To most people, the number 138 doesn’t mean much of anything. Maybe it’s your weekly beer allowance or your IQ—which would be a good thing—or perhaps it’s how many pounds your wife has put on since your wedding, which would be bad, very bad. Chevelle enthusiasts aren’t most people, however, and to them “138” denotes something special. That’s because in a hobby gone clone happy, if the VIN tag on a 1968-and-earlier Chevelle starts with the numbers 1-3-8, it means you have a real SS. In 1967, a “138” code Chevelle came equipped with the hallowed 396ci big-block, so it stands to reason that if you were to find such a car, you’d leave it stock. Not Randy Mason. Upon taking ownership of a real-deal SS396 Chevelle, he ripped out the Rat motor and dropped in an LS small-block. Oh, the heresy. It sounds like this man certainly has some explaining to do.
As Randy tells it, he’s a Chevy guy to the core and has always had an affinity for A-bodies. He started pumping gas at his dad’s service station at seven years of age, and when he was 15, he rehabilitated a pair of Corvairs that his old man bought for $30. After high school, Randy worked at several Chevy dealerships while earning his engineering degree then went on to work for GM. Over the years, he’s owned a 1965 Malibu, a 1969 Z/28, and an original 1970 SS454 Chevelle. That’s an impressive resume for sure, but his favorite past ride was a black 1967 Chevelle he drove in high school. Most of his former hot rods moved on to different owners due to family obligations, so he thought fate must have been calling when a new neighbor moved in next door with a ’67 Chevelle in tow, right as he was getting back into the hot rodding game.
Closer inspection of the car revealed that it was a genuine “138” Chevelle. It even had the original 396. The story gets even better, as the owner revealed that it wasn’t just an ordinary 396, but an L78. That’s a big deal, because the 375hp L78 was the meanest motor you could get in a ’66 Chevelle, but GM dropped it from the lineup in 1967. Rumor has it that a very limited number of ’67 Chevelles did indeed get L78 big-blocks, but only as a dealer-installed option. At this point, Randy had to make an offer on the car, but the owner wasn’t willing to sell it quite yet. “When he told me it was an L78 car, it really sparked my interest,” he recalls. “What made the car even more unique was that it was an original A/C, heater, and radio delete car. I told the owner to call me if he ever wanted to sell it. A few years later, in 2005, I got the call I was waiting for and I brought the car home.”
At this point, Randy’s son Tim was all grown up and running a performance restoration shop, HCC Performance (hccperformance.com). All his life, Tim heard stories about how his dad hopped up a black ’67 Chevelle with an L88 427 big-block back in high school, and put the hurt on the competition at the dragstrip. “It seemed only natural to take the car in that direction. We wanted the car to look old-school, but with modern twist,” Randy explains. Tim took the lead on the project, performing all the body, chassis, and assembly work. Although the sheetmetal was fairly solid, the motor had seen better days. Interestingly, Randy had no problem ripping out the L78 for LS power. Granted, that’s a move sure to upset the purists, the replacement motor isn’t just an ordinary LS small-block. Small is relative term when it comes to small-blocks these days, and Randy opted for a GM Performance Parts LSX454 crate motor. Not only does it pack more cubes than the 427 big-block that powered Randy’s high school ride, it puts out way more grunt as well. The dyno figures check in at 620 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque. Suddenly, ripping out the old L78 396 doesn’t seem so bad after all. The LS power is channeled through a TREMEC TKO 600 five-speed stick and a GM 12-bolt rearend.
With the powertrain fully modernized, sorting out the chassis was the next step. While Randy wasn’t interested in road racing the Chevelle, he wanted to fully update its antiquated underpinnings. To that end, he installed Hotchkis control arms, springs, and sway bars all around. Enhancing stopping power are factory GM disc brakes at each corner. To set the car’s aesthetics apart from the billeted-out Pro Touring norm, Randy went with a set of 15-inch steelies with dog dish caps wrapped in redline rubber. The end product is a car that doesn’t look like much, but packs one heck of a high-tech bite. It’s a car with a fully modernized engine, driveline, and suspension that cloaked with a distinctly nostalgic vibe. “This car is a cross between an SS and a 300 car,” Randy explains. “We wanted a car that was so discrete that someone would walk up to it, admire the paint, walk right past it, then come back after noticing the 454ci LS motor, and enter a state of total shock. In order to have modern conveniences while keeping the stock appearance, we hid the A/C beneath the dash and put the stereo in the trunk.”
Granted there’s a lot to like about the Pro Touring movement, but the slammed-on-big-billet-hoops theme has become so pervasive that it’s easy to forget how hot rods used to look back in ’60s and ’70s. What makes Randy’s interpretation of a fully modernized Chevelle so appealing is that it boasts the powertrain and suspension bits that help it drive like a late-model, but hides it all in an old-school-looking package. The car’s nostalgic stance, dog dished wheels, and original interior just flat out work. And just in case you’re upset that the original L78 big-block has gone missing, the 620hp 454 will make you forget about it in a hurry.
|Owner||Randy Mason, Celina, Texas|
|Vehicle||1967 Chevrolet Chevelle SS|
|Type||GM LS-series small-block|
|Cylinder Heads||Factory LS7 12-degree castings, 2.20/1.61-inch valves|
|Rotating Assembly||GM 4340 crankshaft and rods, forged -14cc aluminum pistons|
|Valvetrain||Chevrolet Performance lifters, 1.8:1 rockers, springs, retainers, and locks|
|Camshaft||Chevrolet Performance 236/246-at-0.050 hydraulic roller; 0.648/0.648-inch lift; 110-degree LSA|
|Intake||Chevrolet Performance LSX-LS7 single-plane manifold, Quick Fuel Technology 830-cfm carb|
|Ignition||Chevrolet Performance ignition box and coil, Taylor plug wires|
|Exhaust||Doug’s 1 3/4-inch long-tube headers, custom 2 1/2-inch X-pipe, dual Pypes mufflers|
|Fuel System||MagnaFuel pump and regulators|
|Output||620 hp, 600 lb-ft|
|Transmission||TREMEC TKO 600 five-speed, McLeod twin-disc clutch, QuickTime bellhousing|
|Rear Axle||GM 12-bolt rearend with 31-spline axles, 3.73:1 gears, and limited-slip differential|
|Steering||Factory GM box|
|Front Suspension||Hotchkis control arms, springs, and sway bar; KYB shocks|
|Rear Suspension||Hotchkis control arms, springs, and sway bar; KYB shocks|
|Brakes||GM discs front and rear discs|
|Wheels & Tires|
|Wheels||Wheel Vintiques 15x7 front, 15x8 rear|
|Tires||Diamond Back 235/70 front, 255/70, rear|
|Paint||DuPont Oynx Black|