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This 1964 Chevrolet Chevelle Gasser Carries the Spirit of Vintage Drag Racing

Get What You Need: Drake Kelley’s scare-o-meter Chevelle

Ro McGonegal Jan 15, 2016 0 Comment(s)
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It’s always fun to be a thousand miles away from the status quo. While Pro Touring (and all that it implies) is the current darling of the hobby, we know that such cars are integral with the other disciplines (mainly because we say there are). This isn’t Camaro Central, folks, its Chevy High and Drake Kelley’s jacked-up berserker cannot be discounted. In the horde of the fat-tired and the low-slung, it stands out like a big, black eye.

There is reality and there is perception. Kelley’s sky-high, all-steel 1964 Chevelle carries a bit of both. It has drag race history and was tended by the tube-axle terrorists at Blair’s Speed Shop in Pasadena, California. At one time, Blair’s was celebrated as the only place that you took your junk for a stick-axle conversion and hundreds of cars (mainly Tri-Fives) dropped their heavy and complicated unequal-length A-arms on Blair’s garage floor.

029 1964 Chevelle Gasser Rig Shot 2/57
004 1964 Chevelle Gasser Side Rear 3/57

To preface this history, you have to realize that Drake’s father, Dick, was on the case as a high-school kid in 1963 and ’64. He had a primo 1957 Bel Air fitted with a 327 engine and a Muncie box, a candy apple green paintjob, and black tuck-and-roll settled all over the inside.

Sure. You know it got clipped off the street in front of his house. You know it was stripped to the bone. You know he never saw his heartbeat car again. But that aura never dissipated. Dick’s lament lasted for years, but his thoughts curiously became Drake’s inspiration as well.

002 1964 Chevelle Gasser Side Front 4/57
005 1964 Chevelle Gasser Side 5/57
003 1964 Chevelle Gasser Rear 6/57

Dick and Drake continued to fan the flame and they built countless cars in their heads, but “between sports, school, and work, we could never quite pull the trigger on the project,” Drake admitted. “Five years ago, I became a partner in a company that built custom/drag river boats with monster power and triple-digit capability. I learned a lot from that experience. As this boat phase was winding down [my dad and I] began having the car conversation again.”

Here’s what happened: In the spring of 2014, they bought a 1969 C10, intending to clean it up and sell or trade it as they worked toward their dream of the ’57. They soon traded the truck outright for a full-on Pro Street 1972 Chevelle. They spiffed up the ’Velle … and as car junkies, they began the search immediate for something else to trade. They came across this ’64 Chevelle and wouldn’t you know it, owner Frank Lindsey was also in swap mode. He always wanted a Pro Street car and Drake was itching for something like a gasser.

006 1964 Chevelle Gasser Small Block Engine 7/57
020 1964 Chevelle Gasser Vintage Wheelie Bars 8/57
019 1964 Chevelle Gasser Rear Wheel And Tire 9/57

The progenitor was Denny Bolf, who lived in Sylmar, California, at the time. He named it Wile E. Coyote and raced it for years at SoCal tracks as a C/Altered, running 9s at a buck-forty. After the retirement party, the car went absolutely black, shelved in a barn for several decades, and later in a horse corral in Littlerock, California. Mike Tussey became its next steward. He played with it a little, dropping in a mild 327, a Muncie four-gear, and renewed brakes and suspension. And as if all of this was preordained, he kept the cycle intact and sold it to Lindsey who lived nearby in Lancaster. It was Lindsey who plugged in the 406 and the T10, and got the package smoothed out, repainted, and reupholstered.

Drake says that as they dove into the car, he and his dad fell completely in love with everything about it. They went through the entire platform. Ryan Johnson massaged the engine, replacing gaskets and seals, tuning the carburetors and servicing the transmission. A little later, Tim Lee (at Don Lee’s Auto Service in Rancho Cucamonga) refreshed the window trim, moldings, and inserted fresh felt strips.

011 1964 Chevelle Gasser Interior 10/57
032 1964 Chevelle Gasser Steering Wheel 11/57

Though the car has been rehabbed, there are still tattoos, lots of clues about its past: a righteous patina on some of the original plated parts, some scuffs here and there, even a stripe or two of rust lingers. In the end, the Kelley’s didn’t get what they wanted. But they got what they needed. Or maybe not.

Then there’s this: Junkie logic is the ability to justify whatever needs to be done to support a habit, be it automobiles or anything else. No doubt the Kelleys have a serious jones. Ol’ Wile has a new master now, ex-GM employee and collector Craig Andrews down in San Diego. It was the birth of Drake’s first son that precipitated the exchange. The Chevelle had a ’cage that he didn’t want to molest—he wanted something with a back seat so his kid could experience the ether, too, and in the end Drake did get what he needed.

021 1964 Chevelle Gasser Front 12/57
034 1964 Chevelle Gasser Door Art 13/57
022 1964 Chevelle Gasser Rear 14/57

Tech Check
Owner: Drake and Dick Kelley, Rancho Cucamonga, California
Vehicle: 1964 Malibu SS
Engine
Type: 1972 small-block
Displacement: 406 ci
Compression Ratio: 10.0:1
Bore: 4.125 inches
Stroke: 3.75 inches
Cylinder Heads: Cast-iron double-hump, ported
Rotating Assembly: Forged crankshaft, connecting rods, and pistons
Valvetrain: Comp Cams 1.6:1 rockers, Manton pushrods
Camshaft: Comp Cams solid roller, Pete Jackson geardrive
Induction: Edelbrock Tunnel Ram, 2x4-bbl Holley 650-cfm carburetors, velocity stacks w/ K&N
Ignition: Accel distributor and Super Coil, 36-degrees total timing
Exhaust: Hooker Super Comp headers with 1 5/8-inch primaries, 3-inch aluminized system with Flowmaster 40 mufflers
Ancillaries: Reworked four-core GM radiator, OE oil pan, Weiand water pump
Output: 350 hp at 6,000 rpm, 400 lb-ft at 5,000 rpm
Machine Work/Assembly: N/A
Drivetrain
Transmission: Borg-Warner T10, Centerforce Dual-Friction 11-inch clutch, vintage Ansen two-piece bellhousing
Rear Axle: Borg-Warner T10, Centerforce Dual-Friction 11-inch clutch, vintage Ansen two-piece bellhousing
Chassis
Front Suspension: Blair’s Speed Shop straight-axle conversion, leaf springs, tube shocks, bump-steer damper
Rear Suspension: Leaf springs, tube shocks, Denny Bolf lift bars; wheelie bars by Blair’s; six-point rollbar
Brakes: OE drums, front and rear
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: American Racing Torq-Thrust 14x7 front, 15x10 rear
Tires: Hankook Optima 195/75 front, Hoosier Pro Street LT 31/12.5 rear
Interior
Upholstery: Paul Dunham, Classic Touch Upholstery (Lancaster, CA)
Material: Vinyl
Seats: OE, Simpson lap belt
Steering: OE, Mooneyes Classic 13-inch 3-hole wheel
Shifter: Hurst Competition Plus
Dash: OE with insert
Instrumentation: So-Cal Speed Shop
Exterior
Bodywork: Westside Auto Body (Lancaster, CA)
Paint by: Reuben at Westside Auto Body; graphics by Kick the Can Studio (San Dimas, CA); chrome by Millennium Polish & Chrome (Ontario, CA)
Paint: Wimbledon White/Toyota Voo Doo Blue, gold leaf lettering by Kick the Can Studio
Hood: OE
Grille: OE
Bumpers: OE Rear

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