According to San Diegan Jake Wallace, this car should have been left to its inevitable decline. You know, the part where the earth reclaims its progeny, a once noble creature curiously (possibly hopelessly) overrun with rot, pop rivets, and patch panels. Unbeknown to him at the time, the only part of the car with integrity was the roof, but he didn't discover the slow death until the '67 Chevelle was being overhauled in the extreme. The decline had spread to every major system, a fact rudely impressed on Jake in real-world driving.
Naturally, the shining path to Jake's door was convoluted. His father (who lived in North Carolina) and he purchased the car in 1995 as a project but as life would have it they could give only minimal devotion due to the usual “work commitments.” They sold it to Jake's uncle who attended it in his spare time and made the thing functional. Another round of musical cars put the Chevelle in the hands of a local. Jake got it back from that story board in 2005 … and sighed in relief.
Then Jake moved around a bit. “I performed some basic engine work, redid the interior, and had the car while I was living in Alabama.” Then, he moved to Texas, where he had a revelation: “I was driving the car around one day in the summer of 2006. A traffic light just turned yellow and I didn't think I could make it through. I got on the drum brakes hard and the car stopped, but barely. I had to pull to the shoulder so I didn't hit the car in front of me. It was then I realized that I needed modern safety features like disc brakes, suspension, full seatbelts, etc.”
Jake had seen a magazine article that summer touting the premium chassis that Schwartz Performance Engineering (SPE) offered for the A-body. “It was the perfect choice because they offered modern-day handling in a package that was competitively priced. It seemed a much more viable alternative rather than to purchase all the assemblies related to the conversion one at a time,” he offered.
Then that curious situation suddenly expanded. As long as SPE was doing the chassis, building the foundation for this enterprise, why not let 'em do the entire car? “It just made sense that SPE perform that restoration because they could alter their product specifically for my application without compromising the quality of the frame,” said Jake. “I also wanted a more reliable and more powerful engine. I had a target of 800 horsepower and was torn between a roots-type supercharger and a turbo system. I ultimately chose the turbos. I chose Nelson Racing Engines (NRE) because they offered high-horsepower engines with (reliable) performance for a daily driver. I have touted SPE and NRE over the years and am always amazed at their passion for performance.”
Kind of reads like a commercial, doesn't it? Like these guys just airlifted in parts and service for the common good, but Jake got none of it on the cuff. The price of glory would have doubtless produced delirium tremens. With the inclusion of the bat-cave engine, the Chevelle was equipped with race-car stuff, equipment designed to handle considerable stress in a reliable manner. Beyond the hands-on ministrations, how much bank did the black bullet require? Jake was succinct: “I don't want to know.” But he does know. He's got his lungs in this thing. Follow along as we piece the '67 back together and make your own call.
By the way, Jake entered the Chevelle in the 2013 Car Craft Nationals. It won the CC Pro Build Car of the Year.
Engine & Drivetrain
Anyone who has seen a Nelson car under power on YouTube would have no doubt of its ferocity. Tires ignite as if spewing gasoline and spin for a quarter of mile. Initial shrieks of delight are soon squelched to silent reverence. To underwrite the terror, Nelson includes high-quality internals. They begin with a Rat stretched slightly to that favored 509ci displacement. Using this platform, they insinuated a Callies 4340 billet crankshaft, matching 4340 connecting rods, and JE 2618 pistons fitted with Hell Fire ring packs. NRE fixed the bottom-end with a Billet Fabrication aluminum sump and then inserted one of their proprietary-spec roller camshafts and put the front cover in place. The 509 huffs through ported Brodix aluminum lungs fitted with Inconel exhaust valves, chromoly rocker arms, and Smith Brothers pushrods. The system is fed through an NRE-prepped intake manifold and exhales mightily through custom NRE turbo stanchions and an SPE 3-inch stainless exhaust. Spark and timing, such as it is, is the province of a 60-2 crank trigger and four ignition coils. The terrible twin T76 Turbonetics units are programmed for 14 psi, a street-fighter setting that builds 1,105 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm and 1,209 horsepower at 6,300 rpm, though this output is actually modest. Nelson claims that the “alien style” intake and the appropriate increase in boost will rage 2,000 hp on race gas. It's also capable of assuming an NRE “octane on demand” feature that pulls fuel from separate tanks and incorporates two fuel injectors per cylinder. Aromatic juice sloshes gently in a Rick's Stainless fuel tank. No way a clutch would be capable of feasibly applying this much grunt smoothly so Jake opted for a Bowler Performance 4L85E. The gear ratios are stock but it has a 13-inch lockup converter with a stall speed of just 2,500 rpm. A Bowler fluid cooler has been included. Torque travels a Schwartz prop shaft to the narrowed (2 inches) Winters Performance Products 9-inch axle carrying a 3.70:1 ratio and Detroit Truetrac differential.
A badass powertrain must be supported by an equally gnarly set of rails. Schwartz Performance's G-Machine chassis is just such a thing; it exhibits 200 percent less torsional stress and weighs 125 pounds less than the original, a boon to enhanced handling at the very least. The rear section is carried by a modified four-link controlled with RideTech air springs and antisway bars with splined ends and billet arms. In front, the Chevelle rides on Schwartz spindles, an AGR quick-ratio steering box, a splined bar, and another cache of RideTech components. Throughout the space, SPE inserted gussets and extra bracing.
Jake: “The mediablasting revealed a rusted hulk with pop-riveted patch panels everywhere. The car was rusted almost beyond repair. Schwartz replaced every panel on it except the roof. Suffice that the smoothing and block-sanding sessions were monumental. As for the engine bay, the finite detail and compact dimensions are unsurpassed. We've never seen a nicer way of stuffing ten pounds in a five-pound bag. Finally, SPE jammed the Chevelle over to Jerry Lins in Harvard, Illinois, for the applications of PPG Black.
The theme remains as it was designed, no wild departure here, just a clean rendition with a few eye-catchers along the sight line. After the Painless wiring was installed, SPE erected the full rollcage and attached the Sparco six-point harnesses. Tavis Highlander, in league with NRE, designed and assembled the Redline Gauge Works package in a custom panel. Cassis Customs in Woodstock, Illinois, developed the Sparco seats with lots of leather and carried the theme to the panels that flank them. What would all this tech be without a little respite? Jake got a Vintage Air HVAC installed, affixed a Grant steering wheel and drowned the world with a complete Alpine sound system: single-din CDE-HD149BT receiver with Bluetooth and HD radio built in, SPR-69C Hi-End 6x9 coaxial 2-way speakers, SWR1234D Type-R car subwoofer, and 4-channel PDX F4 amplifier. The shifter is a B&M Magnum Grip Pro Stick.
Rollers & Binders
Baer Racing figures heavily in the speed burning department. SPE brought in the popular 6S system to squelch forward motion: 14-inch rotors tapped by six- and four-piston calipers. It's got some big tires and wheels, too, Bunky. In front, we see 18x9 Rushforth Livewires with 265/40 M/T Street Radials. On the drive end, 18x12 Livewires pose bulbous 345/35 Street Radials.