From what we've seen at the dozens of shows we've attended in the last few years, early Chevelles are finally coming into their own, popularity-wise. For years, the '68-72 models were the dominant A-bodies. All of a sudden, though, it seems like everyone's taken to the '64s and '65s.
Their previous lack of popularity (relative to their younger siblings) and dearth of muscular engine options from the factory no doubt led to lower prices, but once you check them out, their many virtues endear them to you. Clean, uncluttered styling, mechanical simplicity, compact exterior dimensions, and a spacious interior and trunk--what's not to like?
Floridian Anthony Amato traded his wide-body Toyota Supra for this Chevelle back in the middle of 2009. He'd wanted an old Chevy for some time, and this one grabbed his attention. The eyeball-poppin' House of Kolors "True Blueblood" crimson paint certainly got ours. Anthony acquired it from Kenny Davis, owner of Kenny Davis Hot Rods. All the body and paint had been performed and it had a 355 under the hood.
He drove it like this for a time, then decided he wanted to drop in an LS1. Even had the engine purchased, then a deal on a larger, more powerful 18,000-mile LS2 came along that was too good to pass up.
When it comes to the current state of hot rodding, there is no denying the popularity of LS engine swaps. But while Anthony could have just left the LS2 alone and had a dynamic, economical cruiser, he took it a step further. He added to the fire by installing a Garret GT-40 turbocharger. With just 8 psi of boost, the otherwise-stock 6.0-liter puts 550 hp and 580 lb-ft of torque to the rear tires.
With the ability to bolster performance like this, is it any wonder turbochargers are seeing yet another resurgence in popularity? GM has offered them in a wide assortment of new cars over the years, with varying degrees of success. The turbo itself is such a simple, effective device, but from an OE standpoint it can be a packaging nightmare. Turbo kits can also be expensive, but the results speak for themselves.
The engine was dropped in by S&R Performance in Tampa, which also gets the credit for fabricating the custom headers, turbo plumbing and intercooler setup. Jeremy Formato got the call to come in and perform the custom tune.
So what do we have so far? Malibu plus LS2 and turbo equals extremely fast street machine. But wait, there's more! A 4L80E electronic five-speed overdrive with B&M shifter sends the power to a 3.41-geared 12-bolt built by Profab Performance, while a Vintage Air system keeps the cockpit blissful from a temperature standpoint--critical when you live in South Florida.
That A/C becomes even more important when you have a black interior. The front chairs are Honda Prelude buckets covered in leather and tweed (with matching door panels). The headrests were removed for a more period-correct look. The owner installed the stereo system, a Sony head unit with CD player, JL Audio amp and speakers from Boston Acoustics and MB Quart (there's also a Kicker 10.5-inch subwoofer). He checks the vitals with Auto Meter Bow Tie limited-edition gauges in a Covan Classic carbon fiber dash.
Ride Tech was called upon to supply the air suspension and Musclebar sway bars, while Wilwood 13-inch front rotors and 12-inch rears make sure the A-body has the deceleration to match its acceleration. Intro Forged Champion wheels and Yokohama tires are used all around. The front skins are 225/40ZR18s, while the backs are 275/35ZR20s. One of Anthony's few regrets is that he didn't narrow the rear end so even wider rubber could have been fitted.
Anthony drives his hot rod once a week. His biggest thrill comes from being able to cruise with his two-year-old son belted into the car seat in the back.
"It was built as a show car and cruiser, and we go to a lot of shows, but you can't expect a two-year-old to hang around for eight hours before they give out the trophies," Anthony relates. "Usually we'll go for a couple of hours and then head home." Besides, no trophy they can award will look as good as the one he drove to the event.