While wandering around the hot and huge Goodguys PPG Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, last July-a show jammed to the fences with amazing rides-this '65 Chevelle caught my admittedly somewhat jaded eye, possibly more because it was a wagon than for any other reason. Like a pack mule shod with Nikes, there's just something about a slammed, big-tired station wagon that demands attention. That certainly wasn't always the case: For years, station wagons appealed to enthusiasts almost as much as a prostate exam.
Anyway, lured in for a closer look, the deal was immediately sealed, 'cause beneath the open hood of this upgraded utilitarian was what appeared to have been transplanted straight from a '67 Sting Ray-a 435hp Tri-Power 427. Or so we thought.
We caught up with owner Mike Eden, digging something out of his Chevelle's cavernous storage compartment while kibitzing with Lonny Gordon, who owns East Coast Muscle Cars in Craley, Pennsylvania. Why do we mention this? Because Mike and Lonny are old buddies and had worked closely together on the project's build. Lonny, in fact, had owned the wagon at one point, before selling it to Mike's dad, who then sold it to Mike. Originally a six-cylinder with three-on-the-tree, Mike's dad had put a big-block and four-speed in the car, but Mike-with the pickiness that is a natural side effect of being a tool-and-die maker by trade-had visions of upping the wagon's level of detail by about a thousand percent. Which, as you can see, he did.
But while this thing might now be engineered and detailed like a show car, it's anything but a garage queen. "We originally purchased this car," says Mike, "for the family to cruise in, and to haul fuel for my Pro Street Nova, which was featured and made your cover in January 2007."
And while we shudder to think of it now being filled with leaky, stinking fuel cans, haul it does. That's because what appears to be an L71 427 actually displaces 509 cubic inches and dispenses a decidedly unwagonlike 584 hp and 617 lb-ft of torque by way of a tricked-out T-5 five-speed from G-Force Transmissions. Built by RaceKrafters, this wagontrain began with a World Products block bored to 4.500 inches and fitted with a Callies 4.00-inch-stroke crank. Heads are also from World Products (320cc) and are teamed with JE forged pistons for a pump-gas-friendly 9.0:1 compression. A Comp Cams hydraulic roller specs out at 0.558/0.542 inches of lift and 235/249 degrees of duration, while the whole thing is crowned with a factory '67 Tri-Power Corvette intake and its trio of 2-bbl Holleys, hidden beneath that distinctive triangular breather with its misleading Turbo-Jet 427 decal. The ceramic-coated headers with 2-inch primaries are from Patriot, and they lead into a custom 3-inch exhaust fabbed up by East Coast Muscle Cars (who also supplied the 140-amp alternator.)
All that power rests on a good foundation. The project began by unbolting the body from the chassis and having Mike's good friend and fabrication whiz, Bob Wineholt, completely box the frame to help deal with the upcoming horsepower onslaught. Then the chassis went back to East Coast for installation of the fore and aft suspension hardware. Up front are Heidts 2-inch-drop spindles, which, together with Detroit Speed coilovers, provide for 3 to 4 inches of altitude drop. To fit the desired rim/tire size, Mike had Bob Wineholt fabricate some tubular A-arms of specific length, based on patterns created at East Coast. A Moser 9-inch axle resides out back, stuffed with 4.11 gears, 35-spline axles, a Detroit Locker, and suspended with Detroit Speed's coilover setup for a 3-inch drop. Brakes? Big, thank you-Wilwood four-piston discs, 12 inches in front, 11 out back. They're hidden behind polished American Racing Torq-Thrust rims, 16x7 on the nose and 17x8 on the tail.
Inside, Mike wanted to stay reasonably close to stock, but with just the right amount of custom touches, the most obvious of which is likely the notch cut out of the original bench seat to clear the Long shifter. Beyond that, there are some Moon gauges, a Budnik wheel, Billet Specialties pedals, and some upgraded carpet from ACC. Re-upholstery, in the original vinyl, was assigned to Dean Alexander at the Hot Rod Garage. The cabin now looks factory fresh from stem to stern.
The big box of a body itself was pretty straight when the project began, but still required a fair investment of time on the part of the East Coast Muscle Cars body wizards before shooting on fresh coats of Willow Green. A stand-out addition is the 4-inch cowl hood from Glasstek, while a much more subtle revision was the painted-on Chevrolet script on the tailgate (below a billet rear window crank.) And who wouldn't like those funky little "hanging" side mirrors?
We hope you're as taken with Mike's killer cargo ship as we were. It's got room for a party inside-and reason to party under the hood. If Detroit had built them like this, maybe there'd still be a thriving market for station wagons today. You know, for those who want to haul both cargo and something else.