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1972 Chevy Chevelle SS - Traction Problem

Brian Thomson's 530hp Chevelle Is Looking for Grip

By Barry Kluczyk

Hold the shifter in Low gear, mash the throttle in Brian Thomson's '72 Chevelle SS, and the street soon looks like God was scribbling on it with a couple of giant Sharpies. The rear tires spin until Thomson gets out of the throttle altogether.

That's not bad for a 4,000-lb car equipped with just a small-block. Of course, it's no ordinary small-block. It's the 530hp, 488-ft-lb, fuel-injected 383 described in our story, "Fueling Around."

The engine was a collaborative effort between Thomson, Saad Habba of GM Performance Parts, and Joe Alameddine of Accel's Digital Fuel Injection division. The 383 is based on GM Performance's new factory-built 383 short-block but is topped with ported Fast Burn aluminum heads and Accel's latest Pro-Ram injection setup. The engine is controlled with Accel/Digital Fuel Injection's latest programming software, CalMap Gen VII Plug-N-Play.

The 383 uses a unique 3.80-inch forged stroker crank, rather than the 3.75-inch crank in traditional 383 builds. Why? So that GM engineers could retain the small-block's standard 4.00-inch bores. The 383s built by GM are all new, and the company didn't want to overbore the brand-new blocks.

The rods are unique, too. They're powdered metal but feature knurled studs and nuts, rather than traditional rod bolts. GM's testing showed this design was stronger over the long run.

Under the hood of Thomson's Chevelle, the 383's injection system passes, at first glance, for four-barrel induction. Its 1,200-cfm throttle body is topped by a traditional air cleaner, which looks natural in the vintage Chevelle, but the fuel rails (feeding 36-lb injectors), mounted to the intake manifold, reveal the truth.

"Most people do a double-take," says Thomson. "They see the air cleaner and think it's just an old, carbureted engine. But then they see the fuel rails and their attention really picks up."

The Digital Fuel Injection (DFI) Plug-N-Play software directs the injection system. A division of Mr. Gasket's Accel company, DFI's Plug-N-Play allows an ease of laptop tuning previously unavailable to the average enthusiast. It's a great system. Headers and a Dynomax-equipped 3-inch exhaust system carry away the 383's spent gases, while the engine is backed by a stout Turbo 400. A 3.55, Posi-equipped rearend does its best to put all that power to the pavement.

The super-sanitary Chevelle wears a great-looking paint job that is more than 10 years old and was applied by Thomson himself at home. He also got tired of cleaning the car's original white interior, so he changed it all out in favor of black upholstery. "It's a lot easier to live with," he says.

By the way, did we mention the car is a 39,000-mile Chevelle SS survivor from the dry climate of California? He brought the car home to Michigan, where he had to perform only minor restoration to the straight, original car. Thomson doesn't drive the car in the winter months, but during the warmer seasons it's his daily driver-rain or shine.

Thomson tells us the fuel-injected 383 is as a reliable as it is powerful, making it a great go-to-work commuter: "It actually gets pretty good gas mileage, too," he says-well, as good as a 530hp engine can deliver. It would probably crack the 20-mpg barrier if those pesky tires would quit spinning all the time.

By Barry Kluczyk
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