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1971 Chevy Chevelle - Low-Buck Bounce

Matt Daeseleer Runs 10s On The Cheap

Terry Ward Feb 1, 2010

Hey, look. Here's a guy just like the rest of us; our kind of hot rodder, with our kind of budget, both in hours and in meager stacks of greenbacks. Matt Daeseleer is a 37-year-old sanitation truck driver from Valencia, California, who supports and nurtures a wife, four kids, and a serious go-fast habit, so whatever he thought about doing had to be strictly bound by a financial barbwire fence. If there was ever a poster kid for the low-buck nation, it could be Matt.

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Boys's no stranger to the muscle car era, no stranger to getting down and dirty either, having gummed his way through no less than eight '60s and '70s Chevelles and El Caminos. He estimates about $14,000 for his latest investment, this low-mileage '70 A-Body.

"I bought the car from a good friend for $2,600, charged the battery and started running it," proclaimed Matt. "I started out going 17.20s at Palmdale [2,780 feet above sea level], but with a little tuning, I got it down to a healthy 13.50." Once the fuse was burning merrily, however, there was no snuffing it out. Matt had tasted a few drops of blood and he was ready to take it right to the throat of his Chevelle, albeit on a budget but with a modest batch of juice.

"I built a mild 11:1 358-inch street bullet and was only looking to go 12.50s with it and then adding a bottle at a later date. The first pass on the new motor was 12.71 at 110.50, which was better than I'd expected [the car weighs 4,125 pounds with him in it]. Adding the bottle got me booted off the track. I'd run an 11.10 at 124!"

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To legalize his budget buster, Paul and the crew at Little People Customs in Ventura, California, "built the best hidden rollcage I have ever seen. With the 'cage and slicks, the car went 10.96 at 122.03 at Bakersfield [364 feet above sea level]."

When Matt assumed this project he looked at all the ways he didn't have to blow unnecessary dough. All the tubular this and that in the world wasn't going to help his decidedly track-oriented bomb. He didn't need anything beyond what an NHRA-legal Stocker would require. You can change out the suspension only so far as springs, shocks, and bushings are concerned, thus excluding pricey tubular control arms and the like. Matt took ownership like most hot rodders still do: massage the basic systems down solid and friction-free and you're lookin' like a winner. All you really want to do is make some noise, burn some rubber, go fast, and drag it back home, so you retain as much of the original vehicle as possible.

Same goes for Matt's mouse motor, which is sustained by a mixture of off-the-shelf hardware as well as previously abused parts. He built his engine addressing all of the vital internal areas with forged parts and sprung for aluminum castings at the first opportunity. Perhaps more amazing is that the pabulum little-block produces just 302 lb-ft of torque at 5,800 rpm and 326 hp at 6,300 rpm normally aspirated. To catapult the Chevelle to devilish sub-11-second times, Matt turned to a 150hp shot of juice. Pretty straightforward stuff it is, every bit of it proven countless times a week nationwide, on the dragstrip ... and on the street.

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Regardless of the budget-beater philosophy, Matt knows the value of a properly prepared rear suspension system. He wants to leave the starting line on the straight and narrow with no untoward motion eating away at the car's elapsed time. He fixed the pinion angle at the proper degree with adjustable upper control arms and nixed wheelhop with sturdy aftermarket lower arms. A thick antisway bar mounted conventionally helps the Chevelle out of the hole with a minimum of fuss and keeps it tracking straight down course. Rugged simplicity reigns supreme within the Salisbury axle.

Matt built the engine, prepped the chassis, and assembled the whole, and at the beginning of the makeover got help from his sons' godfather Robert and some friends at Kiwi Motors down in Santa Clarita. In the old days, this is what people did. They didn't pretend that they knew how to upholster or paint, no, they just did the mechanicals and went out and got it on.

As budget and common sense dictated, Matt didn't need to make any material changes to accommodate the dragstrip ultimatum or street torpedo demeanor of his Chevelle, only to make sure that the tableau was neat, clean, and functional. Dominated by that big Auto Meter rev counter and smattering of ancillaries, it carries no audio compilation, air conditioning, or entertainment center. Mitch's Upholstery in Valencia put the repro vinyl in place and worked the carpeting. Little People Customs scrunched the rollcage up tight and hung the obligatory four-point safety webbing.

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Just plain old common sense and the philosophy of ages are at work here. Matt: "Except for the Moroso Trick springs and Summit 90/10 shocks, the front suspension hasn't been touched in at least 10 years. I upgraded the rear section with UMI Performance lower control arms and relocation brackets for the Edelbrock adjustable upper links. A Hotchkis solid 1-inch antisway bar helps the car track straight. I put Moroso springs in there, too, along with Summit shock absorbers. The whole deal is simple and it works like a clock."

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There's this big thing with Cali guys and how their cars look. No junk, no rust, no dings or squashes and that paint better look bitchin' right away. They don't have to worry much about salt and cinders or even rain for that matter. Matt made some room in the budget to this end and had Gary's Auto Body in Newhall, California, complete the trust. The car didn't have much wrong with it in the first place and only needed a small amount of bodywork to make it straight and wrinkle-free. Gary's did pull the doors, glass, and the trunk lid and installed a 3-inch cowl hood. They covered the corpus with PPG Neon Blue, laid on custom-mixed silver accents, and called it done.

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Rollers & Brakes
To no one's surprise, Matt used the same stuff that most people do in this situation: Weld Drag Lites (3.5-inch front, 10-inch rear) and stuck them with off-brand cheapies and 28x10.5 Mickey Thompson ET Drag's out back. The brakes? You gotta be kiddin'. Our man doesn't need anything more here than the original disc/drum setup as supported by stock spindles that are attached to the original steering. OK, so maybe he does drag one foot every once in a while.

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Power And Transfer
That 350 motor came off the line in 1971. Matt sent it to Pete at TPE in Colorado for the required machine work and the dynamic balancing session then he began to build the small-block as if it was the last one on earth. He fitted the KB forgings and Total Seal rings to the 0.040-inch overbore that Pete had punched and hooked them to indexed forged connecting rods beset with ARP fasteners. He fitted the stock steel crankshaft with a double-roller timing set and plopped on the chrome-plated stock sump over the ubiquitous Mellings oil pump. For valve bumping, he chose an Ultradyne solid roller with a rating of 0.588/0.583-inch lift and 276 degrees of duration (both valves) at 0.050-inch. Untouched Motown 23-degree aluminum castings were fitted with Manley valves, valvesprings, and pushrods and Scorpion 1.5:1 roller rocker arms. With a 64cc combustion chamber and the KB's, compression ratio is 11.0:1 on pump gas. EFI was out of the question so Matt was spurred by a 750-cfm Barry Grant carb, an Edelbrock Super Victor intake manifold, and an MSD 6A box and Billet distributor. Timing is normally 36 degrees BTDC; on juice, the engine happily snaps at just 26. Chip's Muffler in Newhall whipped up a 3-inch exhaust system stemming from Hooker 17/8-inch primary Super Comp headers. Whether the moon is full or not, a nitrous system pieced together with NOS parts offers that all-important 150 shot blackjack. No electronics or fancy stuff on the drive end of the car, either. Matt imposed on the Turbo 350 transmission, plying it with a 9-inch Continental 4,500-stall converter and a B&M cooler. The shift linkage and the driveshaft have not progressed beyond the original stock configuration. Matt treated the third member to a good measure of integrity via C-clip eliminators, a Moser spool and axleshafts, and a 4.11:1 ring-and-pinion.

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