The second-generation Chevy IIs have become pretty respectable in recent years. Oh, sure, the L79 combo that Bill Jenkins almost won the 1966 NHRA title with has always been sort of a superstar, but most Deuces were overlooked as Camaros and Chevelles took the limelight. With those two breeds now priced in the stratosphere, the Chevy II is no longer the little Rodney Dangerfield of the '60s-era Bow Tie brigade.
Of course, most stock Chevy IIs did not get that L79 Corvette-style mill The Grump used. Many of them were six-cylinder powered, and served to take Aunt Millie out and around on shopping days and church outings. The two-door Super Sport versions have long served as a base for performance upgrade projects; Dick Harrell had one with a fuel-burning 427 in '66. Dennis Quinn made the choice that he wanted to go large when he picked up a 1967 version to replace an old mechanical companion.
"You know, I had a Chevy II back in 1969," says the retired aerospace engineer. "I sold it in 1973, but always regretted letting it go. When I had the chance to buy this one about four years ago, I jumped at it."
Like many cars that turn up, this one had been a project somebody was "gonna fix up someday," though luckily it had been in a garage during its tenure with owner number three. With help from friends Tim Kirkpatrick, Howard Nosay, and Roger Ward, the work began to bring the neglected iron back to the land of the living. Moral support was freely given by Dennis' wife, Sandra.
The car was powered by a standard 350, but the new engine was going to be something that wasn't even dreamed about back in 1967: a Merlin block with a steel crank that pumps no less than 540 inches. Getting the nod to make this was Scott Shafiroff, whose name is legendary in big-inch Chevy drag racing. Shafiroff's brew included Eagle forged rods, 9.5:1 compression pistons, roller rockers, a Comp hydraulic cam, and unmodified Brodix oval port heads. A Milodon pan keeps it all wet, while an Edelbrock intake and a 800-cfm Edelbrock carb are used on top. Chassisworks came through with a set of headers and 3-inch coated pipes that run all the way to the back bumper. MSD sparks it off.
"The first thing people do when they look under the hood is a double-take!" says Dennis with a grin. "That is a lot of motor under the hood, and when they hear that 540 inches come to life through the Flowmasters, people just go wild. They can't believe it."
The 600-plus horsepower is backed up with a reworked Turbo 400, a 10-inch, 3,400-rpm stall converter, and a Hurst Competition shifter. Because it is street-driven, the car uses a 3.08 gear (inside a 10-bolt housing); this way, the car will live in traffic, though the speedo needle could easily swing around to the right side of the 120 mph gauge now.
To that end, Dennis also decided to upgrade the rest of the car to more modern technology. Chassisworks was called on for a front suspension layout and rack-and-pinion steering; that makes handling a little easier, while stopping is assisted by 13-inch Wilwood discs up front and rebuilt drums in the rear. Varishock coil-overs under the nose and Gabriel air shocks above the differential rounded it out.
That left appearance and the interior to be completed (though, as Dennis admits, there is always something more that can be changed on a project car). The interior received custom black leather buckets, a Covan dash, Auto Meter gauges, and a Flaming River steering wheel. After prepping the body and adding one of Goodmark's 2-inch cowl-type steel hoods, Lee Brown of Chesapeake, Virginia, took over and sprayed a deep coat of PPG Torch Red down on the steel. Custom 540 badges rounded it out, with a mention of the Bible verse John 3:16 on the rear panel to let people know what is really important to the Quinns.
The biggest telltale sign of being a more modern Millie was the 17-inch Billet Specialties Fastlane rims, 7-inches wide all the way around. The front examples are now shod in BFG G-Force 205-17 rubber, with wider 245-17 meat from the same company out back.
Dennis admits he has had a lot of cars over the years, ranging from prewar street rods to showbox Chevys that ran in NHRA Modified back in the 1960s. This one was created to be something of a sleeper. The cowl hood and big wheels can be put on anything, but respect comes from the throaty sound of big inches. Because after all, a hammer is a hammer, no matter what size it is.