If you’re not a Jeep freak or a rock crawler, you may not be totally familiar with the Currie clan and their mammoth contribution to the hot rod drivetrain proposition. To be exact, their business is about building nuclear-grade drivetrain parts, third members in particular. The Currie’s don’t sit on their duffs, either. They like to drive their stuff. Patriarch Frank did his best to upset the status quo one year on Power Tour. He drove his 700ci Shotgun-motor 1932 roadster the entire trip, legged it over to Bonneville, ran 205, and drove it back home.
A little later, Frank came back with his Pan American Road Race Mustang and tore the Mexican hinterlands to shreds. He sat beside me as I beat the bejeezus out of it trying to score some decent 0-to-60 squirts in a parking lot. He let me wing it erratically over rough canyon roads, completely confident in its experience. Never said a word about my crappy driving, either.
Over a decade ago, son Ray provided the first 9 Plus housing story to Hot Rod magazine, ostensibly as a major driveline component that would go into my 1966 B-body. Needless to say, it will likely remain in perpetuity. Currie was still processing factory housings then, had people scouring the country for them. They virtually cornered the market, amassing a 15-foot high pile of the grungy creatures, a sight I won’t soon forget. But by August 9, 2005, Currie Enterprises had used the last production unit and had begun to fabricate its own housings.
While part of the clan is disposed to the off-road gig and manifests the same in exquisite machinery of their own device, as a sponsor of many and varied events, the Currie’s know the value of collateral ink that a project car can bring. According to their avocations, the Currie’s have never been known to fear anything, either. They’re all up for bringing whatever it takes to roll over stuff, but this doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing form for function.
Charlie Currie looks at it that way, at least. He built this 1965 Chevelle SS specifically for Power Tour, a nice tax write-off, and roaming his Placentia, California, neighborhood and beyond. The idea for this one hatched years ago at his daughter’s sweet sixteen doo-wop. He’d hired a DJ that was always too loud and finally the cops came by to give them the forefinger-drawn-across-the-throat sign.
Meanwhile, party-crasher Frank began a discourse about the cars and bikes (Chevelles and Harleys) in the yard and by the garage. One of the cops told him that “he had a ’65 Chevelle SS that was all original—a California car with a 283 and Powerglide, and although the paint and interior were in sad shape, it was straight and suffered no rust.”
In that same timeframe, Charlie was getting ready to go on a Power Tour with a 1965 Malibu convertible. After he mistakenly tripped the company alarm, two gendarmes materialized: one was a rookie, but the other was the Chevelle cop from the party. Charlie and the cop eventually became famous friends. A few years ago, the officer was grinding through a divorce and had to dispose of his SS. Did Charlie still want it?
Whether you’re seeing less than a mile per hour or cranking over 200 on the salt, one of the trademarks of Currie vehicles is stunning but wholly usable power thrashing in a frightfully capable chassis.
So the engine in Charlie’s ride intrigues. Started life as a 6.2-liter L92. Displacement increased from 376 to 414 cubic inches with machine work by Kenny Duttweiler and built by ol’ Ed Taylor at Ventura Motorsports. Here’s more: based on the stock 10.7:1 short-block, Taylor increased the stroke from 3.630 to 4.030 inches via a Scat crankshaft and connecting rods. He retained the stock camshaft (with a short 204-degrees intake duration) but paired it with Comp rollers, and capped the assembly with Dart Pro1 CNC cylinder heads (68cc combustion chambers, 250cc intake runners, 2.08/1.60 valves). The space between the Dart castings is amply squandered by an intercooled Magnuson MP2300 supercharger (liquid-to-air aftercooler core is located beneath the blower housing and integral to the intake manifold; heat exchanger is mounted at the front of the car). For an air spoon, Taylor chose a UMI Racing 90mm throttle body. Fuel is sourced from an in-tank Aeromotive pump. On another liquid front, Taylor gave the motor a slight edge with a 7-quart Corvette bat-wing oil pan and corresponding pump. For that matter, the front dress is Corvette equipment and keeps a 100-amp alternator and a Vintage Air compressor in the loop.
For as long as I’ve known them, the Curries inevitably don’t source all their stuff from the usual hot rod suspects, going well beyond that cookie-cutter realm. They got Brinteck to build fat 2-inch primary pipe headers (Jet-Hot coated) on the car and shuffle them into a 2 1/2-inch diameter stainless X-pipe system staunched by Flowmasters. At the other end of the car, cool, incoming air is checked by a four-row aluminum core from Mattson’s Radiator in nearby Stanton.
The LS engine is prodigious and built according to its intended use and limitations. Since Magnuson superchargers are generally engineered for stock engine applications, the emphasis here is on improvement of lung capacity and accommodating cylinder heads topped by a forced-air system. Considering the amount of time the engine will actually be under the stick, the stock internals make great, worry-free counterparts. And hey, the engine is very stout, producing 770 hp at 5,800 rpm and 743 lb-ft of torque at 4,100 rpm.
To contain and disperse this largesse, Charlie hooked a TCI Auto-humped 4L65E to the crankshaft and pedals it off the line with 3,000-stall converter. Torque twists a 3 1/2-inch diameter Inland Empire Driveline aluminum prop shaft that’s connected to a … Currie 9-inch packed with an Eaton Truetrac limited-slip differential and 3.25:1 gears. On the cruise, the overall ratio is a breezy 2.27:1.
Before leaping into the abyss, Charlie had Bob Bauder box the frame so that the torque wouldn’t twist it too much, thus keeping the suspension geometry intact and the wheels planted firmly on the tarmac. Charlie founded the front suspension on ATS all-aluminum spindles (with bump-steer killing geometry) and built from that with unique Savitske Classic & Custom (scandc.com) upper control arms. Charlie opted for Ridetech air shock system components and the accompanying lower control arms. In the back, Charlie paired a complete Ridetech assembly with billet aluminum Currectrac control arms.
Big speed must go arm-and-arm with even bigger brakes. Charlie knows that. Giant Baer six-piston calipers put enormous clamping pressure on 14-inch diameter discs at every corner of the car. For maximum efficiency and a downright gnarly appearance, the SS sports BFG g-Force 245 and 275 KDW (not meant for ice or snow) rubber hooked to Foose 18x8 and 18x9 Nitrous II rims.
On the inside, Charlie retained the factory flavor but instituted some subtle stabs of his own device. All that stuff is still in there, but massaged and crafted to fit the ensemble and maintain crispness throughout. Note the standard dashboard nacelles that have been fitted with Dakota Digital gauges and meters. Dig those stock black leather seats that Westminster Auto Upholstery stitched up in subtle red thread. Most cool. They followed up with custom carpeting to match. Charlie replaced the sandblasted glass with new sheets from True Connections. The truly simple and elegant original console was not violated in the least. There is a Vintage Air HVAC system and a Classic Auto Sound audio system to keep Charlie calm over the road. Utility man Bob Bauder laid down his fire stick long enough to capture and install the system. That quiet, minimal tiller is from a 1970 SS Chevelle.
Rather than spending tons on subtle body modifications that are all but lost on civilians, Charlie kept the sheetmetal and brightwork as the original manufacturer intended and kept all that money in his pocket. The chrome was refinished at Sihilling Chrome & Polishing. The powdercoating was handled by A&R Powdercoating. Both companies are in nearby Anaheim. Currie lassoed Bauder one more time. Bob completed the body rubbing and then blew on the PPG Silver. Little Louie over in San Berdoo did the defining graphics.
The smoke has cleared. The rubber has been laid. The challenges fade into the night. Through it all Charlie’s elegantly subtle alley sweeper hides a monstrous secret beneath its flat hood. Does anyone really need nearly 800 hp in a road car? If you’re Charlie Currie you do.