Yeah. You know very well how it goes. You see a car when you’re a crazy little kid and it absolutely sticks in your brain — indelible, like it came from a branding iron. It never goes away. It never relents. You can’t relent. You won’t relent until the thing is something you can feel beneath you, beating the pedals, swilling its essence, feeling utterly and completely alive.
But that reality doesn’t occur in an instant or a month or a year. Often it painfully unfolds, anticipation leaking, like a slow-motion image in time-lapse photography. But this record is the real story of the car, of its rampant growth throttled by a too-long stretch in chassis jail and clouds of tar-pit torpor.
“When I was 11 years old, I played football and my teammate’s father would drop him off at practice in a black 1967 SS Chevelle. From the first time I saw it, I was hooked on that Chevelle,” Chad Longo confessed. “I have owned my Chevelle for six years and it took me six years to build it.” Chad is 43 and had been sweeping the horizon for his soul mate since he was 25 but couldn’t find one that wasn’t compromised by a little too much oxidation. He waited, got antsy, got distracted. Rather than focusing on the Chevelle, he was waylaid by a gang of Tri-Fives.
Eventually, a friend clued him into a ’67 SS that was in pieces, scattered in someone’s garage, and had been that way for 10 years. Then, in 2003, a small apocalypse ensued. There were terrible fires in the foothills of the San Bernardino mountains. All structures surrounding the garage were razed to the ground, but the building holding the Chevelle was unscathed. “It was a sign,” gushed Chad.
The owner wanted $4,000. The body was on a rotisserie but Chad couldn’t be certain that all the trinkets were there, so he offered half of that. The guy blanched. Chad walked away empty-handed. Then fate stuck its head around the corner. It was Thanksgiving Day … and the Chevelle guy’s wife wanted cash for Black Friday sales. The guy relented. Chad hooked up his trailer, peeled his brother Ric off the couch and took off to get the thing. His mother was perturbed, sure that they wouldn’t be back in time for the Big Turkey dinner. Chad gave the guy two grand and trundled his puzzle away. He and Ric made it back to the table just as Mom was getting the bird out of the oven.
“I couldn’t sleep for the next four days trying to figure out how I was going to build it,” he said. A branding iron to the brain will do that to you. “I wanted to keep the traditional look. I also wanted all the cool things there are for this car but I wanted to keep it subtle and simple. The toughest decision was whether to keep the stainless trim and the chrome … or pitch it. A friend imparted these words: “Do you want it to look classic or do you want it to look mean as hell?”
Prior to the blast-off, Chad gathered the troops: brother Ric was in for the overall design (parts, accessories, wheels, and paint scheme); Miguel Rosales would do the interior; Mark Harrison at Harrison Racing & Fabrication was responsible for the chassis as well as the sheetmetal finishing; Kevin Currell’s Sik Fabrication would do the bumpers; Jason Russell took on the final bodywork and paint at Arkane Customs; Dave Basham at BMS Machine built the engine, and Westech Performance’s Eric Rhee toiled over the tuning. Chad did the glasswork, wiring, trim work, engine accessories, minor fabrication, and the final assembly.
Chad’s original notion was a supercharged 572, but his friends were rallying around the LS platform like celebrants at the Burning Man festival out in the Nevada desert. The 6.0-liter truck engine he scrounged off Craiglist for a grand had a cast-iron case that was deemed preferable – to the more common alloy – for famously absorbing boost. Since Basham had worked for Banks at one time, he knew about a pair of prototype turbo-specific LS cylinder heads being developed for a project ultimately aborted and he was able lay hands on them.
Chad: “Eric at Westech was pretty impressed with the power it put out. He couldn’t get it to hook on the dyno when hitting Second gear, so we still don’t have accurate torque and power readings. He’s guessing anywhere between 700-750 horsepower on the conservative side. Needless to say, I’m a happy man with that kind of report from those guys!”
Though the car languished two years in body shop jail, it gave Chad’s friend Miguel Rosales a lot of breathing room to formulate and execute the elegant, decidedly low-key habitat. “We wanted it to be different than any other Chevelle. He spent months making it perfect for me without a single complaint,” said Chad. During the transformation, Rosales created a smooth, fluid console that complements the rest of the man cave. Perforated hide bookends the smooth surfaces and lends some tension and visual escape from those fields. Other cues include Clayton Machine Works pedals that sparkle from the footwell gloom. The doors and trunk are outfitted with a Klassic Keyless remote system. Rather than the accepted no-nonsense gauge faces, Chad opted for the whimsy of Classic Instruments. In all, the cockpit is understated and serene.
The outstanding passenger compartment segues wonderfully with the stark richness of the ebony body, a non-color that reveals, yeah sometimes shouts, every imperfection at a single glance. You don’t know the discipline of block-sanding and panel-gapping a body in black until you’ve done it … over and over and over again. But that was none of Sik Fabrication’s concern. All Kevin Currell had to do was put up those fabulous bumpers, especially the one on the front with the subtle lip spoiler that appears to be freestanding. We’d call it art.
So about a year ago, another long-haul project quietly came to fruition. Though it appears like the work of some big name builder with an obscene price commensurate, it was wholly and wonderfully crafted by locals. With the dust motes still swirling, we asked Chad what he would have done differently. Just one thing. Since the frame modifications took such a long time to complete, he’d be disposed to a chassis from Art Morrison or the Roadster Shop.
It kind of goes back to the branding iron image thing that has haunted Chad since his nascent years. He’ll never forget the sound of the engine the first time it was fired or the day that Miguel finished the interior. Truly, Chad has found happiness with his belt-fed weapon.
|Owner:||Chad Longo, Ladera Ranch, California|
|Vehicle:||1967 SS Chevelle|
|Type:||GM LQ4 iron cylinder block|
|Cylinder Heads:||Gale Banks Engineering prototype|
|Rotating Assembly:||Manley 4340 forged crankshaft and connecting rods, SRP pistons|
|Valvetain:||COMP Cams roller lifters and pushrods|
|Camshaft:||COMP Cams (270/277-deg. duration at 0.050; 0.588/0.569-inch lift), GMPP timing set, custom rocker covers|
|Induction:||Kenne Bell supercharger at 10 psi boost (blueprinted and tweaked by Eric Rhee), Aeromotive A1000 fuel pump|
|Ignition:||Computer by CBM (Rancho Cucamonga, California), GM coils, CBM primary wires, Powermaster alternator|
|Exhaust:||Edelbrock headers, 2 5/8-inch primaries, ceramic-coated, custom 2.5-inch system with crossover pipe, Flowmaster 40 series mufflers|
|Machine Work/Assembly:||Dave Basham at BMS Machine, San Bernardino, California|
|Output (estimated at wheels):||680 lb-ft at 5,200 rpm, 750 hp at 6,500 rpm|
|Tuner:||Eric Rhee, Westech Performance, Mira Loma, California|
|Transmission:||Turbo 400 by Luke’s Transmission (Riverside, California), 2,800-stall speed, reverse-pattern manual valvebody|
|Rear Axle:||Harrison Racing & Fabrication 9-inch, Detroit Locker differential, 3.50:1, Yucaipa, California; Ed Moore Driveline prop shaft, San Bernardino, California|
|Front Suspension:||Heidts 2-inch drop spindles, tubular control arms, QA1 adjustable coilover dampers, splined NASCAR-style antisway bar|
|Rear Suspension:||Frame narrowed 5 inches per side, gusseted and reinforced, 3-link with adjustable Panhard rod, adjustable upper and solid lower links by Harrison Racing & Fabrication, QA1 adjustable coilover dampers, splined antisway bar|
|Brakes:||Wilwood vented 14-inch rotors, six-piston calipers, front; Wilwood 12.5-inch rotors, four-piston calipers, rear|
|Wheels & Tires|
|Wheels:||Rushforth Livewire; 19x8 front, 20x12 rear|
|Tires:||Michelin Pilot Sport; 245/40 front, 335/30 rear|
|Upholstery:||Riverside Custom and Classic Auto Interiors. Miguel Rosales|
|Seats:||Procar Rally, Crow Blackbird belts|
|Steering:||Ididit adjustable brushed aluminum column, Budnik Velocity wheel|
|Shifter:||TCI Outlaw, custom console by Miguel Rosales|
|Instrumentation:||Classic Instruments All-American Traditional Series, fabricated panel inset|
|Bodywork:||Jason Russell, Arkane Customs, Corona, California|
|Paint by:||Jason Russell, Arkane Customs|
|Paint:||House of Kolor Black|
|Bumpers:||Sik Fabrications, Corona, California|