Power or looks?" is a question on the SUPER CHEVY feature tech sheet that always seems to evoke interesting responses. When we met Craig Stewart at the Goodguys Del Mar Nationals in Del Mar, California, we had a feeling he had the look versus power equation completely figured out. A few weeks later, we received his tech sheet and while perusing the pages, stopped at the blank space for looks versus power. His response was simple, yet well put. "Attaining the right look is crucial, however the look you achieve may call for gobs of power. I mean, what's worse than a pro-street ride with a tame small-block." It was this rationale that helped Craig build his '64 Chevelle with the perfect attitude for a '60s style street/strip machine.
In '64 134,670 Chevelle Malibu Sport Coupes were built. Craig's was equipped with the 283 Powerglide engine and trans combo, a relatively common package. A lucky few purchased the optional 300hp L-74 engine, but for the rest of us, ample power was never an option. It wasn't until '65 that the famed SS-396 was available in the Chevelle body style. This begs the question of why Chevrolet didn't release the big-block in the very first year of the Chevelle? Well, we may never know, but what we do know is that if they had, it probably would have ended up looking a lot like Craig's '64, with the exception of the Tri-Power.
Craig's project started out as all projects do, very slowly. On his way home from work, Craig drove by the same '64 Chevelle for 20 years and when the time came to buy the starter carcass, this nearby driveway was his first stop. After agreeing on a price, Craig threw in a set of plugs and drove the '64 all the way home using the emergency brake as his only form of stopping power. With the original owners manual, battery warranty, and dealer window sticker in the glove box, Craig was ambitious to move into the next step of parts hunting. As it turned out, early Chevelle parts are not as readily available as many might think. In fact, many restorations are held up by the simple fact that certain parts just don't exist anymore. Luckily with the help of the Long Beach Swapmeet and a few of Craig's buddies, parts hunting became easier the further he got into his restoration.
After the '64 was disassembled the frame was stripped and prepped for '66 Chevelle spindles and disc brakes up front and '65 big block springs in the rear. While the suspension was being constructed, the 496-inch power plant was being assembled simultaneously at Performance Machine in Pomona, California. With the suspension and motor installed over the next few months, the body was next on the "to do list." To add space, vinyl covered bench seats were installed in the front and rear seating areas. The original pushbutton stereo was restored and re-installed along with the original speakers. After the interior was complete, the details were the only loose ends, which as we all know is probably the most time consuming part of the entire restoration process.
Eighteen months after Craig embarked on his restoration journey he had a living breathing big-block machine just aching to be driven. As we understand it, the first time that Craig dropped the hammer, the '64 exploded the tires then hooked-up sideways down a neighboring street. Like we always say, drive it like you stole it, foot to the floor 'til she won't go no more!