It's a question that's baffled the Western world for centuries. How the heck do you get "Bob" from "Robert," and which genius decided that "Bill" is a good way of shortening up "William?" Like most one-syllable names, "Brent" doesn't lend itself easily to an alternate handle, and it happens to sound pretty cool as it is. Nonetheless, in the case of Brent Jarvis, we'd like to throw an odd nickname of our own into the mix. Based on the way the man can set up a car, you might as well call him "Chad," as in Chad Knaus. You know, the guy who's arguably the best crew chief of all time, the one that's helped propel Jimmie Johnson to four-straight championships in NASCAR's premiere series? Like a Cup car, every nut and bolt in Brent's '68 Chevelle has been painstakingly scrutinized and optimized for on-track performance. And boy, is this sucker dialed in.
For instance, to haul the 2-ton sled down before entering a complex of chicanes, it packs six-piston Wilwood clamps at each corner, and a network of custom air ducts that keep the rotors cool. Twin fuel pumps virtually eliminate the potential for pressure failure, and a custom air-bleed system in the fuel lines protects against vapor lock. In the engine bay, dual remote oil separators prevent oil from spitting out of the breathers during high-g maneuvering. Furthermore, all the suspension geometry, spring rates, and shock valving have been vigorously tuned at the track. Brent can even increase or decrease sway bar stiffness in 75 lb-ft increments depending on race conditions. Not only does this Chevelle pull over 1 g in lateral acceleration, it runs the quarter-mile in 10.39 seconds at 137 mph on drag radials through a five-speed stick, courtesy of a nitrous-sucking 565ci big-block that throws down 804 rear-wheel horsepower. Oh yeah, the Chevelle just happens to be an original SS396 four-speed car, and is used as a daily driver.
If the name Brent Jarvis sounds familiar, it's because we've been tapping into the expertise and manpower of his shop-Performance Restorations in Mundelein, Illinois-during the build of our '65 Old Cutlass project car. A drag racer at heart, Brent owns a 7-second Pro Street '59 Corvette that's now been retired from active NMCA competition, and has had an NHRA pro license (good to 6.50s!) for the last 20 years. Straight-line proclivities notwithstanding, Brent has always appreciated cars that handle well. "Driving a car with 4-inch-wide front tires on the street isn't any fun at all, so I've always built my cars to handle well. The problem was that there just weren't any good suspension parts you could put on muscle cars back in the early '70s," he says. "My first car was a '65 Chevelle, and I figured out early on that you can shim the control arms for more caster, swap in Camaro spindles for more camber, and install urethane bushings and sway bars out of a big-block car to beef up the handling. When the Pro Touring scene started becoming popular, suspension parts were much easier to get and made your car look cool, but you couldn't really tell how well they worked without taking your car on a road course. After my first lap around a road course, I was hooked and used each outing as an opportunity to improve my car's setup."