For Brent Casteel, resurrecting an old Chevrolet is nothing new. Brent has had two cars grace the pages of Super Chevy magazine, one being his '65 Bel Air in the September 2005 issue. His other ride, a '76 Z06-powered Camaro, not only hit the pages of the magazine, but was also emblazoned in all its glory on the cover.
When it came to this '64 Chevelle SS, things were different. The A-body wouldn't be for him, but for his 12-year-old son, Evan, to enjoy later on down the road. The thing is, not only would the Chevelle be an effort in rescuing a decrepit hulk of classic American iron, but also an exercise in teaching the finer points of resurrecting said car. Consider it Car Resurrection 101.
"My son, Evan, is in the National Honor Society, and in a sense, this car is his reward," Brent states. "We built this car for Evan to teach him what goes into a build like this, and the techniques of welding, wiring, and everything else that goes along with it."
When Brent and Evan picked up the Chevelle it was, by Brent's own admission, in pretty sad shape. The car was sitting in a neighbor's driveway, and it wasn't long before the father and son duo transported the Chevelle back to the Casteel family home for lots of tender loving care.
"When we picked up the car, you could see that 23 years of exposure had taken its toll on it," Brent explains. "We had to contend with mold, rust, and a liquor store. As we stripped the car, we counted three cases of beer, two gallons of liquor, and a bottle of wine--all unopened."
The Chevelle, which was originally a 327-powered Super Sport backed with a four-speed, got a bevy of new body components. When all was said and done, Brent and Evan replaced both quarter-panels, a floor pan, and the trunk pan. As this was going on, the body was removed from the frame, which was then cleaned and painted. Once the cancer was removed from the body, it was set down upon the chassis once again, and then moved over to Stevens Restoration and Refinish, where Roger Stevens laid the Glasstech 2 -inch cowl hood down and then, after applying the primer, slathered the flanks of the Chevelle in Dupont Viper Red and Chrysler Black.
When the bodywork was completed, it came time for father and son to tackle the interior and the driveline portions of the car. "The overall vision of this car was to make it a driver," Brent muses. "I wanted to do the Hot Rod Power Tour and cruise with this car. It was built to be a driver." With that in mind, Brent set out to make the interior of the Chevelle as comfortable as he could, all while retaining the stock flavor. The stock seats were kept, though both were recovered in custom black vinyl. He then fabbed up a set of custom door panels, complete with a later-style SS logo. Digital gauges replaced the vintage '64 analog dials, while a Trim Parts black carpet was laid down as well. Throw in some custom touches to the dashboard, and the interior was looking fine. The thing is, with the car being a driver, Brent wanted to make sure it was comfortable to cruise in. Enter the installation of a front and rear air conditioning system from Hot Rod Air and a thumping stereo system.
With the A/C blowing, Brent and the Casteel crew can jam to their favorite tunes thanks to the Kenwood head unit wired up to an Alpine amplifier, 6 1/2-inch Kenwood speakers up front, 6x9 Kenwoods in the back, and a 10-inch Infinity subwoofer. For those long trips, Brent made sure the Kenwood head unit was compatible for the Sirius satellite radio he installed as well.
Now the time had come to give this early muscle machine some muscle. "The car was basically built with parts and stuff I had in the attic," said Brent. "The motor was built in 2002, and it was one of the many parts and pieces we took off the shelf and put towards the Chevelle. We looked for parts at swap meets, took them home and brightened them up, and went about things as a low-budget build. It goes to show that you don't always need the expensive parts to build a nice car."
Long gone were the 327 and the four-speed the SS originally came with, but that was okay for Brent. In place of the 327 went the engine Brent just happened to have lying around, an .030-over 350. The block was filled with a balanced and blueprinted rotating assembly that consisted of a stock crank and TRW pistons. Sitting atop the short-block is a set of cast iron 041 heads topped with Comp Cams 1.6 ratio roller rockers. As for cam specs, the shaft advertises .490 intake lift and .475 exhaust lift, with duration figures of 287 and 305, respectively. Compression ratio was set at a respectable 11:1, and the long-block was finished off with the inclusion of a Weiand intake and a Holley 750 carburetor.
Once the bullet was slung under the hood, a pair of Hedman 1 5/8-inch headers were bolted up along with a 2 1/2-inch Flowmaster exhaust complimented with a crossover pipe and a twin set of Thrush mufflers. A 140-amp alternator was rigged up to provide enough juice to fire the engine's ignition system as well as the thundering stereo system, and then, according to Brent the crown jewel of the engine, was installed. "By far, the best part of the car is the clear valve covers," Brent exclaims. "The roller rockers and such look so good, why hide them?" The valve covers in question are aluminum and Lexan pieces fabricated by Lane Custom Products per Brent's specifications. After that, the custom air cleaner was fabbed up by Brent and Eric, and the bonnet was closed. It's definitely a unique setup.
Backing the estimated 400 horsepower Mouse is a '92 vintage 700R4 overdrive transmission that came courtesy of Chapman Transmissions. A 2,500 stall converter gets the A-body rolling after the power is transferred to the GM 10-bolt rear stuffed with 3.36 gears and an Auburn differential.
Getting the power to the ground and the stance just right is an eclectic mix of simple suspension parts. One-inch drop spindles combine with the factory A-arms, Gabriel shocks, and a 1 1/4-inch sway bar to get the nose down a total of 1 1/2 inches, while boxed rear trailing arms and a 1-inch rear sway bar get the hind end to squat. Late-model Camaro SS rims, sized 17x9.5 all around, were then bolted up, but not before they were wrapped up in BFGoodrich 275/40ZR17 hoops. Hiding behind the chrome shoes is a complete front and rear CPP brake upgrade showcasing 13-inch rotors up front and 12-inch discs out back.
"The most difficult part of this build was having patience," Brent explains. "When you're trying to teach a young boy how things work, why you do things a certain way, and why things take time, it takes a lot of patience. It's very time consuming, but having Eric in my lap cruising around driving the car in a parking lot makes it all worthwhile."
While it took six months of non-stop work to get the Chevelle back on the road, young Evan Casteel learned a lifetime of lessons from his dad, Brent. Guess you can say that class was dismissed when the 355 was fired up. We give both teacher and student an A--body that is!