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1972 Chevelle Big Block - Leadin' The Way

Matt Rabideau Was Sick Of Playing With 1/64-Scale Hot Wheels, So He Built His Own Full-Size Model.

By Mike Ficacci, Photography by Randy Lorentzen

At one point in your life, you probably housed a collection of toy cars that was undoubtedly going to be worth millions when you got older. You cradled Hot Wheels Redline Editions like a small child, until one day you gave up on the dream of owning the nicest 1/64-scale garage and smashed them all together in a mock recreation of "the big one" at Talladega. Worst part is, those Redlines in mint condition are worth a nice chunk of frog skins nowadays.

Matt Rabideau's '72 Chevelle, fittingly named "Hot Wheels," pays homage to the countless miniature cars he grew up with and loved. Purchased for $12,000 in Carson City, Nevada, Matt's starting point for this resurrection was a semi-faded, small-block-powered driver that had been beat into submission a time or two in its life.

Over the next two years, he choreographed the construction of a G-body like no other. "I just couldn't bring myself to drive a car that looked like every other Chevelle on the road. I wanted something different," said the 24-year-old Matt.

Excited and power-crazy, his first move was to pluck out the 350ci small-block and Turbo 350 transmission, replacing it with a massive GM Performance Parts 502-cube big-block, exiting through 2 1/8-inch Hooker headers and a custom Flowmaster exhaust. A great starting point for Bow Tie muscle, he then installed a Crane PowerMax camshaft measuring .598I/.610E, and an Edelbrock AVS 800-cfm carburetor boosting horsepower to 550 and torque to a whopping 590 at 4,200 rpm. Billet Specialties provided a great deal of the engine bay dress up, capped off with billet Ball Milled valve covers, round-style breathers and oval-shaped air cleaner.

Behind the flywheel sits a TCI 3500 stall converter, Super Street Fighter 400 transmission and Moser steel driveshaft. An Eaton limited-slip Posi-traction rear end with 3.55 gears is encased in a 12-bolt Chevrolet pumpkin and turns a set of steel Moser axles. Boyd Coddington Magnetos (18x8 front, 18x9 back) plant four Nitto 555s (245/45r18 front, 275/40r18 back) with 1-inch CPP drop spindles up front.

Breaking up the Blue Pearl and Viper Bright Silver two-tone paint is a set of flames pinstriped in green, adding California style with a look never seen before on the Chevelle.

"I just couldn't bring myself to drive a car that looked like every other Chevelle on the road. I wanted something different," Matt said. "Eric at Final Finish Autobody in Reno smoothed the firewall and shaved the door handles and rear marker lights in preparation for paint."

Weber Graphics in Sparks, Nevada, meticulously applied details such as the pinstriping and painted "502" badges, adding yet another custom attribute to this ride.

In the cockpit, Auto Meter Pro-Comp gauges provide the vitals and match the faux stainless steel gauge cluster. Billet Specialties took care of much of the metallurgy inside with their Chicayne series steering wheel, pedals, door handles, and a rearview mirror. A-Ok Upholstery in Carson City, Nevada, matched tweed-covered Garage Pro racing seats with the black vinyl door panels, and ACC black carpets. A complete Alpine stereo/DVD unit was installed, complete with five-inch front speakers, and a 6.5-inch monitor providing a technological enigma in an otherwise carbureted world.

A B&M Mega Shifter capped off with one of the freakiest/scariest shift knobs known to man highlights a stunning display of workmanship both on the inside and outside of this one-of-a-kinder.

Winning awards all across Nevada, including the Mighty Chevy Award at the Silver Dollar Classic, and a Best In Show at Classic In Paradise, Matt knew he was taking a risk with the scheme, but couldn't be happier with the result. With a trophy room filling fast and miles to go before he sleeps, he still has his collection of 1/64-scale Hot Wheels, but is now starting a collection of full-scale Hot Rods to complement them.

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By Mike Ficacci
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