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1971 Chevy Chevelle SS - The Influential Velle

Gary Chmielewski Caught The Big-Block Chevelle Disease From His Sons, And Couldn't Be Happier.

By Frank H. Cicerale, Photography by Mike Harrington

For generations, the horsepower disease has been passed down from father to son time and time again. Building a street machine or a race car takes more than one set of hands, and nine times out of 10, the person helping you spin the wrenches on the Chevy in your garage is related to you in some way.

For Gary Chmielewski, the story is the same but the twist at the end is different. The odyssey surrounding his 1971 Chevelle starts not with his father, but his offspring.

"The whole Chevelle story started with my oldest son, Curtis', interest in the plastic model of the Red Alert Chevelle," Gary explained. "Years later when he was in his first job, a fellow worker told him about a 1971 SS Chevelle that he knew was for sale."

Curtis and brother Troy couldn't afford to save the Chevelle, but thankfully, Curtis' brother-in-law had the green to purchase it. Fast forward 12 years and the same Chevelle was up for sale again. After seeing both of his sons buy a few Chevelles and enjoy them, Gary knew his time had come to get one of his own.

After purchasing the car, Gary enjoyed it for a while before getting the itch to fix the unsightly rust that was on it. When the body man looked at the car a little deeper, however, the quick fix turned into a more expansive project. Knowing the car would be laid up for a bit of time, Gary concluded he would not only work on the body, but massage the car from bumper to bumper and roof line to frame rail.

"From the beginning I had a vision of driving the car a lot, but I also wanted to have fun," Gary said. "I wanted to be able to jump in the car and drive cross-country without any worries, get 15 miles per gallon, and run 12-seconds flat in the quarter-mile with sticky tires but without wheel tubs."

Since the car was already in the body shop, Gary decided the first logical step was the get the bodywork done. First on the to-do list was replacing the necessary body parts, which was taken care of by Dale Lavse at D&B Corvettes. When the sheetmetal was welded up and bolted into place, it came time to choose the proper hue to grace the flanks of the A-body. Enter dilemma numero uno.

"I wanted to paint it black with silver stripes," Gary said. "The restorer (Dave) wanted to paint it red. My family wanted it painted Ontario Orange."

Since it was the family aspect that gave Gary his interest in the Chevelle, he decided to trust the family's choice-orange it was. At first, Gary wasn't too sure but once he saw the car rubbed out and dressed with the appropriate GM trim in place, the feelings changed. "After 10 years, I am still satisfied with the color and happy I listened to the family," Gary said.

With the body finished, the Chevelle rode home to the Chmielewski household on a set of American Racing wheels. The chrome Torq-Thrust Ds surrounded by BF Goodrich 295/50/R15 shoes up front measure 15x7 inches, while those under the rear quarters measure 15x8 inches and are wrapped in slightly bigger BF Goodrich 245/60.

By Frank H. Cicerale
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