reach our mutual goal of getting the car on the track this summer. The work alone that must be done is quite substantial, but the real sticky-wicket that may hold things up is the supply of parts. The LS engine (and all that goes with it) is the next big hurdle, as is the fuel tank, rear end, interior, wiring, rubber, paint, and on and on. We’re building this car on faith and favors at the moment, and I’m very proud and thankful to say that we’ve used no debt at all in the process. Can we make it using the same formula? I’m praying that we can. God has delivered everything we need thus far, right?
In the end, my goal with this car is that my old Chevelle will be like new again, and that she’ll serve as my double-duty race car and street machine. I want to haul my kids during the week, and haul butt on the weekends at the track. As I outlayed over a year ago, I do still have the dream of someday becoming a professional race car driver, and the Chevelle is the starting block for that. While the dream of driving professionally becomes more and more unlikely everyday I do have faith that if it’s supposed to happen, it will. I have a lot of people to thank for even getting this far, and a lot of favors to return. I’ve never been a bigger mooch in my life until this project came along!
Here’s to the next step, and to chasing the impossible dream!