Magazine project cars are created for all kinds of reasons. Some are built because they fill a need for stories, some are built to go racing, and sometimes a select few are built to become long-term test mules. Think along the lines of Hot Rod's Crusher Camaro that was introduced in 1993 and the grandaddy of them all, Popular Hot Rodding's Project X, which was launched back in 1965. Both of these have been built and rebuilt in so many ways that we're not even going to get into to it here, but I think you get the gist of what we are saying.
Super Chevy wanted a long-term test mule along those same lines, something that we could test different engine and trans combos, along with new suspension set-ups, or basically whatever we needed or wanted to try. The editorial staff had been talking about finding a car to build, but at the time it was more of a dream than a reality.
That is, until Brit White, our national sales account manager, sat down with Mark Hedrick (owner of Auto Metal Direct) and Craig Hopkins (owner of C. Hopkins Rod & Custom, a restoration shop that is AMD's installation center). Having these three gearheads at the same table is all it took to get the ball rolling. Brit knew that a project like this would give us story fodder for years. Mark saw it as an opportunity to showcase his company's new full-line of sheetmetal. And Craig would assemble the car to show the world exactly what his shop was capable of. Since this was initially going to showcase AMD's sheetmetal, we needed a car that we could give extensive body coverage to so the decision was made to look for a '67 Chevelle, and Super Chevy had zero issues with that.
Now all that was needed was a car, and for once it needed to be in seriously rough shape. Greg Graham, the warehouse manager at AMD, knew of a car resting somewhere in Texas, so he went to check it out. The car (or what was left of it!) was still there and when he saw it up close he knew why. This thing was so rusted it scared off other prospective buyers. Greg, on the other hand knew, that it was a perfect match for our needs and it had a surprise—it was a true 138 cowl tag car!
Yes folks, it's a genuine SS396 Chevelle. It was missing the engine, trans, and most other items, but it had a solid frame and just enough body left to rebuild. The deal was struck and the car was hauled back to Craig's shop in March 2011.
The only real caveat is that it needed to be completed for the SEMA show in October of the same year. With only eight months to get the job done, Craig and his crew wasted no time, and in a flurry of metal and sparks the teardown began. (Check out the June 2011 issue or superchevy.com to see it in its dilapidated "before" state.)
The next day a big truck showed up packed to the gills with AMD boxes. Inside the boxes, as you can guess, was all the sheetmetal and glass in AMD's '67 Chevelle arsenal, which turns out is a lot. The only pieces that didn't get replaced on the car were the rockers, the structure under the package tray, and the upper cowl.
The body was separated from the chassis so the frame and suspension could be addressed while the bodywork continued. Any piece of the chassis that was getting reused got blasted and painted. Then, chassis and suspension were totally refurbished with products from AMK Hardware, Performance Suspension Technology (PST), Right Stuff Detailing, and National Parts Depot. All these parts on the chassis are stock replacement style, from the drum brakes to the small sway bar. Remember, this car will be upgraded later so now it's all about stock. The final touch on the chassis at this time was slipping in the 396 Rat that has a Comp Cams valvetrain, MagnaFlow exhaust system, and Powerglide transmission.