Suck, squish, bang, blow: Four words that should instantly call to mind the art that is a turbocharged engine. The same sort of process also occurs in a jet engine, something Robert Rubens is very familiar with-he's a Boeing 757 pilot with Northwest Airlines. His days with Bow Tie muscle go back to the early '70s, when Robert purchased a black '70 Chevelle SS. About three years later, after some serious time in the Chevelle, he threw in a Borowski Race Enterprises 440ci mill and sold the car in order to buy a 427 AC Cobra (not quite a Bow Tie machine, but an awesome automobile nonetheless).
A quarter of a century and a teenage son later, Robert (who still owns the Cobra) decided it was time to get back to his roots. A '68 Chevelle SS was available, and Robert, looking to assuage the pain of dropping his '70 SS, purchased the car with the intent of making it a true sleeper, or as he calls it, "keeping the candle under the basket."
The car quickly became a father/ son project, with Robert's son Rob involved with every aspect of the buildup. It all started, importantly, by sketching out what the Chevelle would contain in the way of a powerplant. In order to make it interesting, as Robert described it, the car should make no less than 1,500 hp, but should also be highly streetable and docile while cruising around town.
Robert's old pals at Borowski Race Enterprises were called upon to build the Chevelle's engine. The powertrain started with a Dart Big M block bored out to a ground-shaking 540ci. A lot of machinework went into the block other than the punchout -the main saddles were align-honed and the cylinders were finish-honed, all in preparation for the JE inverted-dome, 8.5:1-compression pistons. massive Crower crankshaft andOliver billet connecting rods round out the engine's bottom end. Up top, the block received Dart Pro 1 aluminum heads and a Custom Cams camshaft engineered with a shorter duration to allow high levels of boost.
The engine's fuel delivery occurs via an Edelbrock Victor fuel-injection intake, a 1,000-cfm Accufab throttle body, F.A.S.T. fuel injectors, and a F.A.S.T. XFI system, all housed nicely under the bonnet. The "blow" of the operation comes from the twin Turbonetics T62-1 turbochargers, both plumbed up discreetly in the engine bay. The entire system is very much a work of extreme craftsmanship, right down to the two massive turbos themselves, not to mention the sheer power of the units-Robert claims the turbos come up to full boost in less than half a second. While in previous incarnations the Chevelle received homebuilt power, much of the turbo work was completed by Behind Bars Race Cars of Lake in the Hills, Illinois (we're not sure we want to know what's behind a company name like that!). The entire setup makes an estimated 2,000 hp with 25 pounds of boost; however, the engine hasn't been up that high-Robert doesn't see that being a reality ... yet.
Interestingly, before getting into the high-tech world of turbos, Robert and his son knew the car would have to ride perfectly in order to sustain so much power. The duo added an array of Hotchkis suspension pieces to the Chevelle, including A-arms, springs, and sway bars front and rear. The Chevelle also rides on KYB shocks and has a Wilwood four-wheel disc braking system, a necessary component to get the SS slowed down in a hurry. The Chevelle also has adjustable rear trailing arms, another tunable part that will surely help lower e.t.'s.
Out back, the Chevelle carries a custom-built Moser Ford 9-inch rear with a 3.00:1 gear and limited slip. The car rides on TorqThrust IIs (15x7 front and 15x8.5 rear), largely a choice of the younger Rubens (Robert wanted Cragar wheels adorning the Chevelle, more "his" generation, while Rob opted for "his" generation's chosen wheel, the TorqThrust II), wrapped in BFGoodrich rubber (radial T/A 255/60R15 in front, and drag radial 275/60R15 in the rear).
The car's interior is nothing but stealth. Various gauges are tucked away neatly within the glovebox, and the cabin has remained mostly stock. You could almost say Robert's latest Chevelle mimics the massive jets he flies for a living-when many people see a Boeing 757, they might think, "Well, that's a huge plane, it can't be that fast." Quite the contrary-a 757 gets down through the quartermile in about 13.8 seconds at 105 mph. Doesn't sound like a screamer until you take into account the 160,000-pound curb weight. The original Chevelle, with all its '60s-era suspension technology, might even be likened to the 757, but Robert has changed all that with his car.
"This car is now something that it wasn't," Robert says. "It's fun to drive, even for an old fly-guy like me."