Forget about the “social media” you know about now. Decades before Gasbag Gore “invented” the Internet, hot rodders were enjoying their special brand of communication. They do it the old-fashioned way, no hiding behind the anonymity of forum posts. They participate in the active voice. They work their cars, drive their cars, race their cars all the while open to the consequences of being up sheet’s creek at midnight without so much as a dog paddle. And they wouldn’t have it any other way.
The following episode encapsulates all the facets of the phenomena. It’s a story of the father/son embrace, a melding of heads as well as hearts consumed by the thought and the working of a project as one. Son Briggs DeFoor is 22 now, a student at Auburn University, but the story began much earlier. Briggs’ dad (who shall remain anonymous) had a vision. He wanted to see his son show up on senior prom night with a car most bitchin.
He’d purchased the ’67 Chevelle hardtop for $7,000; actually it was a $7,000 “piece of junk.” Originally, Dad did a lot of the work himself like the disassembly, sandblasting, and prepping. “I found a red tennis shoe between the body and the rear fender, if that gives any indication as to the bodywork condition when I received it,” he said.
Pursuant, he gathered several friends to help with the rehabilitation. During the initial gestation Keith Wright installed the front suspension, Todd Dobson narrowed the rearend, Dean Jump built the automatic transmission, and Sean Rollins did the paint. With an on-again, off-again work ethic this phase siphoned four years off the big board. Dad: “I would not call this a restoration and I was not happy with the outcome. It just wasn’t what I wanted or had envisioned. That’s when I decided to get it done correctly, professionally, so I contacted Mike Atkins at Pratt & Miller Restorations and Specialty Vehicles [P&M] in New Hudson, Michigan, to take the car.” Ten months later the blue baby was born, body slick, lungs bursting, ready to rip tire tread.
As you know, the popular notion is to include a most modern engine and drivetrain, in this case an LSA 6.2L, the one with the supercharger. In fact, Briggs thinks that the unique thing about the Chevelle is this engine. Straight from the crate, the intercooled LSA pumps out 556 hp at 6,100 rpm and 551 lb-ft of torque at 3,800 rpm. Its new form was crafted by Thomson Automotive in Wixom, Michigan, where Brian Thomson did the machine work and reassembly.
Tweaks upon the stock-displacement engine pushed output to 630 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. Though its Eaton TVS1900 puffer provides a nominal boost pressure of 8 psi for the 376ci engine, a twitched computer, Kook’s stainless headers (1 7/8-inch primary pipes), a P&M stainless chambered exhaust system, and a ZR1 Camaro fuel pump all contribute to the outcome. Ancillaries include a 22-row aluminum radiator from DeWitts in Howell, Michigan; a Delco 140-amp/hr alternator; Vintage Air Gen II HVAC and FrontRunner accessory drive system. Incoming air is drawn through a K&N element inside the custom P&M enclosure.
The celebrated Gordon Stoney (Stoney Automotive Engineering) assembled the beefy 4L80E, preceding it with a Dynamic 2,800-stall converter. The vital link Dynotech prop shaft connects the big slushbox to the Chris Alston’s Chassisworks 9-inch axle equipped with positive traction and 3.55:1 gears.
So where to put this kinky little package? What were the criteria? Rather than engaging a complete custom frame, P&M’s Try White socked the mini-tubs home and went on to build the rear of the chassis, locating the 9-inch with a Chris Alston four-link setup and firming the work with QA1 adjustable shocks. The rear of the car has been dropped 2 inches. Then, P&M adapted the Detroit Speed 2-inch drop spindles, tubular control arms, and QA1 adjustables. After that, the Chevelle’s front end was 3 inches closer to the tarmac.
Even though the DeFoor Chevelle was not envisioned as a Pro Touring assassin, save for the absence of a rollcage and wide-belt safety straps, it carries all the requisite cues. But the rubber and the energy burners are right on target. The wheels are whoppers: Schott Americana rims, 18x9 and 19x12, wrapped with Pro Touring-popular Michelin Pilot Sports measuring 255/35 and 345/30. If the pluck of these rollers and the “wanna try me?” stance don’t scare the chumps off, then maybe the big binders will. P&M placed Wilwood 14-inch plates pressured by six-piston calipers in front and made the complement with 12.88 discs and four-piston clamps at the rear.
Though the gut appears stock, it ripples with small, pertinent changes that do not detract. Notice the window cranks, the custom P&M console with a solo billet cup holder and accessory box. The soft black vinyl theme is carried through the seats, which are from a Honda Accord, the side and door panels, headliner, and carpeting by P&M’s Rob Murphy. But it is Briggs who handles the main controls, the Flaming River Waterfall steering wheel and the Winters ratchet, while hawking the Auto Meters applied to custom panel. A Classic Instruments custom digital boost gauge stares back through the steering wheel point blank.
Pratt and Miller’s tacit credo is “meticulous preparation and flawless execution.” Its scope is diverse and inextricably entwined with Chevrolet Racing, not the least of which is the C7.R GT Corvette race cars. While known by most for this dedication, P&M has maintained a world-class restoration arm, hard at work and receiving awards since 1989. Curiously, the exterior finish on the DeFoor Chevelle was parceled to Mike Brown at Brownys Customs in Commerce Township, Michigan. Though the firewall and inner fender panels were shaved and smoothed by the P&M troops, Brownys performed the bodywork and Mike immersed the expanse with PPG Ford Vista Blue. They sent the bumpers and other bright parts to ABC Chrome in Waterford, Michigan, for rejuvenation, and all the powdercoated bits were finished by HEB Enterprises, located a few miles south in Hamburg.
Another happy ending … one that goes back to Dad DeFoor’s opening statement: “The most memorable experience with the car was working with my son Briggs for several years to get it ready for him to drive to his senior prom. Watching him drive it away was very special.”