"You want to go how fast with what?" That was the typical reaction George Castlemaine Sevelle V—"Cas" for short—got from transmission shops, rearend suppliers, and pretty much everyone he ran across while building this '69 Chevy Kingswood Estate. The goal was to make around 1,000 hp in a car that weighed 5,000 pounds—a car he would take to the track on slicks. Combining that power and weight with good traction is a formula that equals broken parts, and many of the shops Cas talked to wanted no part of the liability associated with his crazy dream. But a few did, and the result is a 10-second behemoth.
Everyone remembers his first car. Some are even fortuitous enough to still own it. The wagon is Cas' first car, a hand-me-down from his grandparents who bought it brand new in 1969. The grandparents kept it at their ranch, which was really more like a vacation home, in Mariposa, California. When Cas was approaching his 16th birthday, Grandma asked if he wanted a car. Of course, Cas' answer was yes. The wagon served as his unique driver in high school in Mission Viejo, California. His peers got new BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes for their 16th birthdays. Cas' enormous land yacht definitely didn't fit in, but that made it cool.
The first thing Cas did, as many high school kids would, was stick a big stereo in it—3,000 watts worth. But George Castlemaine Sevelle IV—Dad—was a gearhead with a need for speed, so the stock small-block was replaced with a 383. It wasn't long before that engine blew up. Then, Mike Hayden at Hayden Motorsport built the guys a 400. They put a nitrous system on it and raced the car a little while Cas was still in high school.
Upon returning from college with a master's degree, Cas and his father just couldn't get the nitrous'd small-block combo working the way they wanted to. On top of that, Mike Hayden kept trying to persuade them to build a Rat motor. "Mike Hayden is a ‘bigger is always better' type of mechanic and kept trying to get us to put a big-block in it, partly because it's such a big and heavy car," Cas said. Ultimately, Hayden built them a 540 that makes about 600–650 hp on the motor, and they topped it with a nitrous system using a Nitrous Supply plate, controlled by an NOS controller and monitored by a CompuTech data logger. With nitrous jetted to 400 hp, they achieved their 1,000hp goal. The motor is backed by a 4L80E built by Hughes Performance, the only transmission company that would agree to take on the heavy project. Cas said they haven't had any problems with it. Once they got the nitrous system set up and the trans brake figured out, the rearend fell to pieces, so Moser custom-built a 9-inch to handle the abuse, which Cas dishes out on Hoosier slicks.
The first time at the track with the new big-block combo, the car ran 11.57—2 seconds quicker than it had ever run. But the nitrous system wasn't set on full kill yet, and the guys realized they needed a rollbar if they wanted to step it up any more. They dropped the car off at Hansen Race Cars for the required safety equipment.
The rest of the car is truly simple. The front suspension is stock, and the rear has Hotchkis adjustable upper control arms and Eibach springs. The fuel system consists of two Holley blue pumps (one for the motor and one for the nitrous system), and excluding the rollbar and a B&M shifter, the interior is stock and Grandma fresh.
But looks are deceptive. This behemoth, which weighs 5,100 pounds with Cas behind the wheel, just ran a 10.674 at 127.75 mph as we were writing this. "It's actually a little bit faster than we are really looking to make the car go," Cas said. "Our goal is to make it consistently run 10.8 to 11.0 seconds in the quarter-mile." Just dial back the spray a little, and they're there.
The car is a sleeper to the point that track announcers commonly make fun of it when it pulls into the burnout box—until they see it run. Then it becomes an attraction. Though it's completely streetable, registered, and insured, the wagon is usually hauled to the track on a trailer, because a car this big and fast will eventually break something. We asked Cas if his grandmother knew what he was doing with the car, and if so, does she approve? His answer: "Absolutely!"
Tech NotesWho: George Castlemaine Sevelle V
What: '69 Chevrolet Kingswood Estate station wagon
Where: Mission Viejo, CA
Engine: Mike Hayden built the 540 starting with a Mercury Marine 502 Gen 6 block. The internals include a Callies 4.25-inch-stroke crank, 6.385-inch Eagle H-beam rods, 10.4:1 JE pistons, and a Comp hydraulic roller cam with 238/242 duration at 0.050 and 0.580/0.590 lift. A 1,000-cfm Holley carb on an Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake works with a Nitrous Supply Halo Plate system jetted to 400 hp. An MSD 6AL sparks it, and a CompuTech DataMaxx data logger keeps track of what's going on.
Transmission: The four-speed is a 4L80E from Hughes Transmissions with a trans brake and 3,500-stall lockup converter.
Rearend: Moser built a custom-width, 9-inch housing. The gears are 4.88:1 on the track, but get switched to 3.50s for the street.
Exhaust: Currently, the car does not have exhaust—just open headers. As we write this, they were installing a full exhaust system to drive it to a show.
Suspension: The front suspension is stock, and the rear uses Hotchkis Sport adjustable upper control arms.
Brakes: They're stock like the General made them, with discs in front and drums in back.
Wheels/Tires: BF Goodrich Radial T/As are used on the street, sized 245/60-15 in front and 275/60-15 in the rear. At the track, Cas switches to a set of Hoosier slicks or 295/65-15 Mickey Thompson ET Street Radials.
Paint/Body: The car has never been in an accident, so no major bodywork has ever been performed. The car was repainted in 1997 by George Thomas at Mariposa Auto Body. Thomas couldn't find reproductions of the original vinyl "woodwork," so he painted it on. It really looks like wood!
Interior: The stock, black vinyl bench seats are augmented with a Hansen Race Cars rollbar, B&M shifter, and 3,000 watts of stereo from Pioneer, Clarion, Boston Acoustics, JL, Linear Power, and Directed Auto. When we photographed the car at the track, Cas had removed the heavy subwoofers from the rear part of the car.