If there’s one thing you can expect at the Super Chevy Suspension & Handling Challenge, presented by Falken Tire, it’s that a wide variety of build styles will show up. Pro Touring, street machine, street fighter; everyone has their own vision of what they think their handling car should look like. Brent Josephson’s journey to become a hot rodder and make his vision of a badass Chevy a reality came about the hard way. As he recalled, “I didn’t come from a car enthusiast family, so I was on my own with my desire to work on, race, and modify American muscle. In 1967, I talked my parents into sending me back to Milwaukee, where my uncle Lauren had just opened a service station: Karnes Texaco. I spent the summer with my cousins, working and learning at the station.”
Brent had always wanted a Chevelle, but in his high school years both his dad, and his wallet, said no to the idea. Later in life, Brent finally had the cash, and time, to tackle his dream. “Prior to retirement I started searching for a 1968 Chevelle since it was number one on my bucket list. After a 2-year search, I found a Chevelle in Fontana (California) that was in pretty good shape, or so I thought. I bought and received the car on November 12, 2010, and with the help of good friends tore it down to the frame in one day,” recalled Brent.
To mark this off his post-retirement bucket list he came up with a plan for the Chevelle. With the goal of racing the car on the road course, dragstrip, and some standing mile events he ordered up rule books from all three sanctioning bodies and came up with a way to pass tech no matter what he was running that weekend. His other goal was to turn every nut, bolt, and screw himself. In addition, he wanted to do all the fabrication involved, so he learned to weld.
To help with the plan, he enlisted the advice of three people, each an expert in one of the three forms of racing he was interested in. The problem was that each one thought the requirements of the other forms of racing were BS, so they were never in the garage at the same time. As Brent told it, “Most everyone said my plan was bad and I should build for one form of racing. They said I wouldn’t be competitive, but being competitive wasn’t my goal, having fun was.”
For suspension, Brent turned to Doug Nordahl of Global West. They came up with a plan to utilize the Chevelle’s factory frame and still get a lot of handling performance. Global West’s extended travel kit raised the front shock mounts to give the low Chevelle plenty of suspension travel while their Category 5 and Negative Roll systems provided much needed geometry changes. For shocks, Brent went all-in and added Penske double-adjustable coilovers to the mix. The rear retained the triangular-four-link arrangement, but the arms were upgraded and a Global West rear coilover system was added along with another pair of Penskes.
To power the Chevelle, Brent ordered up a stack of parts from Turn Key Performance and wrenched them all together himself. Scat rotating parts were mated to forged Mahle pistons and the LS7 long-block was topped off with CNC-ported LS3 heads. A big Comp 251/267-degree (at 0.050) 115 LSA cam gives the LS a nasty idle and on the dyno it was enough for 610 hp at 6,200 rpm and 570 lb-ft of twist at 5,200 rpm. Backing up this worked over LS is a Tremec T-56 six-speed manual with a McLeod twin-disc clutch.
Given Brent’s desire to race his Chevelle, he’s worked on the mechanical aspects first. As such, the body is a bit … well, rough for the time being. The hidden rust issues were fixed by Brent who also bulged out the rear quarters before spraying the Chevy in flat red primer. But, once the mechanics are all sorted out, he plans on finishing the bodywork and shooting it British Racing Green with orange stripes. For now it was best described by Mary Pozzi as “The Mad Max Chevelle with the Space Shuttle interior.”
It took Brent 3 years, 6 months, and 1 day to get his Chevelle back on the road and, since hitting the pavement, he’s competed in a ton of events. So far he’s put down 11.70 at the dragstrip and topped out (without any aerodynamic aids) at 161.2 mph in the Mojave Magnum Mile. Considering he’s still shaking out the ’68, he feels those numbers will only get better. All of this in a car that can race anywhere and still cruise down the highway. Brent went on to say, “Currently, I am working on tuning/dialing in the suspension, fabricating aerodynamics, and improving my launch. Most of all, I am finally enjoying slamming gears at many of the tracks I used to just watch on TV. Life is good.”
Mary Pozzi from the Driver’s Seat
Once I cushioned myself in the seat (they’re non-adjustable, and Brent is a bit heavier and much taller than moi) of what I dubbed the “Mad Max Chevelle,” it was go-time. And go we did. From the onset of my out lap, to when I regretfully had to end my five-lap sojourn, the consistency lap-after-lap was off the charts. This is a car that you can press hard with only the tires being the limiting factor. It instills confidence, and you’ll come away thinking you’re Superman or Batman, take your choice. Personally, I’d choose Batman as he’s got more cool toys.
Every single part on this car was a perfect fit with each other and the Chevelle became a finely tuned scalpel as I shredded my way, lap after lap, over the Streets of Willow track. From corner entry to track out, it was as if the car could read my mind and made my task so much easier. The brakes were incredible with excellent initial bite followed by good linear response to slow this big car down. And as for big, no one told the car it was the size of a large fur-bearing mammal compared to most of the others tested that same day. It was the nimblest and most responsive of them all.
My cool-down lap let me take a closer look at the gauge packs and this car has one for just about anything that can be measured. To me, it’s a bit excessive and the memorization to acquire what’s being measured and where to read it taxed my old brain cells. A note to readers who are considering the depth and degree of a build like this is to keep gauges to a minimum for the bare necessities: speed, tachometer, oil and coolant temperature, oil pressure, and voltage. Reviewing gauge information shouldn’t take your eyes away from the windshield for more than a couple seconds and I’d be there a month with this one.
Wide-eyed and done, still tingling, I’m thinkin’ “Damn … if this car was a dude, I’d marry it.” Bigamy is legal two states away, right? Give me a seat that’s adjustable, a full tank of fuel, and Depends and I’d still be out there lapping like a mad fool.
What Makes It Handle
Front Suspension: Global West (GW) Gen 2 Negative Roll coilover system with Gen II upper control arms. Tall spindle with Category 5 GW hubs. Heavier GW sway bar. Frame modified with GW extended travel kit for increased suspension travel. Penske double-adjustable shocks.
Steering: Global West close-ratio 12.7:1 power steering box
Rearend: Currie 9-inch with 3.70 gears
Brakes: Wilwood 13-inch rotors with six-piston calipers front and 12-inch rotors with four-piston calipers rear
Rear Suspension: Global West (GW) rear coilover system with aluminum trailing arms and adjustable upper arms for the triangulated four-link. GW frame supports and spherical differential mounts
Tires: Falken Azenis RT615K 275/35/18 front, 315/30/18 rear
Wheels: Team III 18x10 front, 18x12 rear
|How’d It Stack Up?|
|Slalom Average Speed||Skidpad Lateral g’s||Road Course Lap Time|
|1968 Chevelle||46.3 mph||0.87 g||1:54.89|
|2015 Camaro SS 1LE||47.2 mph||0.96 g||01:53.7|
We put Brent Josephson’s 1968 Chevelle through the wringer on the 420-foot slalom course, the Streets of Willow Springs road course, and the skidpad. And, because some of those numbers are a little ambiguous for those not familiar with the slalom or road course, we paired the car against a 2015 Camaro SS 1LE (which is GM’s Track Pack) for comparison. The Camaro was packed with modern handling technology while the Chevelle was fitted with a ton of attitude. The cars weighed nearly the same, but the 2015 1LE was able to just edge out the Chevelle in two of the tests. Still, for a nearly two-ton, 40-plus-year-old Chevy, the car did very well and with a few tweaks we feel it could take the 1LE.