Stacy and Kyle Tucker have built one of the proverbial "800-lb gorillas" of aftermarket suspension companies, Detroit Speed & Engineering (DSE). From selling parts directly to customers, or building an entire car, the crew at DSE knows just about everything there is to know in making a classic Bow Tie handle like a 21st century street machine. Every part DSE makes is track tested to make sure all aspects of its performance are correct, and yield the results the customer is looking for.
When it came time to develop suspension parts for the A-body GM platform, DSE went searching for a new test mule. What they ended up finding was a one owner '65 Chevelle with the original 327 and Powerglide still providing motivation. The car even had its original interior and stock bench seat. After getting it back to the DSE shop, the car soon assumed its new role as test mule for development of the various pieces DSE had in mind to make A-bodies handle. By the time the Super Chevy Handling and Suspension Challenge rolled around, here's what the Chevelle was equipped with:
DSE Speed Kit 3 front and rear
• Front: Consists of DSE upper and lower tubular control arms, DSE forged 2-inch drop spindles, splined sway bar, DSE coilover conversion kit including "Detroit Tuned" valving coilover shocks and springs, DSE 600 steering gear, and DSE tubular tie rod adjusters
•Rear: DSE coilover conversion kit including "Detroit Tuned" valving coilover shocks and springs, DSE patented Swivel-Link rear control arms, DSE chassis brace kit, and DSE tubular rear sway bar
Other mods include a DSE Selecta-Speed wiper kit, and for some more giddy-up on the track, the original 327 was yanked in favor of a GM Performance Parts 383 crate engine with hot cam kit, a hand-me-down from Stacy's own '69 Camaro that's appeared previously in Super Chevy and our sister magazine Camaro Performers. The interior was essentially left intact, including the factory bench seat, which can make things interesting in hard corners. But not only is the car DSE's test mule, it also serves as Kyle's daily commuter because it drives so well. DSE brought the Chevelle out to our El Toro test course to show off just how well it can make an A-body car really handle.
Driver's Impression - On the Autocross Course
As I settled in the drivers seat, Kyle Tucker offered some parting words, "The brakes are a bit touchy ... " He didn't mention the accelerator pedal, though.
Typical DSE, Kyle's daily driver Chevelle was solid and very well-mannered throughout the entire testing day. For my part, I found the car very predictable, managing the offset slalom with ease. I was able to carry good speed to the crossover, through the hourglass, and into the end sweeper, where the DSE Chevelle really shined. Yes, the brakes bit on initial application, but once I warmed to them and they to me, we got along just fine. On the fast return side of the course, hustling this car produced results as there was minimal sideways and lots of forward. There was no drama, no protest, and this car just took pressure and soldiered on. I'd have to say that the comfort zone for this Chevelle is desert-sized and that's a very good thing.
Like the CPP Nova, this is another car that begs to play "throw and catch" and each run brought more serious grins with it. Power was never an issue as it was linear with the engine pulling to redline. This Chevelle offered great steering and with it, amazing feedback. I could tell what each wheel was doing almost the entire trip around the course making it easy to predict a response to driver input and look far ahead planning my line. This is quite rare and I can say quite honestly that very few cars offer this. When I drive one that does, it's fun and a real testimony to a solid suspension. The more I explored the confines of the aforementioned comfort zone, the faster I felt.
I don't know what it is with accelerator pedals as the DSE Chevelle's also came loose. This pedal was thrown to the masses and the subsequent runs completed without further incident.-Mary Pozzi
Driver's Impression - On the Street
If you're looking for fancy race seats, a nine-speed transmission and modern ergonomics, the DSE is not the car for you. A bench seat, lap belts, Powerglide two-speed automatic and gauges in a glove box will not win you that trophy wife who craves a 3-series BMW convertible and a platinum Amex card. On the other hand, if you're after for a first-class driving experience, slot-car handling and miles of smiles-trophy wife be damned-well, have we got a car for you.
On the streets of SoCal, the DSE A-body behaved like a new car. The steering ranked right at the head of the class. It was very linear, direct, with no sloppiness on center and a quick 2.5 turns lock-to-lock. Brake feel was stellar and the throttle response was instantaneous. "Geez," said the log book, "it feels like fuel injection it's so good."
Like any fine automobile, the DSE Chevelle was devoid of strange suspension noises, even over uneven pavement and railroad tracks. The cornering was flat and the ride sublime. Nothing upset this old car or its passengers. The words "wow" and "amazing" popped up repeatedly in the test log. All we kept wishing for was a day at Road Atlanta or Watkins Glen International with this car.
No, this manila Chevelle was not the sexiest car at our event, but it sure got the job done.
DSE '65 Chevelle Specs
Type: Gen I 383 small-block
Fuel Delivery: Holley 4150 650 cfm Ultra HP carb,
Transmission: GM two-speed Powerglide automatic
Rearend: Stock 12-bolt with aftermarket Positraction
Steering: Detroit Speed 600 steering box
Front Suspension: DSE
Spindles: DSE forged 2-inch drop
Front Shocks: DSE coilovers with "Detroit Tuned" valving
Front Sway bar: DSE splined
Rear Suspension: DSE
Rear Shocks: DSE coilovers with "Detroit Tuned" valving
Rear Sway bar: DSE tubular
Front Brakes: Baer Pro 6 Plus, six piston calipers, 14-inch slotted & drilled rotors
Rear Brakes: Baer Track System, single piston caliper, 13-inch slotted & drilled rotors
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Budnik Ice Wheel - 18x8 front/18x9 rear
Tires: Nitto NT05 Front - 245/40ZR18; Rear - 275/40ZR18