If you grew up in the ’80s there was nothing better than cruising the strip in a wicked hop-up while Mötley Crüe blared from your speakers. It was the ultimate combination of high performance fused with heavy metal to create the quintessential adrenaline rush. For Rich Simpkins of Jarrettsville, Maryland, high school held plenty of special memories, especially the ones involving Chevrolet performance and his favorite band: Mötley Crüe.
Growing up, Rich’s earliest memories revolve around the family’s ’66 Chevelle and his dad, Harold, working on it in the garage. Since his dad was an auto mechanic by trade there was always plenty going on when it came to modifying and maintaining the daily driver. Rich’s automotive path started early on, gaining a basic mechanical understanding as he eagerly watched each transformation take place. There’s nothing more memorable than your first engine pull, which happened right on the front lawn while the neighbors watched. Before long, Rich was working right alongside his dad, and he credits him with being his biggest influence in teaching him all the skills.
His reward came in the form of a ’70 Nova, which his parents surprised him with at the age of 15. It was the perfect base to start with and he wasted little time before customizing it. A ’70 Chevelle and ’68 Camaro soon followed with each getting engine swaps and endless modifications as he worked on them nights and weekends. In 1987, everything changed when he and his dad traveled to Virginia to check out a ’68 Chevelle 300 Deluxe his uncle Calvin had for sale. The car had a weathered old paint scheme, but raising the hood revealed a vicious 327ci mill packing all the right goods. A deal was made and Rich wheeled the car for well over a decade, which included engine swaps and endless modifications. With any car that goes the distance, plenty of great memories are built right along with the car. For Rich, those included awesome times with his wife, Ann, and children attending plenty of car shows until he finally made the decision for a full makeover.
It was time to inject just the right amount of stance, attitude, and power into what would become the Motley Crue’zer. For the right base, he contacted Tom Brush Chassis of Forest Hill, Maryland, who got started by fabricating a 1 1/2-inch chromoly tube chassis and rollcage. To handle plenty of abuse out back, a FAB9 rear from Chris Alston’s Chassisworks packs an Eaton Truetrac with 4.30:1 gears spinning Strange Engineering axles. It’s suspended in place by a custom four-link along with a wishbone and Jegs double-adjustable coilover shocks. Up front, a pair of aluminum Strange Engineering GT struts link to power rack-and-pinion steering. For ample braking power, a CPP HydraStop hydraulic brake assist system pushes fluid through stainless lines to Strange Engineering 11-inch discs with four-piston calipers up front and Wilwood 11-inch discs with four-piston calipers out back. Linking it all to the street is a set of Billet Specialties Win Lite 15-inch wheels wearing Hoosier rubber.
When it came to making a statement, Rich called his dad’s three “C’s” of power into play: cubic inches, cam, and carburetion. Wanting plenty of big-block power he contacted Jensen’s Engine Technologies in Nescopeck, Pennsylvania, for their Street 555ci V-8 package known as the Mad Man. Starting with a World Products Merlin III iron block, it was massaged to perfection and filled with a Callies Compstar crank linked to Manley H-beam rods capped with SRP forged aluminum slugs with a heavy beat from a Comp Cams CB Special roller stick. A pair of Brodix BP RR BB-3 XTRA O aluminum heads makes massive power, especially when topped by a Sonny’s intake wearing a custom Holley/APD 1,150-cfm carb. It sparks to life through a Mallory HyFire ignition and dumps spent gasses out custom 2-inch stainless headers to a 4-inch stainless oval exhaust by Tom Brush. Power moves to a TH400 by ATI Performance along with a Gear Vendors overdrive unit. Linked to a custom driveshaft by Perry Hall Power Equipment, the combination is good for an earth-shaking 869 hp at 6,300 rpm.
Taking on the job of breathing life back into a body that had seen plenty of abuse over the decades was Dave Vrankin of Forest Hill. He stripped it down to bare metal and began the transformation through final assembly. Dave started by replacing the quarter-panels, followed by building new floors and repairing rust damage to the doors, fenders, and windshield surround. Tom Brush then crafted the rear wheeltubs and panels for the trunk. Dave then followed by stretching the rear wheel openings 2 inches and adding tucked fiberglass bumpers, the front one getting an integrated air dam. The final update was a US Body Source ’68 SS ’glass hood modified by Frank Morowski to raise the center contours. Dave metal-finished the body and then laid down a coating of Axalta Arctic White vibe to bring it all to life. Final details included all trim items being painted in matte gray along with the signature graphics being applied by A+ Auto Styling.
Inside, it’s all business starting with a custom dash insert by Frank housing AutoMeter Phantom dials to monitor the vitals while a Billet Specialties wheel carves the course and shifts move through a Hurst Quarter Stick. Mike Baldwin wired the beast while Vintage Air makes sure the cabin temps stay in check. For comfort, Brad Wurzbacher and the team at Lucky 7 Rod Shop nailed the look with a set of custom buckets, side panels, and console wrapped in a combination of black and gray Ultraleather accented by black loop carpet.
The Chevelle is truly wicked and Rich wanted to thank good friend Chuck Greason who brought this talented team of builders together on the Crue’zer. CHP
Owner: Rich Simpkins, Jarrettsville, Maryland
Vehicle: 1968 Chevelle 300 Deluxe
Type: World Products big-block
Displacement: 555 ci
Compression Ratio: 10.8:1
Bore: 4.560 inches
Stroke: 4.250 inches
Cylinder Heads: Aluminum Brodix BP RR BB-3 XTRA O
Rotating Assembly: Callies Compstar crank, Manley H-beam rods, SRP forged aluminum pistons
Camshaft: Comp Cams CB Special roller
Induction: Sonny’s Racing Components
Ignition: Mallory HyFire
Exhaust: Custom stainless 2-inch headers, 4-inch oval exhaust by Tom Brush
Output: 869 hp at 6,300 rpm
Transmission: ATI Performance TH400
Rear Axle: 4.30:1 gears
Frame: 1 1/2-inch chromoly tube by Tom Brush
Steering: Power rack-and-pinion
Front Suspension: Aluminum Strange Engineering GT struts
Rear Suspension: Custom four-link, wishbone, Jegs double-adjustable coilover shocks
Brakes: Strange 11-inch discs with four-piston calipers, front; Wilwood 11-inch discs with four-piston calipers, rear; CPP HydraStop
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Billet Specialties Win Lite 15x6 front, 15x15 rear
Tires: Hoosier Pro Street front, Quick Time Pro rear
Upholstery: Lucky 7 Rod Shop
Steering: Billet Specialties wheel
Instrumentation: AutoMeter Phantom
Carpet: Black loop
Paint: Axalta Arctic White by Dave Vrankin
Hood: US Body Source SS-style, fiberglass
Photos by Chuck Vranas