Some of us will spend a lifetime building the car of our dreams. Maybe we luck upon a rough-around-the-edges muscle car just before our 16th birthday and we work away at it until it's finally done … in the next 10-20 years. We will sacrifice everything to keep this sentimental ride, even if it means leaving it on the back burner at times.
This isn't how it happened for Gil Alfonso, owner of this stunning, liquid-black '65 Chevelle. His passion is only partially for the car, but primarily for the chase and the actual building part. Originally, Gil sought out this car to build for his oldest son, Blake, who was turning 16. That was back in 2008. A lot has happened between then and now, including Blake moving away to college and Gil's youngest son, Drew, getting a car of his own. Other cars have come and gone while the Chevelle waited in the back for just the right timing.
The original plan was to do a full restoration on the body, frame, interior, and suspension components, then toss a mild big-block Chevy in the engine bay. The Rat made it in, but never got started as Gil had second thoughts about giving a 16-year-old access to that much torque, especially through a four-speed manual transmission. So what has less torque than a big-block? How about its older sibling, the small-block? Having seen about half a million early Chevelles at the local Goodguys show with a SBC between the fenders, Gil would have none of it. Five years ago the LS engine was popular, but nothing like it is today. He hadn't seen many of them in Chevelles before, and that was his cue to do it.
He couldn't leave well enough alone, naturally. The engine, with its adequate factory installed fuel injection system and distributorless ignition, was too typical. The new-gen small-block got a single-plane intake manifold with a carburetor on top and a front-drive distributor. This was about the time he finally felt some attachment to the car, and said sorry to Blake; he would keep this car for himself.
Gil got the LS1 long-block from a Chevrolet dealer, eliminating any guesswork about the integrity of the internals. From there he added a Chevrolet Performance intake manifold, distributor, and a camshaft upgrade. Without much effort, the engine made 488 horsepower and 515 lb-ft of torque. Probably a good idea it isn't going to his son.
In his quest to avoid the all to common ultra-smoothed, super fancy billetness of today's Pro Touring cars, Gil retained a stock look inside and out. Some things are hard to hide, but anything he could hide, he did. The interior seems to have been plucked from the ‘60s without any hint of performance, and the exterior's lack of modifications match the theme.
All of the performance is there however, just under the surface. Gil stretches the Chevelle's legs at least once a week, whether it's cruising around town or going to an open track event at Laguna Seca or Sears Point.
Gil doesn't have a workshop in his home garage; he actually gets to tinker while he's at work. Long ago, his parents bought a transmission repair shop called Transmatic in Oakland, California. As soon as Gil was old enough to accurately twist a wrench, he was on the shop floor removing and replacing transmissions. Over the next eight years he climbed the ladder, moving on to building cars, then finally buying the shop from his parents. He has owned and operated the same shop for 34 years. He isn't the one with trans fluid on his hands anymore, so when he is done with the paperwork and the phones aren't ringing, he can do what he wants.
The back half of the shop is for restorations, either for his personal cars or word-of-mouth customers' rides. There, in his spare time at the shop or staying late, he can get these cars together. So why doesn't Gil feel any attachment to the final product? Because there's always something new and exciting on the horizon.
Engine & Drivetrain
After exploring a couple of different combinations, Gil decided on an LS1 for power. The rotating parts came from a Chevrolet dealership. The factory forged crankshaft, H-beam rods, and pistons with zero-gap rings would be enough to handle the upgrades he had in mind. Most of the valvetrain was left alone with the exception of the camshaft, which was replaced with a Crower hydraulic roller with 0.617-inch lift and 234/238-degrees duration at 0.050-inch lift. The Chevrolet Performance intake manifold mounts an 850-cfm Quick Fuel Technologies carburetor and custom open-element aluminum air cleaner. The Chevrolet Performance distributor drive and MSD Pro-Billet distributor replaces the factory DIS. Exhaust gases are handled by a set of Sanderson ceramic-coated headers and a 3-inch full stainless exhaust with MagnaFlow mufflers.
The 515 lb-ft of torque transfers through an LS7 clutch to a T-56 six-speed from an '05 Dodge Viper. The custom short-throw shifter has a factory-looking shift ball, keeping with the stocker theme. Out back is a custom 3-inch narrowed, full-floating 12-bolt with an Auburn limited-slip unit and 3.73:1 Richmond gears.
Factory spindles made way for a pair off a '70 Camaro for their improved geometry and were combined with Global West Negative Roll control arms. They were paired with QA1 coilovers and an Addco 1.38-inch sway bar. Steering is managed by a quick-ratio box, also from Global West with completely rebuilt linkage. The rear suspension uses Global West Negative Roll control arms to grasp QA1 coilovers and a 1-inch Addco sway bar to plant it in the turns. Everything was installed only after the frame was completely stripped then powdercoated gloss black.
Wheels & Brakes
It's hard to have factory wheels when you insist on running big brakes. That's the only giveaway from the outside that hints that there's more to this car than a Plain Jane restoration. Wheel credit goes to a set of Super Spoke 18x8 fronts and 18x10 rears. Gil chose a sticky competition Toyo R888 in 255/35 up front and 275/40 for the rear. This rubber would be necessary to prevent lockup by the Wilwood six- and four-piston calipers clamping 14-inch rotors. Brake pedal pressure travels through dual Wilwood master cylinders. There is a third master for the hydraulic clutch system.
This is the only thing Gil didn't do himself. The gold paint it wore when he bought it was fine for Grandma, but he wanted something a little sleeker. It doesn't get much sleeker than black. All of the paint came off and the car started the painting process with bare metal. Kendall Asport treated the Chevelle with only the best preparation and several coats of DuPont Diamond Black and clear.
Nothing screams stock like red, right? Hank's Trim Shop in Pinole, California, stitched up the red around modified factory seats for that super-retro look. Gil didn't want the inside to look like a race car's, though the five-point seatbelts are mandatory where he plays. He opted to leave out the rollbar and any new-school obnoxious instrumentation. A hidden Pioneer stereo, 150-watt amp, and 6x9 speakers allow Gil to play tunes through his iPod while retaining the factory radio in the dash.