Nebraska's Rich Cummins said just completing his '65 Chevelle wagon was a memorable experience. "The project didn't go as smoothly as my previous ones, which were all stock restorations," he said.
This was his first restomod, and it was tough at times for Rich to remain motivated, especially during the body and paint phase. Although the Chevelle was a California car, after it was stripped, rust was found in odd places and the body was well worn, making the work time consuming and expensive. It seemed every step forward was met with two steps backward.
The project was intended to be a low-budget build, but it seems Rich is incapable of anything simple or just mediocre. Along the way, he did receive some meaningful compliments, which helped keep him motivated. Rich admits he wouldn't start with a basket case again. He would also start with a complete engine instead of piecing one together.
It all started almost a decade ago. Most of the time was spent collecting parts and cash, with momentary lapses in interest. The end results, however, speak for themselves. If Chevrolet ever built a '65 two-door SS wagon, this would be it.
Rich wanted to keep it somewhat old school, with a traditional drivetrain of the era. The engine is a 454 big-block overbored 0.030-inch and destroked. It was also converted to a four-bolt main setup. This combination yields 434 ci—close enough to claim truth in advertising for the 427 emblems on each front fender. Moving the valves up and down is an Ultradyne cam with intake lift at 0.587-inch and exhaust at 0.601. Duration's at 276 and 284 degrees, respectively. The cylinder heads are Chevrolet 049 cast-iron units with a mild porting. Rocker arms are Harland Sharpe 1.7:1 rollers and the compression comes in at 10:1.
The engine work was done by Rich and Randy Beyer. A Pertronix ignition keeps the fire lit. A Holley model 3310 with 780 cfm sits atop a Chevrolet Performance aluminum intake. The air cleaner is a 1969 open element reproduction with custom vintage valve covers. Horsepower is estimated to be between 450 and 500. Exhaust gases are sent screaming to the rear through Hedman headers and 2.5-inch Magnaflow mufflers and pipes. All this mass of metal is cooled by an Alumitech reproduction aluminum radiator. The 434 is backed by an Auto Gear M-22 Rock Crusher four-speed trans, and connected to the 12-bolt Posi by a Centerforce 11-inch dual-friction clutch.
Rich chose basically stock suspension up front with Howe tall ball joints and SDC A-arms for a total of a 2-inch drop. The sway bar was sourced from Original Parts Group. AGR supplied the quick ratio 12:1, 2.5 turns lock-to-lock power steering box. The rear suspension includes a 4-series Eaton Positraction differential with carbon-fiber clutches, Superior axles, and Richmond 4.11 gears. Rear springs are Hotchkis with a 2-inch drop.
Brakes, front and rear, are GM calipers with 11-inch rotors. A rear sway bar keeps things stable, and QAI adjustable shocks are fitted at all four corners. All these components, including the body, are bolted to an El Camino frame, which came factory equipped with boxed side rails for extra strength and rigidity. The El Camino frame is a basic bolt-in for the '65 wagon. Both front and rear wheels are from Billet Specialties. Front are 17x7 with a 43/4-inch backspace, while the rears are 17x8 with a 51/8-inch backspace.
If Chevrolet ever built a '65 two-door SS wagon, this would be it.
Nitto has the rims covered with 555 Extreme tires, size 235/45/17 up front and 555 Extreme 255/45/117 out back.
The interior is close to factory in appearance and super nice, with stock seats and panels covered with PUI super-white reproduction covers installed by Stichin Upholstery. The gauges have all been converted to the stock SS Malibu–style, including the 7,000-rpm tach.
The flawless Evening Orchid paint was laid on the body by Doug Kielian at Auto Kraft. A stock color in 1965, Evening Orchid wasn't popular back in the day, but it certainly works on Rich's wagon. Rich paid attention to every detail in this quality build, as he did for the wagon's cousin, Rich's original and correct '65 SS RPO L-79 327/four-speed twister. The '65 L-79 Chevelle is the other car in his collection and it even inspired Lane's Exact Detail to produce a collectible die-cast based on it.