These days we are constantly reminded of how much we should be doing something to satisfy a hunger that seems insatiable. Good enough really isn’t good enough … it must be spectacular. Or at least that’s what the perception is. Shoulders hunch up in direct relation to stress. Of course, it’s all nonsense. While some folks choose to be subjected to that tyranny, there are scores more of us who are completely happy to revive and love the memory, re-creating and remembering it with kindly patronage.
Dave VerSchave is one such person. On his tech sheet, he suggested we call the story Budget Minded. He just wanted to get on with it and go back home a little where he could rest his mind. Dave didn’t just fall off the turnip truck. He’s been digging hot cars since he went to the dragstrip when he was 8. That mind-blow prompted him to build things an 8-year-old kid could manage: model cars.
Having had both feet stuck firmly in the hobby for more than 50 years, he recounts a Pro Street ’66 Nova that was a Hot Rod feature back in 1994 and the Orange Krate ’55 in 2015. You can see the nuclear ’55, the one with the lady’s garter wrapped around the Sun Tach, smoke the tires and pull the wheels all day on YouTube.
Luckily, his son Al has a similar mindset and, of course, Dave was overjoyed. Al holes up at his AVS Motorsports in Oceanside, California, and does high-end renditions—cars, trucks, or anything made out of metal, especially if they need a complete chassis. He approached the disdain most people have with the decidedly industrial appearance of the LS engine, certainly one of the ruder sights in the business. Al came up with some smooth composite jackets to pretty up that ugly stick; the AVS Speedcover includes rocker covers and an air intake tract like the one on the LS in his dad’s Chevelle. In truth, the unit for Dave’s engine was supposed to be just a one-off deal. When people saw it they just blurted ‘Why don’t you guys sell this kit?’
Though Dave will likely have the Krate forever, he craved a car that he could enjoy every day. He rambled around the Internet for a car that was solid and he didn’t mind that it was rough on the eyes. He knew how to fix all that—body, paint, chrome plating, and interior. He found his lost child in Nevada five years back. It was already pregnant with an LS engine, albeit a not very popular one. The 5.3-liter truck engine comes with an unsightly carton of an intake manifold—all function and zero form—but somewhere along the line someone had superseded it with an early LS6 composite to breathe in and shorty headers to breathe out. Though Dave likes nothing better than pulling on a shifter while momentarily dipping the clutch, in this case he went for mindless comfort and sanctioned a modern overdriven automatic.
While we’re inside, let’s look at the sanctum a little. No wasted money or effort here. There isn’t any air conditioning but there are tunes in stereo. There’s that GM wood steering wheel and the console and shifter from a ’96 Impala SS. Dave Schober put the eye on it. Kept the factory-style seats and used reproduction upholstery, carpet, door panels, and laid down the all-important tarpaper roof. VerSchave didn’t mess with the dashboard or anything else in there.
Dave drove a concrete truck for a long time and ran his painting business on the side. He got busy on the Chevelle but not too busy because it was crud free and already “smooth,” save for a little bit of surface scurf. The Chevelle was flat black, something that would promote a headache if you kept eyes on it too long. Dave broke out the PPG Ash Gold and sprayed his middle-aged heart out.
Since there would be no teenage antics and he would be moving mostly in a straight line, Dave saw no reason for big brakes or building a Pro Touring chassis or anything like it. What he did satisfied his aesthetic sense. He wanted to pinpoint his ’68 Chevelle with several obvious old-school cues.
For the chassis concession, he set the stance with dropped spindles and lowering springs in the rear. This, in turn, set the stage for the vintage rims and equally ancient rubber wrapped around them, a recipe based on restored American Racing Torq-Thrust magnesium edged with Corky Coker’s BFGoodrich 185 and 275/60 reproductions.
“I’ve been building cars for 45 years and custom painting them for as long. I was always turning one car over to build the next one. My friend Ben Garcia lives in Las Vegas, looked at the pile and gave it his blessing.” Dave forked over $7,500 for the privilege. “To take a project apart, detail it, and then reassemble it is the most challenging thing for me to do. I built this car for a modern, dependable drivetrain and good fuel mileage.” Pure, simple, and … budget-minded.
|Owner||Dave VerSchave, Tinley Park, Illinois|
|Vehicle||1968 Chevelle Malibu|
|Cylinder Heads||Aluminum, 1.89/1.55 valves, 200cc/70cc ports, 61cc combustion chambers|
|Rotating Assembly||Cast-iron crank, powdered metal rods, hypereutectic pistons|
|Valvetrain||1.7:1 rocker arms, 7.385-inch pushrods, stock lifters|
|Camshaft||Hydraulic roller (0.466-inch lift; 191-deg. duration at 0.050, 114-deg. LSA)|
|Induction||Early LS6 composite intake manifold, 78mm throttle body|
|Ignition||OE coil-near-plug, MSD primary wires|
|Exhaust||Patriot shorty headers, 1 5/8-inch primaries, 2.5-inch steel ceramic-coated system, Flowmaster 40 mufflers|
|Ancillaries||Champion aluminum radiator, AVS Motorsports engine dress-up kit|
|Output (est.)||300 hp at 5,500 rpm|
|Transmission||4L60E, stock converter|
|Rear Axle||Original 10-bolt, 3.31:1 gears, Posi-Traction differential, stock axles|
|Front Suspension||2-inch drop spindles, stock control arms, Monroe shock absorbers|
|Rear Suspension||3-inch lowering springs, Monroe shock absorbers|
|Brakes||Stock disc, Corvette master cylinder, 9-inch booster, front; stock drums, rear|
|Wheels & Tires|
|Wheels||Vintage restored magnesium American Racing Torq-Thrust 15x6 front, 15x7 rear|
|Tires||BFGoodrich/Coker Classic 185 front, 275/60 rear|
|Upholstery||Dave Schober (Schober Custom Hot Rod Interiors, Sandwich, IL)|
|Steering||Stock, GM “wood” wheel|
|Shifter||1996 Impala SS|
|Console||1996 Impala SS|
|Audio||Custom Sound head unit, Custom Sound speakers, front; 6x9 Pioneer speakers, rear|
|Paint By||Dave VerSchave|
|Paint||PPG Ash Gold (original GM paint code GG)|
Photography by Dominick Damato