With the popularity of crate motors in restoration, hot rodding, and racing I thought it would be worth a trip to Karl Chevrolet in Ankeny, IA to see what life is like inside a big GM Performance Parts distributorship.  General Motors has had a large presence in crate motors for a long time – and it’s definitely the biggest presence out there in crate motors today.  Go to any car show in the country and you’ll see a crate motor under the hood of a lot of rides, and with good reason – they’re affordable, generally hassle free, and they speed up the build of any project!

Carl Moyer - Karl Chevrolet

Carl Moyer started Karl Chevrolet back in the ’70’s, and he’s a racer at heart.  He drag raced competitively for a number of years and still races dirt trucks every Friday night.  His dealership is no slouch when it comes to selling Chevy’s (2009 was their best year to date – what recession?), is an official Callaway Corvette and Camaro seller, and they take the same aggressive approach with their GM Performance Parts selection.  They sell GMPP’s full catalog of crate motors and are heavily involved in the local racing scene.  Their most popular motor is a “sealed” Gen I 350 that the racers love.  It’s reliable, fast, and since it’s a “sealed” motor it can’t be claimed for a few hundred bucks after a race!  (If you’ve never heard of the engine claim rule in racing before, spend a few minutes on Google learning about it.  It will make you think twice about putting 10 grand into your next race motor.)

A loooong line of GM Crate Motors at Karl Performance Parts.

Karl also loves the muscle car and hot rod industry.  Adam Moore runs the show when it comes to crate motors, and he gave me the full run down on their product listing.  He also let me in on a little secret: they sell their engines for $100 over cost.  That’s a hard deal to beat, especially on brand new engines with a 2-year warranty!  He also showed me their front drive accessories and oil pans that you can get right from GM to drop a new LS motor into your old ride – it’s all there.  You can reach Adam directly at adamm@karlperformanceparts.com.

Adam Moore - The man with the plan at Karl Performance Parts

Carl also dabbles in restoration of classics and building new “old” Corvette’s in two separate businesses.  Both businesses are managed by Dave Carnock, and he’s an encyclopedia of restoration.  He can tell the difference between the tail lights and wheel center caps on an early production 1970 Chevelle vs. a late production, and believe me it’s a slight one……but a deal breaker with a high dollar investment restoration.

Dave Carnock at Karl Custom Corvette's. That's a '70 Chevelle convertible he's standing next to.
A '70 Chevelle 396/4-Speed Convertible in the final stages of restoration.

Perhaps the crown jewel of customization is Karl Custom Corvette’s.  They take brand new Vette’s off of the showroom floor, yank the bodies off, and then install brand new custom made ’63 and ’67 Corvette bodies on them – complete with chrome bumpers and redline tires.  The fit and finish is incredible.  I want the one built off of a Z06!

Is that a '63 Split Window or a Z06 Corvette? Answer: Yes.
A completed "new" '63 Vette.

I hope you enjoyed this look inside a GMPP dealer.  I got more than I bargained for on the trip.  Now if I could just talk them into getting me a new LS7 to test out in my Chevelle…..


-Robert Kibbe


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