1968 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396 - Game Changer

This Chevelle looks old school, but goes around corners like a new Corvette

Arvid Svendsen Nov 1, 2013 0 Comment(s)
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In the world of high performance street machines, the game of building cars capable of doing everything well continues to evolve. Occasionally, a very special hot rod is built that redefines the genre and sets new standards for real world performance. Much like the athlete whose outstanding performance dramatically changes the momentum and outcome of a contest, Brent Jarvis' immaculate '68 Chevelle SS 427 is a game changer. This car is capable of running with, and sometimes outrunning, dedicated racecars in the various venues of road racing, drag racing, and slalom events. It mixes it up at the track while remaining a fun, well-mannered street car. As a matter of fact, this pristine Chevelle drove the entire 2009 Hot Rod Power Tour without a hiccup.

1968 Chevrolet Chevelle 2/10

Jarvis is the owner of Performance Restorations in Mundelein, Illinois, (www.performancerestorations.com). Certainly capable of performing chalk mark restorations, Jarvis and crew also specialize in building high-performance cars that not only retain the iconic muscle car look, but also perform as well as a most modern day automobiles. In his business, Jarvis stresses the priority of creating a custom-tailored plan suited for the customer. Some prefer milder street cars that are basically OEM in looks and performance.

However, there are some customers who prefer just a bit more, and that's when the Performance Restorations team really shines. Jarvis has crafted a philosophy of building street machines that challenge commonly accepted boundaries of hot rod construction. Constantly scrutinizing conventional wisdom yields a harvest of exceptional cars that burst ahead of the pack.

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When Brent acquired his '68 Chevelle SS 396 as an abandoned project, plans quickly took shape. "I really wanted a modern day version of a Day 2 muscle car. Key components for creating the look included starting with a genuine SS car, and incorporating all the neat factory options and original exterior signature identifiers like hood scoops, stripes and cool badges," Brent says. "No modern day high tech gadgets or gizmos … skip the custom exterior mods and tasteless bling components that detract from the car. I wanted the bold and mean factory muscle car look that would be fast in any arena."

1968 Chevrolet Chevelle Side View 4/10

To be fast, you need serious horsepower. Brent settled on a stroker 565ci big-block variant tailored to his vision for street performance. An Eagle 4340 4.25 forged stroker crankshaft attaches to Eagle 4340 forged rods and JE forged 10.2:1 forged pistons. Proper lubrication is essential for reliability at the racetrack and the street. The short-block is dressed with a Canton nine-quart race oil pan, fully baffled with crank scraper and windage screen. Moroso supplies the dual remote oil separator, and breather systems.

A lot of thought and planning went into the wide range of activities in which the car would be participate, "I worked long and hard with Erson and my engine builder to come up with a cam that would make big power, sound real cool, but be easy on parts and live at a low rpm on the street. We came up with an Erson hydraulic roller cam that sports a 0.657 lift on the intake and the exhaust, split duration, and the 4-7 swap. Comp Cams supplies the hydraulic roller lifters and pushrods, springs, retainers and keepers. The valve train is topped off with 1.8 Jesel Pro Shaft Rocker Arm setup. Cylinder heads are Dart Pro 1 335 heads with the large rectangular CNC ports and 2.30 intake and 1.90 exhaust valves. Intake is an Edelbrock unit custom machined for the nitrous unit, and a Pro Systems 1050 Holley carburetor."

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The headers are stainless steel 2-inch primaries into 3-inch collectors made by Stainless works. The pipes are custom made with a cross over and are 3-inch all the way back with Flowmaster 3-chamber mufflers exiting out a set of '69-70 Chevelle style tips.

The transmission is a road race Tremec TKO600 five-speed overdrive unit with the 0.64 final drive. Mathematical top speed in the Fifth gear OD is 210mph. An 11-inch dual disc McLeod clutch and billet steel flywheel are used and covered with a Lakewood scattershield.

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In the chassis department, Brent showed himself to be a mastermind builder. After carefully evaluating and assessing each aspect of the SS 427's suspension, Brent selected some of the finest parts offered from some hardcore suppliers to make up a race car-like tunable suspension. The SBC upper control arms use a trick set of Howe ball joints. These ball joints are super tough and much longer then the stock joints. They help spread the control arms apart much like the "tall" spindles, but without dropping the axle 2 inches on the spindle.

The front shocks are QA1 adjustable coilovers. The '68 Chevelle uses a Torrington bearing under the spring to make adjustments much easier. The settings of the shock dampening front to rear are very different from each other, and are top secret. The rear shocks are QA1 adjustable coil over's with Brent's top-secret spring rate. "I had to fabricate the lower brackets and reinforce the stock upper shock brackets by boxing them in and welding an additional .100 thick plate of moly steel over the old brackets. I also built a set of limiter straps to hold the rear end from extending too much."

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In order to make steering a pleasure, a quick ratio Delphi 600 12:1 ratio box is bolted to the chassis. It's fed by a GM pump that is slowed down and uses braided lines. The front sway bar is a 1.5-inch gun drilled 4130 heat-treated splined bar from Detroit Speed and Engineering. Brent modified the swing arms and made his own Heim joint end links for adjustability and tuning.

Tires are super sticky Toyo RA1s 305/35ZR18 rears, and 275/35ZR18 fronts. These come shaved at a 6/32-inch tread depth and are like glue. Brent had to really work to make the car slide through the corner at the Autobahn Country Club road course. The wheels are ET "Classic fives" 18x9.5-inch fronts and 18x11 rears. The wheels definitely give the Chevelle the perfect Day 2 look for the new millennium. As a bonus, the wheels are actually very light. Pulling it down from about 140 mph at the end of the straight is accomplished handily by a Wilwood four-wheel disc brake system.

1968 Chevrolet Chevelle Rear View 8/10

Key word in building a killer chassis is "adjustability." Brent explains, "The street, road race, and drag race settings are all different. Adjustability is the key factor when building and setting up any car. Adjustable stuff is hard to find is because most of the manufactures want to sell consumer friendly products. Most people really don't know or understand the adjustments at all, and they are not able to tune their cars for ultimate handling. Alignments are so very important and often over looked and misunderstood by even the most experienced builders. You have to look for the more hardcore stuff to find the adjustable parts, or modify and make them yourself. Properly setting up the suspensions is critical for making these cars work."

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Brent applies this philosophy to the Chevelle, "I have two alignment settings that I use, ‘Street-Drag' and the ‘Road Track' settings. The street and drag race settings are the same with conservative settings designed to keep the car straight, give good steering wheel feel, great street handling, and good tire wear. Those numbers are, 1/2-degree negative camber, 5 to 6 degrees caster and 1/8-inch toe in. When I set it up for road racing, I dial in a close to 3 degrees of negative camber, 5 to 6 degrees of caster and switch to 1/8-inch toe out."

1968 Chevrolet Chevelle Front View 10/10

The car is a landmark on the street machine timeline. It does everything—road racing, drag racing, and autocrossing are all within this car's ability. Brent says he's going to attempt a 200 mph top speed run with the car. Close to 1,000 hp (if he turns on the nitrous), custom-crafted front and rear suspension with race car adjustability, and dazzling looks make this Bow Tie brawler a heroic game changer.

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