You meet the nicest people at custom car shows. The 2016 Car Craft Summer Nationals was the first time out for Denis Poffenberger and his 1967 SS396 Chevelle, and it was a very enjoyable debut for a successful project that took only 18 months to complete.
“I was at the Car Craft Summer Nationals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, mid-July 2016 and met the nicest family from Cudahy, Wisconsin,” recalls Denis. “Mike Perkins and his three sons, with their wives took me in. They helped me get registered, parked, and roped off for the event. The Perkins family had a great setup; it included a tent, tables, chairs, and lots of delicious grilled Brats, burgers, and terrific side dishes. On Sunday, I learned my Chevelle was a top award winner for the event and Robert McGaffin, a nationally renown photographer from Super Chevy magazine, wanted to shoot my car for a feature.”
The search for Denis’ ’67 SS396 started with a road trip in 2015 to St Louis, Missouri, with his two good friends Kevin Kessler and Byron Olson. The trio scoured the region known to be good muscle car hunting grounds and came up with nothing until the very end of the day at their last stop: Classic Car Studio.
Classic Car Studio is housed in a 40,000-square-foot behemoth of a building with a showroom in the front and full restoration facilities in the back. The three friends parked in the alley and knocked on the rear door to be let in. Denis didn’t even make it to the showroom floor before he spotted the car of his dreams sitting in the shop, but it was a diamond in the rough, so to speak. Not that rough really, just in primer. Everything short of repainting the ’67 SS396 back to camera ready condition had been completed.
The game plan was for Kev and Byron to hold Denis back from making an impulse buy. But as soon as Classic Car Studio’s Noah Alexander fired the Super Sport’s bored and stroked 496-inch big-block up the deal was done. The first order of business was for Denis to choose the color he wanted, and it wasn’t going to be the car’s original Granada Gold. The ’67 SS396 left the factory with a black vinyl top and black interior but that color combo wasn’t long for this world. Denis requested the newly fitted black vinyl top to be peeled off, and the black interior wasn’t far behind.
Catching the Chevelle still in the primer stage coupled with Noah Alexander offering to paint it any color Denis desired opened the floodgates. Instead of the decent looking 20-footer Denis intended to buy, the project escalated into building an over-the-top show car.
It took the guys at Classic Car Studio spraying out numerous shades of pearl white on test chips before Denis saw the exact color he was after. The concern Denis had was ending up with a pearl white that didn’t turn into an almond color when sunlight hit it. The choice was House of Kolor’s Gold Rush Shimrin Pearl over HOK BC26 White. Classic Car Studio’s ace painter Dan Wissehr sprayed the Chevelle with perfect results, a stunning pure white with a golden pearl iridescence that rolls with the light.
An excellent design choice, it was Denis’ wife, Chris, that specified the Chevelle should have a red interior to complement its pearl white exterior. The recently installed black vinyl interior was gutted and replaced with a full TMI interior in Vermillion Red, including a Vermillion Red TMI headliner complete with sail panels. The center console was custom-fabricated by Classic Car Studio and covered in Vermillion Red. The interior of the trunk was done to match.
The windshield, rear window, and side windows were sourced from Classic Industries of Huntington Beach, California, and installed by Metropolitan Glass. Red carpeting from TMI lies on top of Dynamat insulation. The sound system begins with a RetroSound head unit in concert with a Pioneer amplifier boosting Pioneer 4x6-inch 3-way speakers in the front and 6x9-inch Pioneer 5-way speakers in the rear. Full instrumentation comes from a Dakota Digital VHX direct-fit dash cluster and the red-leather-wrapped steering wheel is from Billet Specialties. The air conditioning is a Vintage Air Gen IV SureFit driven by a Sanden compressor on a March Performance serpentine belt pulley system. The alternator is a 140-amp Powermaster, and spark comes from an MSD 6AL electronic ignition system.
Under its SS396 hood power comes from a 496-inch big-block equipped with Air Flow Research heads secured with ARP studs. A Comp hydraulic roller cam with Comp components handles the valvetrain. Induction is a Carter mechanical fuel pump feeding a Quick Fuel 850-cfm carburetor with a Billet Specialties air cleaner mounted on an Edelbrock 454-R aluminum intake manifold. A GM 502 7-quart oil pan supplies a Melling oil pump. The stainless steel exhaust system with two Borla ProXS stainless steel mufflers was fabricated and installed by Classic Car Studio. The 496-inch engine puts out 508 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 505 lb-ft of torque at 4,700 rpm to the real wheels.
A Centerforce dual friction clutch and pressure plate transmits power to a Bowler Performance Transmissions built LGT-700 five-speed transmission. From there a Drive Shafts Unlimited 3-inch DOM steel propeller shaft connects to 12-bolt Chevy rearend packing 3.73:1 gears with a limited-slip. Nitto NT555 285/40-18 tires mounted on 18x10 Billet Specialties Turbine wheels receives the brunt of 508-rear-wheel horsepower. In front Nitto NT555 225/40-18 tires are mounted on 18x7 Billet Specialties Turbine wheels to handle steering, and Wilwood disc brakes handle the lion’s share of stopping duties.
Nostalgia was the emotion that launched Denis’ search. In 1967, his uncle bought a brand-new SS396 Chevelle and Denis has wanted to own one ever since.
Photos by Robert McGaffin