If a die-hard Ferrari employee had a bug to build an American muscle car, what design cues would he apply from the different Ferrari marques…and what would result? Funny you asked. John Lexis is the Italian contact. Through the miracle of fiber optics, he was able to spin his dream into a realistic scenario. Long-distance phone conversations to his choice U.S. connection, Goolsby Customs in Bessemer, Alabama, morphed into several sessions with designer Ben Hermance, Jonathan Goolsby and shop manager Josh Henning about how this project would come to fruition, long-distance romance or not.
John's seed sprouted from another Goolsby build, Bill Shore's charcoal-colored, big-block spurred '67 Chevelle that he'd discovered on the Internet and could not get out of his mind. Goolsby said, "Right from the start, we began changing a few of the main components, such as the Roadster Shop IRS and blown LS3 that were not used on the previous Chevelle. Other than that the plan was to build a carbon copy, [including] color and build style. In the spring of '13 we were full steam ahead on the fab and mock-up phase when John made his first-ever trip to the US." John left the States with his head on fire.
"We started brainstorming and tried to persuade him on maybe a different color or changing his mind on this or that, but John stated that he didn't want to deviate from the dark and sinister look." A week or so later, Josh got an email suggesting they have renderings done of "some of those crazy ideas you have so I could visualize what you're saying." Hermance started penning the palette.
Goolsby said, "We had three other color choices in the mix along with the one we all really wanted. Within minutes of seeing the rendering of the off-white with the dark off-red interior, he replied, ‘Yes, that is it, do that!' A few days later we needed to make another big decision and John's comment was ‘just do what you think, you all have good ideas, just surprise me.'" And they did.
"We tried to stay very sanitary on the outside because we knew that was what he liked and we wanted to deviate from our norm of engine covers and a lot of sheet metal work and instead play off the mechanic/racy aspect of the huge blower and miscellaneous plumbing. It really created a ying-yang effect when you first see the plain and simple exterior, and then the hood opens and it slaps you in the face. Everybody in the shop had a hand in it. Ben Weber and Heath Wood handled the fabrication (transmission tunnel, floor, wheel tubs, etc.), shaved the drip rails, and tucked the bumpers. Ben and Heath killed it like always."
When Goolsby Customs got the car, they tore it down, media-blasted and stripped it, prepped the chassis and affixed the suspension, mocked-up the entire car, worked the metal, sprayed the paint, and did the final assembly. It was oven-fresh on November 3, 2013. Two weeks later, the Lexis Chevelle copped Builder's Choice at the Scottsdale Goodguys. As of the 18th of December, John Lexis had yet to push the pedals in his gem. By the time you read this, he'll likely be burning southern Europe to the ground with the spawn of his long-distance romance.
The lesson here? Ferraris may be cool, but they always build more than one of the same model. For the ultimate in exclusivity and for the truly discerning individual, the Lexis/Goolsby muscle car is the only one like it in the world.
Goolsby tapped veteran LS-motor shepherds Turnkey Engine Supply in Oceanside, California, for the 415-inch LS3. While the bore stayed at 4.065, the stroke increased from 3.620 to an even 4.00 inches, compliments of a 4340 steel forging. The rest of the rotating assembly maintains forged H-beam rods connected to 9.0:1 Mahle pistons. Valve timing is provided by a hydraulic roller camshaft and enabled by Delphi followers, 5/16 x 7.400 x 0.080-wall chromoly pushrods and 1.71:1 ratio rockers. The cylinder heads maintain 70cc combustion chambers, 260cc intake ports and are outfitted with double valve springs and titanium retainers. The stainless steel valves measure 2.19 and 1.59 inches. A single heavy-duty roller chain connects cam with crank. That exquisite lump settled between the cylinder heads is a Kenne Bell Mammoth supercharger and corresponding Kenne Bell "Mammothfold." Goolsby credits Jim at Speed South in Pelham, Alabama, with tweaking the Holley HP EFI engine management system. Meanwhile, over there in big-city Birmingham, Morgan Performance Fabrication put up the 3-inch exhaust. Despite the tremendous potential for power increase here, the initial tune-up was mild, producing 626-horsepower at a subdued 5,450 rpm. Were the controlling factors unleashed, output could easily eclipse 1,000 horsepower and just as much torque. Should that bad-monkey scenario become inevitable, Goolsby wisely requisitioned some stout got-your-back pieces as highlighted by the torque-eating 4L85E transmission and the Strange Engineering pumpkin (sporting 4.11:1 gears and positive traction device). The tranny gets some relief from a C&R Racing (Mooresville, North Carolina) fluid cooler. Birmingham Spring assembled the steel driveshaft.
A Roadster Shop Fast Track chassis combats torsional bending and supplies a very firm, very rigid foundation, and one that fully enables the corresponding independent rear suspension system. In the rear, a modular foundation is attended by upper and lower control arms and cradles the center section. Suspension is complete with Penske adjustable coilover dampers. In front, Penske coilovers are captured by upper and lower control arms, Corvette C6 spindles and a splined anti-sway bar. The result is a nearly bind-free system that produces exemplary ride characteristics and powerful handling capabilities.
To us, the Chevelle has one of the most pleasing and well-executed interiors on the planet, crafted by M&M Hot Rod Interiors' Wayne McGriff, Pam and Jeremy in Holly Pond, Alabama. Goolsby: "…the car wouldn't be the same without it." It's elegant but decidedly understated and is a perfect foil for the Chevelle's minimal but highly cogent exterior. Goolsby prepped the shell with an American Autowire harness. They incorporated a Vintage Air HVAC system and planted a Secret Audio head unit serviced by Helix speakers. They did the dashboard and integrated a sunken panel for the Ferrari-inspired Dakota Digital VHX gauges. There's more Ferrari inspiration evident in the way Wayne stitched the Imola Red leather seats and the door panels. That's a Lokar gear changer poking defiantly through the console and Goolsby used the Billet Specialties black anodized, black suede-covered Camber 14 steering wheel as yet another foil.
Since the supercharger is low-profile, it required no hood modification for clearance, thus keeping the Chevelle's clean, flowing lines sleek and uninterrupted. Jonathan Goolsby performed all the body work and applied the BASF Glasurit Cool Vanilla covering. He pulled the big white exterior expanse together with a blacked-out grille and took it further with a single charcoal stripe on the car's flat expanses. Tucked bumpers unite the whole. In all, it's a stunning rendition that is pleasing to the eye and impossible to deny.
The critical wheel/tire combination comes off very slick: Nutek 3-piece wheels that measure 19x9 and 20x12 are fitted with 255/35 and 335/30 Michelin Pilot Sport 2 gummies. Brakes are Wilwoods with 13-inch rotors featuring 6- and 4-piston calipers, respectively.