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SEMA Battle of the Builders 1970 Chevelle

The Same As It Never Was: What would you do to have something precisely the way you remember it?

Chris Shelton May 25, 2017
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Only the foolish or ignorant would call modern muscle cars anything less than stunning. They’re quieter, more responsive, safer, and more predictable; even some of the V-6 versions put the best of yesteryear’s muscle to shame.

But there’s one place where technology can’t touch old tin: feel. Some of the things that make modern cars better—the digital interfaces, the sculpted interiors, the safety bumpers, traction control, the antilock braking—ultimately insulate the driver from the experience of, well … driving.

Pro Touring 1970 Chevelle Front Quarter 2/38

Mo Alnassr knows. His native Qatar may be half a world away physically but from a car perspective it may as well be America’s sister country. Qataris love what Detroit made. And Mo certainly did; his first car was a 440-powered 1973 Challenger. But deep down he says he hankered for a Chevelle: a 1970 Chevelle, specifically. So when one crossed his path in his adopted home state of Virginia, he indulged his fantasy.

There was only one problem: all those modern cars since that Challenger beginning spoiled him. And he knew what he was talking about. A succession of increasingly faster sports cars, cars that he track raced, followed that first car. “It was all feeling and trust in myself to become a better driver,” Mo says. “I like pushing cars beyond the limit; it’s how I learned what a car can and can’t do.” And what the Chevelle couldn’t do was go, steer, and stop the way it would in his dreams.

Pro Touring 1970 Chevelle Front 3/38
Pro Touring 1970 Chevelle Rear 4/38

Research for better suspension inevitably turned up Detroit Speed Inc. “At the time I didn’t realize that DSE built cars,” Mo admits. “But after meeting with Kyle Tucker and touring the facility, I realized that DSE would be the company to build my car.”

The Chevelle underwent a full transformation. DSE amended the perimeter frame with ladder-style rails and a 10-point ’cage. The front boasts one of DSE’s suspension systems with modified tubular arms and forged knuckles; the rear, a custom QUADRALink suspension. Both ends ride on JRi double-adjustable dampers and DSE springs.

Pro Touring 1970 Chevelle Engine 5/38

The modifications served as a foundation for a truly overkill engine: an LSX reimagined by Mast Motorsports as one of its Black Labels. The modifications are many, but chief among them is a Whipple 4.0L supercharger that pumps the 427 to better than 950 rear-wheel horsepower. Bowler built the 4L80E trans that bolts to it. That, in turn, spins a 3.89:1 screw on a Truetrac limited-slip carrier in DSE’s version of a 9-inch housing.

Pro Touring 1970 Chevelle Front Quarter View 6/38
Pro Touring 1970 Chevelle Rear Quarter 7/38

Project fabricator Paul Morgan fabricated new floors to fit with the new chassis design. He also recessed the firewall to accommodate the 6-inch engine setback, a requirement to equalize the weight distribution. The side-marker lights also came off and both bumpers got narrowed and tucked tighter to the body and a custom valance replaces the panel below the rear. A set of Lokar’s electric exterior door handles replaces the stockers. Machine shop manager Matt Haye machined a billet grille trim, emblems, and light bezels.

Paul then built ductwork that connects the Accufab throttle body to a functional vent door in the hood. That vent actually has its own servo motor made from a factory GM throttle body that opens the door based upon throttle input. Mini-tubs make room for wider tread. Detroit Speed’s paint manager Michael Neighbors applied the finish: PPG’s 9800, basically a blue black—the company’s blackest black if you will.

Pro Touring 1970 Chevelle Interior 8/38
Pro Touring 1970 Chevelle Steering 9/38

A one-off sheet-aluminum dash insert handformed by Paul houses DSE gauges. A Vintage Air climate-control system mounts behind the dash it’s in. A pair of heated/air-cooled Recaro seats replaces the old bench. Paul also fabricated various other interior components like the door handles and trim, the console, and the package tray before sending everything to M&M Hot Rod Interiors in Holly Pond, Alabama, for finishing. The shop used a combination of black leather and Alcantara (synthetic suede). A Billet Specialties D-shaped Formula steering wheel mounts atop an ididit column. A wireless paddle shifter communicates with the Holley Dominator ECU. A stock horseshoe shifter modified to work with the 4L80E handles the primary shifting chores though.

Pro Touring 1970 Chevelle Side 10/38
Pro Touring 1970 Chevelle Wheel 11/38

Mo has wheel options. For driving fare it rolls 19x10.5 and 20x12 Forgeline Performance Series ZX3Ps. They wear Michelin Pilot Sport 275/35 and 345/30. But to make the most from that Black Label, Mo has a pair of Mickey Thompson 335/35-18 drag radials to lean on.

What originally started as a personal quest turned into something Mo never could’ve expected. In 2015, the SEMA organization inducted the car into its Battle of the Builders, a competition where the industry’s top builders judge each others project vehicles. The Chevelle made the Top 10—itself an accomplishment almost on par with winning the contest entirely. And that wasn’t the end; General Motors bestowed it with one of the eight Design Awards announced at each year’s SEMA show.

In the end, Mo’s car does exactly what he thought it would in his dreams: it goes even better than a new one and feels like the old ones he remembers from his youth. And it does things that he couldn’t even think to ask for. Of course, it comes at a pretty significant cost. But you could call it value; I mean, how much would you pay to make your dreams come true?

Pro Touring 1970 Chevelle 027 12/38

Tech Check
Owner Mo Alnassr, McLean, Virginia
Vehicle 1970 Chevelle
Engine
Type Mast Motorsports LSX Black Label 427
Displacement 427 ci
Compression Ratio 9.5:1
Bore 4.125 inches
Stroke 4.000 inches
Cylinder Heads Mast Black Label LS3
Rotating Assembly Callies DragonSlayer crank and HD I-beam rods, Mahle Motorsports pistons
Camshaft Mast custom three-bolt core (top-secret stuff)
Induction Whipple 4.0L supercharger, Accufab single-blade oval throttle body, Injector Dynamics ID1300x injectors
ECU Holley Dominator tuned for pump, E-85, and race gasoline
Exhaust Custom DSE 2-inch long-tube headers, 3-inch pipes, modified mufflers
Output (to the tires) 957 hp, 903 lb-ft
Drivetrain
Transmission Bowler Performance Transmissions 4L80E with multi-disc 9x11 converter and C&R cooler, DynoTech 3 1/2-inch steel driveshaft
Rear Axle DSE 9-inch housing, 3.89:1 gears, Truetrac limited-slip
Chassis
Front Suspension DSE Speed 3 with tubular arms, forged knuckles, JRi double-adjustable dampers, splined antiroll bar
Rear Suspension QUADRALink four-link system, JRi double-adjustable dampers, splined antiroll bar
Brakes 2014 Corvette carbon-ceramic ZR1
Wheels & Tires
Wheels Forgeline Performance Series ZX3P 19x10.5 front, 20x12 rear (18x11 for drag radials)
Tires Michelin Pilot Sport 275/35 front, 345/30 rear (Mickey Thompson 335/35-18 drag radials)
Interior
Seats Recaro, air-cooled and heated
Audio Alpine head unit, signal processors, amplifiers, and Dynaudio speakers
Upholstery Console, door panels, package tray, and dash by Paul Morgan; trimming by M&M Hot Rod Interiors (Holly Pond, AL)
Instrumentation DSE gauges, one-off handformed sheetmetal insert by Paul Morgan
Steering Wheel Billet Specialties D-shape Formula
Shifter Shiftworks
Electrical Advanced Keys push-to-start button, E-Stopp parking brake
Exterior
Body Prep & Paint Michael Neighbors, DSE
Headlights JW Speaker LED
Modifications 6-inch firewall recess, shaved running lights, DSE door handles

Photos: Gary Bohanick

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