Whenever we shoot a car for the magazine, we hand the owner a tech sheet to fill out. This gives us the basic information about the vehicle to help us write the story. On the first page is a line entitled "Club Affiliation." For this Chevelle, that line took on a whole new meaning, as the owner's "Club Affiliation" is the New York Mets baseball team.
Our feature A-body belongs to five-time All-Star center fielder Carlos Beltran, a native of Puerto Rico who spends his days patrolling the spacious outfield of Citi Field in Flushing, New York. Beltran, who won the American League Rookie of the Year award in 1999 with the Kansas City Royals, had wanted a Chevelle of his own since riding around in his father's as a young boy. He found this example in Puerto Rico, where he still lives in the off-season (and keeps a first-gen Camaro). At the suggestion of Tony Gentry of Original Parts Group, he had it shipped to Woody's Hot Rodz in Bright, Indiana, for its transformation.
When Carlos procured it, the car was a fairly straight, rust-free SS454 clone, but he and Woody's owner Chris Sondles had a different concept in mind. They both wanted something that embodied the car's spectacularly clean lines, but didn't try to overwhelm them with wings, flares, flames, etc. (They were both anxious to get rid of the car's metallic plum paint, too.) Simplicity was the theme of this build. Reliability was equally important, as Beltran's plan was to use it to drive back and forth to Citi Field on game day.
Power comes from a Ram Jet 502/502-horse GM Performance Parts crate engine fed by an Aeromotive fuel pump, and exhales through 17/8-inch Patriot ceramic-coated headers and 2.5-inch exhaust. Billet Specialties supplied one of its Tru-Trac serpentine beltdrive systems to keep the accessories spinning. A four-row radiator from U.S. Radiator/Desert Cooling keeps the big-block from losing its composure while sitting in traffic.
Shifting is handled by a Phoenix Transmission 700R4 automatic with a custom-built Phoenix torque converter. A custom driveshaft by Cincinnati Driveline sends the 502 lb-ft of torque to a 12-bolt equipped with an Eaton 3-Series Posi differential (assembled by Woody's and Joe Shinliver).
Like any great hot rod, this one rolls on gorgeous rims. Rushforth Concept I alloys (19x8 and 19x10) are wrapped in BFGoodrich G-Force kdw tires (225/35R19 front, 255/35R19 rear). To make everything fit, the front wheels have 5.5 inches of backspacing, while the rears have 5.75 inches. A Ridetech Street Challenge air suspension kit is employed to raise and lower the Chevelle. Baer brakes ensure quick, straight stops on the treacherous Grand Central Parkway.
These binders come in handy because, after all, with bodywork this straight, and paint this deep it would be a pity for it to get messed up in a collision. Sondles calls the paint "Mets Blue Mood" and it comes out of the Dupont Hot Hues catalog. The guys at Woody's matched the color to the bill of Carlos' Mets batting helmet. It was laid down perfectly by Brett Davis of Woody's, with subtle Mets orange pinstriping by Josh Shaw. The grille, bumpers and hood came from Original Parts Group.
Simplicity reigns inside as well. A Pioneer head unit, Kicker amp and subwoofer and Lanzar speakers keep Carlos entertained on the way to and from Citi Field, but mostly the cockpit exudes that great Chevy feel of the era. The stock-style console and door panels are from OPG and the gauges and shifter are factory original. The biggest variations from stock are the Billet Specialties Outlaw steering wheel and the seats and seat covers. A pair of late-model buckets were covered in sumptuous tan and black leather, in a look designed to mimic a modern baseball glove. The rear seat was covered to match. A Vintage Air Gen IV Sure Fit climate-control system keeps the passengers comfortable.
Beltran is thrilled with the finished product and the day Sondles delivered the car to his house in Long Island, Beltran fired it up and drove it right to Citi Field. "As soon as he pulled into the players' parking lot, Jerry Manuel [the Mets manager] and all the players flocked to this blue Chevelle," Sondles says. "He was so proud of it. He kept bringing people out to show it off."