Ray Smith spent the last 25 years amassing every 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle part he could get his big paws on. Unfortunately for him, his basket case SS hardtop was a never-ending project. The restoration never seemed to gain momentum. You see, Ray had plenty of determination and skill, but unfortunately he lacked the tight focus and the long-term game plan needed to pull off a concours restoration.
During that time he amassed more cars, other project rides that he just couldn't turn down. They were pretty much all Chevelles, as that was the top prize in the bottom of the GM-flavored Cracker Jack box that Ray just couldn't stop digging in. These needy rides found a home in outdoor lots and several garages he rented and borrowed in suburban New Jersey.
When Ray turned 50 he took a hard look at his vehicular situation. It wasn't good. Plenty of good titles were locked in Ray's safe, all belonging to valuable muscle cars, but none was attached to a show-quality original car. Sure, he had a few runners, not to mention a particularly nice 454-motivated 1971 Chevelle droptop that he cruised the local streets in, but Ray wanted more. He was looking for a time capsule ride.
He decided to turn over a new leaf. The goal was to pull all his resources together to find and procure a finished, topnotch, 1967 hardtop Chevelle, a show-caliber ride to own and drive. No more cramming cars into cubbyholes for future reclamation. He needed a sweet, original ride, and he needed it now.
Ray remembered a beautiful Chevelle he had seen at the local car shows. Not only was it clean, but rumor had it that the car was a true original—still running under its born-with drivetrain and wearing factory paint. In Jersey that's a tough combination to find, as Garden State roads can be pretty nightmarish and unforgiving, especially in the winter. Ray knew it would be tough to find another 1967 this clean in his lifetime. He was tired of driving cars with holes in the trunk, botched floors, and patched-up exteriors. The car was for sale. He knew he had to score this one.
He made a serious offer on the car. With a little negotiating he finally had the original, yet concours-condition ride that he had been yearning for all those years. After the purchase all of Ray's project cars became a footnote in his life. The Chevelles, Camaros, and Novas he had amassed in earnest for decades now meant little to him. He was content to leave them behind and just enjoy driving this one, the car Ray waited his life for.
He needed a sweet, original ride, and he needed it now
This Chevelle SS was bought new in 1967 by Michael Romer of New Milford, New Jersey. During his ownership he did what most car guys would do, the changes typical for the period. He tinkered with the carb and cam in the hot car, looking for that extra dose of power. However, a fender bender would soon sideline the car, and after he had it repaired it was parked for a good period of time.
In 1981, John Blaha of nearby Hackensack bought the SS. He just had to have the sweet and super clean A-Body. He too stuffed it away, and then months later finally registered it for the road. Once out on the streets, John realized the car would brake hard to the left. He took it to several shops to diagnose the problem. He had the brakes, suspension and frame checked, but turned up no solid answers. He then parked it again in a clean, dry garage, as he didn't feel the need to drive a car with that issue.
In 2010, John reassessed the car, which by this time had sat dormant for more than a decade. The car was gone over thoroughly, and he tried once again to find a cure for the brake issues. During that time he decided to freshen up the 396/350hp numbers-matching engine to help properly awaken it from its slumber. It was at that point that the mystery of the brake pull was discovered.
Turns out a kinked brake line was the gremlin in this Chevelle. It's amazing that such a glaring problem had been overlooked for so long. Once fixed, the car was ready for some serious cruising, as it had seen little or no daylight since the early 1980s. And once it made its way outside and to the local car shows, that's when Ray discovered it and quickly procured it for his own.
Garden State roads can be pretty nightmarish and unforgiving, especially in the winter
After its 29 year sleep, this Chevelle was still in pretty original condition. The car retains its original Mountain Green factory paint job, which, except for a few corrosive flaws around the wheelwells, is in amazing condition. With just a light buffing, the paint popped, and the rest didn't need much to get show-ready. Ray made the wise choice to keep the flaws and to keep its born-on green skin as original as possible. And since it still has its original paint, it still has all its original sheetmetal, including the trunk and floors.
The interior was in excellent shape as well. The car retains the original door panels, carpet, rear seats, factory gauges, and the rare speed warning indicator. As for the driver seat, John Blaha took out the original buckets and installed later-model units with headrests because he felt they were safer. Ray removed those seats and sourced the original-style metal-back buckets, which he then had recovered in repop vinyl.
The grille is in mint condition and has never been off the car. The rivets are still original and clean. The rear differential even has the original Positraction decal, now yellowed but still legible and clear. Anything that was removed from the car over the years was boxed up and saved, except for the original shifter, which was tossed early.
The basics of the car are pretty straightforward—a 396/350 car backed by a sturdy M21 four-speed. Out back, a 3.55 Posi gets the power to the wheels. Manual drum brakes and steering kept the price down, and the car retains all its original suspension parts.
Since it was an early production car (9/66), the console does not have the chrome seatbelt clips that most of the 1967 models had. Interestingly, the car was not ordered with the typical blinker tachometer; the first owner installed a period Sun Super Tach on the steering column, which has never left the car.
Ray has decided not to make any changes to the car. He is going to run it like it is. Even the wheels are the original steel wheels, but are now capped by the cool mag wheel cover option available in 1967. Ray believes that the car originally came with poverty caps, since the wheels were painted body color from the factory.
Ray couldn't be happier with the performance and looks of this sweet 1967, a car he can get in and drive without inhibition and still turn heads wherever he goes. As for the project cars he has stashed everywhere, there's no need to get to them. Ray's got his dream car now.
At a Glance
1967 Chevelle SS396
Owned by: Ray Smith, East Brunswick, NJ
Restored by: Unrestored original
Engine: 396ci/350hp V-8
Transmission: Muncie M21 4-speed manual
Rearend: GM 12-bolt with 3.55 gears and Positraction
Interior: Black vinyl bucket seat
Wheels: 14-inch steel with mag-style hubcaps
Tires: 205/70R14 Cooper Trendsetter
Special parts: Speed indicator, rear antenna, original paint and interior, Sun tach
With just a light buffing, the paint popped