Great works of automotive art typically require two major ingredients. The first is a talented build team, experienced enough to think outside the box and ready to create a masterpiece when given the opportunity. The second is an enthusiastic owner who provides general guidance, trusts his builder’s talents, and can afford to see the project through to completion. This high-performance ’67 Chevelle is the perfect outcome from that type of collaboration.
Matt Verzi and Gavin Broome from StreetHeat in Melbourne, Florida, bring a combined 30 years of automotive experience to the table. With a dozen or more feature articles to their credit and satisfied customers in the U.S. and Europe driving their creations, the team has more than enough of the requisite skills to create award-winning rides. When friend and longtime customer Steve Hamaduk from Titusville, Florida, proposed his latest build, Matt and Gavin were up for the challenge. They had met him early in their careers and he’s been an ongoing factor in their success.
Steve works at Cape Canaveral, managing launch facilities ordinance, launch pad preparation, and in his free time oversees a collection of custom supercars for a close friend. Since Steve has been involved with racing and high-performance automobiles for decades, it was easy to blend his preferences with the StreetHeat team’s talents. Steve already had the engine and the ’67 Chevelle body, trusting the team to handle everything else. The goal for this car was to compete in a few of the high-speed, open-road and measured-mile shootouts around the country while still maintaining a deceptively low profile appearance.
The adventure began by pulling the chassis, then sandblasting and powdercoating the ’rails in gloss black. A long list of high-performance aftermarket upgrades began with a complete Hotchkis Pro+ Touring suspension package that included control arms, spindles, and ladder bars along with front and rear 1.5-inch sway bars. Additional stabilization came from Fox three-way adjustable Nitro shocks. Baer disc brakes with 13-inch rotors and dual-piston calipers up front and 12-inch rotors and single-piston calipers in the rear ensured modern stopping power. Rounding out the brake package was an E-Stopp pushbutton electric parking brake and CPP master cylinder with Hydra Stop. Once the handling and braking elements were complete, performance was next.
In one of its previous iterations, the Chevelle had been equipped with a 396 big-block. For this latest upgrade, the decision was made to bypass the popular LS swap and instead drop in a fuel-injected Merlin 540 big-block, one of the many “go big or go home” decisions that characterized this build. The plan was to create an unbreakable engine capable of big power that could be comfortably driven on the street. Vic Fera and the engine builders at Brevard Cylinder Head in Cape Canaveral, Florida, accepted the challenge, carefully modifying everything on the V-8 to achieve high output while retaining reliability.
Starting from the top and providing max airflow, the intake is a user-tunable 102mm FAST XFI 2.0 system adapted to a Hogan’s Racing intake manifold, custom engineered to squeeze under the stock hood. A cold-air kit from StreetHeat and Grumpy Jenkins port-matched and polished aluminum heads team up to ensure deep breathing. The internal goody list includes 80-lb/hr injectors, Wiseco pistons on Lunati rods and crank, a Cam Motion solid roller cam and rockers, and an MSD Pro Billet distributor with crank trigger. Scavenging spent gases begins with ceramic-coated Doug’s headers, connected to 2 1/4-inch primaries that feed 3 1/2-inch collectors. The ceramic-coated system uses MagnaFlow mufflers that struggle to manage the Merlin’s aggressive performance rumble. Brightwork in the engine bay includes the Billet Specialties TruTrac serpentine belt system as well as their custom hood hinges along with a polished master cylinder and breathers fitted to the gloss black, GM Performance valve covers. The naturally aspirated package produces 710 hp and bumps up significantly when you push the little switch that activates the hidden 150-shot of nitrous.
Dealing with the numbers from the big V-8 is a TREMEC Magnum double-overdrive six-speed transmission fitted with a custom aluminum driveshaft. It feeds a Moser 12-bolt rear with 4.11 gears and 35-spline axles. For top speed runs, the 4.11 will be swapped for 3.08 gears. The car rolls on two-piece American Racing 498 rims, 19x8 up front and 20x10 in the rear. Completing the modern handling upgrades, Continental ExtremeContact tires connect the Chevelle with the asphalt using 225/40ZR19s up front and 275/35ZR20s in the rear. Once the powertrain upgrades were complete, all the factory bushings were replaced with polyurethane prior to mounting the body to the frame.
The custom interior begins with a stainless steel RideTech eight-point Tiger Cage bolted in place. Not only does it provide protection and enhance the rigidity of the frame but it creates a unique design element throughout the interior, with the rear portions extending into the trunk. Scat Enterprises black leather Rally bucket seats feature deep side bolsters and five-point harnesses designed to keep driver and passenger safely in place. A Hurst shifter works the TREMEC. Viewed through the Billet Specialties steering wheel, the Dakota Digital VHX analog gauge package monitors the car’s vital signs while the FAST EFI touch screen data logger with 6-inch monitor records a real-time picture of the underhood action.
With the engine switched off, another level of entertainment comes into play with the Classic Autosound stereo feeding separated 6.5-inch Focal Flax component sets in the kick panels and rear package tray. Heavy-hitting bass emanates from the 10-inch trunk-mounted JL Audio W3 subwoofer on the driver-side and the JL Audio 5-Channel 900 Watt HD series amp built into the passenger-side. Custom detailing in the trunk includes an expanded metal grille and skull, the perfect place to camouflage the 150-shot nitrous bottle and Optima battery. Stereo expert Bill Bethhauser and his team at Explicit Customs in Melbourne, Florida, designed the stereo and fabricated the custom pieces to enclose the stainless steel portions of the rollbar in the trunk. The final step for the interior was StreetHeat’s installation of the Vintage Air Gen IV A/C unit that keeps the occupants cool during warm Florida summers.
Exterior changes were kept to a minimum with the gloss black body essentially stock except for giveaways like the larger size wheels, the big Baer brakes showing through, and the ominous burble of the twin pipes. The misleading 396 badge on the front fender adds to the fun at stoplights. The StreetHeat team worked six months to upgrade this high-speed traveler and it will soon be on its way to the Silver State Classic Challenge event in Ely, Nevada, hopefully traversing the 90-mile course with a winning time.
Photos by Joe Greeves