For many, the coming of middle age compels us to take stock of our life, and "wax nostalgic" over the "good old days!" And, more often than not, we surround ourselves with tangible items which serve to remind us of our spent youth. It just so happens that cars are right up at the top of that list.
Fountain Hills, Arizona's Lyle "Jag" Amdahl is one of us. In other words, Lyle grew up in the '60s, when gasoline was 29 cents a gallon. Insurance was cheap, and musclecars were affordable. Amdahl's particular brand of "poison" was a Marina Blue '67 Chevelle SS 396, and he remembers it well. "I idolized the guys who drove Chevelle's and GTO's in high school," recalls Amdahl. "When I got out of school, I started working construction and saved all my money to get myself a new car. It turned out to be a Marina Blue '67 Chevelle SS, with a four-speed and blue, bucket-seat interior. I waited six months, three weeks, and two days to take delivery. I spent a lot of time at the dragstrip with that car. At the time, it was my whole life!"
Then Uncle Sam's military came knocking, and Amdahl sold his prized Chevelle to a friend with the provision that upon return, he could buy the car back. While in boot camp, Lyle received a letter from his wife informing him that Chevelle had been totaled. "I thought a lot about the car, but a career, a wife, and a growing family were far more important at the time." However, the effect was only temporary. "With my kids all grown and on their own, I got the 'itch' again. In 1998, I went to an NCOA meet in Schaumberg, Illinois, and I saw a black-on-black '67 SS 396." As luck would have it, the Chevelle was originally a Marina Blue car. "The car, which was updated with a 427, wasn't actually for sale, but I convinced the owners to sell." Amdahl returned to Phoenix with intentions of duplicating his original car. However, reality soon set in. "I expected to find some surprises," explained Jag. "The whole thing started when painter/bodyman Squeeg Jerger found a pinhole in the trunk pan. But it got real scary after we had the car sandblasted. It was a real mess!"
Lyle decided to pull out all the stops and go for a full, body-off restoration. All told, it would take 16-months - and about $37,000 cash - to achieve perfection. For openers, Jerger and son Doug had the Chevelle frame sandblasted and powdercoated in a factory semi-gloss black. Mechanic Don Zane then went about the business of fully refurbishing the Chevelle's brake and suspension systems. In the process, minor mechanical upgrades were carried out in the name of high-performance.
For example, the Chevelle's 10-bolt, Positraction rearend was upgraded with a set of 3.73:1 Richmond Gears. Edelbrock's new IAS shocks were also added to enhance the ride. Acting on Jag's request, Zane pressed a set of 15x7-inch Cragar S/S "mags" into service and wrapped them with P205/70x15-inch and P215/70x15-inch "red stripe" radial rubber. While all of this was going on, Mesa's Wilkes Performance went about preparing the engine. The .030 inch overbored Rat now displaces 435 inches, and incorporates a GM Performance Parts crank, L-88 connecting rods, a set of 11:1 compression TRW pistons, Competition Cams valvetrain, ported and polished L-88 big-block heads, an L-78 factory aluminum intake with Holley 750, a Pertronix-equipped, factory ignition system, and thermal-coated factory exhaust with Flowmaster mufflers. Backing all of this up is a Hurst-assisted, Muncie M-21 four-speed connected via a Centerforce clutch
Apache Junction's "Tony the Cobbler" performed the majority of the metalwork on the Chevelle, replacing items like the floor, trunk, lower quarter panels, etc; with Year One restoration items. When everything was ship-shape, Doug Jerger sprayed the Chevelle the correct hue, using House of Kolor paint. When it came to the interior, Bryan Cline re-stitched the interior in black vinyl, using an Original Parts Group upholstery kit. Now with all the hard work friend, Squeeg Jerger, likes to kid Jag that it is "the most expensive pinhole he ever found." To which old Jag replies, "Yeah, but now I know what I've got, and it's definitely a 'keeper!'"