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1969 Chevy Chevelle SS396 - Playing Favorites

Rob Saltarelli's Sharp 1969 SS

Jake Amatisto Sep 9, 2013
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When you own a couple of nice hot rods, we imagine it's difficult to choose which to drive on any given sunny day, especially in Southern California where the weather allows for it often. We know we would have a hard time choosing between the slammed '65 we featured in the Mar. '13 issue and the hot orange A-body you see on these pages. "The red one is faster," Rob Saltarelli said as he fired up his '69's engine, "but I like driving this one because it can go anywhere." The '69 you see here was built with a mild pump gas 454 that does a good job of turning heads with its low rumble, but isn't as radical as his earlier model. "I do want to add a couple of things to the engine. Like the cast-iron heads, those will be changed to some aluminum Edelbrock oval ports in the future."

 Chevy Chevelle Ss396 Passenger 2/18

Rob's father, Bob, was a good car builder, and you could tell he built this one to be driven. Constructed in less than a year, this 1969 Chevy Chevelle SS396 won Best Homebuilt Car award at the Goodguys Costa Mesa show in 2007 and continued to win numerous awards at local car shows in and around Huntington Beach.

We have to give a shout-out to Mark and Terry Rapp for pulling some strings to get us into a secret rooftop location, which allowed us to really capture the vibrance of the '69's paintjob.

There are three things we feel can make or break a hot rod: the wheels, the paint, and the stance. This car, although simple, gets our approval on those areas. The paint is a PPG Sunset Orange that makes the lines of the '69 really pop, while the 2-inch drop and large Budnik wheels make the all-steel ride a classy one. "I try and drive it a couple times a month," Rob says. "Of course, the '65 is always enticing, but then again it burns a lot of gas," he continued. "The '69 is probably my favorite, but then again, the '65 has 600 hp …" These are the types of decisions gearheads enjoy making.

Engine & Drivetrain
Under the flat steel hood is a very mild, pump gas–fed 454 topped with cast-iron cylinder heads from Chevrolet Performance and a Performer RPM intake manifold that's fed with a 750-cfm Demon carburetor. The cam is a COMP Cams–designed flat tappet with 230 degrees of duration at 0.050, and COMP valvesprings and pushrods control the valves. The block is a factory cast-iron piece stuffed with a Scat crankshaft and H-beam rods, and JE flat-top pistons. The oiling system is handled by a Milodon 8-quart oil pan and high-volume oil pump. HEI ignition fires the air/fuel mixture while the Doug's ceramic-coated 2-inch primary headers route the spent fumes through 3-inch Flowmaster mufflers. The transmission is a TCI Super Street Fighter TH400 backed with a 10-inch, 2,800-rpm torque converter. The rearend is a 12-bolt stuffed with a Tru-Trac posi unit and 3.42:1 gears.

Wheels & Tires
Budnik's GTX polished aluminum wheels are fixed at each corner, 18x8 in the front and 20x10 in the rear and wrapped in BFGoodrich g-Force rubber. The big rollers look great, and Rob says it improved the handling characteristics considerably.

 Chevy Chevelle Ss396 Passenger 6/18

Suspension & Brakes
When it came to the suspension, the stamped-steel control and trailing arms were replaced with Hotchkis tubular pieces. Rob also added aftermarket sway bars, front and rear. The 2-inch drop spindles and Hotchkis lowering springs provide the stance. To help quickly scrub speed, large 13-inch-diameter Baer brakes were mounted onto each corner.

Rob's father redid the interior by ordering every last component from the Classic Industries catalog; it looks completely stock and sitting on the black vinyl couch makes cruising the streets of Huntington Beach a comfy ride. While the interior is basically stone-stock, the Auto Meter gauges in the dash provide more info than the factory instruments, and an iPod-friendly stereo is in place of the old deck. We also like the stock horseshoe shifter in the console; it's how you know you're in a Chevy.

The paint and bodywork was all completed in Rob's home garage, which is the main reason why this car won the 2007 Goodguys show for Best Homebuilt Car. The color is a PPG Sunset Orange and all the chrome and trim were either restored or replaced.



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