Setting aside the Vietnam conflict and the turmoil surrounding it, what was there not to like about the late ’60s for a car guy? Horsepower was cheap (new and used), gas was even cheaper, and safety laws were so lax you really could drive a race car on the street. It was like the Wild West for gearheads.
Ed Miller was in high school as things were beginning to peak and the smoggy clouds of the malaise era were looming on the horizon. He and his buddies had an assortment of barely legal street machines as the usual to-and-fro transportation, with street duels breaking out all the time.
Fast forward to 2008, when the chance came up to buy a rust free Chevelle 300 sedan that had spent its whole life in the dry lands of California. The first thing that told Ed this car really had spent its whole life in the high desert were the copious amounts of sand that poured from the hood when he opened it, and the piles of grit filling the cowl. Despite the dunes filling its nooks and crannies, the Chevelle was definitely cancer free and fairly straight. His good friend, Herschel Nardini, had just built a ’65 300-series four-speed-equipped street stocker, so Ed decided he wanted to build something similar for friendly bench and street racing.
The 300 was hauled down to the Country Custom Shop in West Milton, Ohio. There, Doug and Mike Huff, along with Boyd Spencer, began tearing down the desert survivor for a full rebuild. Ed had first met the Huffs when he had them restore his ’65 Chevelle two-door wagon, and was so impressed with their meticulous work he knew they were the right ones for bringing the car back to life.
First the front clip was removed, then the body separated from its frame and bolted to a rotisserie. After clearing away more sand and silt, the body was cleaned up, small dents and dings knocked out, then everything prepped and primered for a fresh paintjob of custom-blended Glasurit base/clear silver. Then all the original glass was cleaned up and reinstalled.
While all this was taking place, Parson-Meyers Racing in Dayton was putting together a 540-inch big-block engine to power the Chevelle. The Rat uses GM Performance square port aluminum heads, Eagle crank, JE 10.5 compression pistons, and Crane hydraulic roller cam-actuated valvetrain. Induction is through a Holley 850cfm carb, built by Chris’ Carb Shop in Dayton, and a GM Performance alloy intake. The package makes an easy 600 hp with plenty of tire-shredding torque to rocket the Chevelle down the asphalt. As an added touch, the guys dressed the engine up to look like an original 396.
For gear jamming, Ed went with a Tremec TKO-600 five-speed with Centerforce dual disc clutch, Lakewood bellhousing, and an all-new custom length driveshaft to connect with the 4.10 geared, 12-bolt Posi rearend built by Dave Plesant at Quality Machine in Dayton.