There's a certain stigma that goes with owning a four-door anything. It's not cool, it's not sporty, and it's the car your mom would normally drive. Wagons get their own, worse multi-door disrespect, leaving most more-doors to live out their lives as redheaded stepchildren to their two-door brothers.
Considering most cars today are four-doors, some capable of amazing feats of performance in stock trim (Cadillac CTS-V, CTS-V wagon, etc.), we don't see where it's written in stone they can't be as cool as coupes.
And here's the car that proves it. Dick Eytchison found his '65 four-door sedan while cruising through the Colorado country near Bayfield. The Artesian Turquoise Chevelle was amazingly straight, complete, and full of potential. Dick and his wife Karyn tried to buy the car that day, but to no avail. They left a note on the windshield and headed for home, already planning out what they'd do if the Chevelle ended up in their garage. Richard already had three other '65s (Chevelle SS, El Camino, and a rare Chevelle two-door wagon) so the four-door would be in good company.
After a patient wait and months of negotiating to finally acquire the car for the tidy sum of $3,000, it wasn't long before the sedan was being prepped for a fresh coat of Artesian Turquoise paint, and its pedestrian underpinnings were going in the trash. Having built several Chevelles before, Dick knew exactly where he wanted to go for the right parts to build a pro touring A-body. He called good friend John Hotchkis for everything needed.
For the front, Hotchkis' TVS suspension system is employed. The TVS kit has been specifically designed and tested to offer the best handling possible to a classic car with modern wheels and tires. The tubular upper and lower control arms give improved caster/camber rates that increase grip, while the included one-inch drop springs and Hotchkis tuned Bilstein shocks improve vehicle stance and control. A beefy 1-3/8-inch sway bar with billet mounts keeps body lean to a minimum. In the rear, the TVS system employs Hotchkis adjustable upper control arms and fully boxed lowers, two-inch lowering springs, Hotchkis tuned Bilstein shocks, and adjustable 1-1/4-inch Extreme Sport sway bar.
The beauty of the whole system, beyond it being tuned as a full front and rear package, is its bolt-on installation. No cutting of the factory frame or specialized mods are required. Your average DIY'er with a modicum of mechanical skill, a floor jack and jack stands could install this kit in a weekend and be enjoying better handling on the way to work Monday.
Combined with upgraded brakes (in this case, Baer calipers connected to a manual Wilwood master cylinder (see specs and driving review below), you have classic looks with modern road prowess. Definitely tough to beat.
On the Autocross
This year, Hotchkis Sport Suspension brought out one of the nicest Chevelles I've had the pleasure of driving and like its other cars in previous years, this one didn't disappoint one bit. Modded with one of the best non-LS powerplants available for autocrossing, a GMPP ZZ383, and backed by a TKO600, the ‘65 laid waste to my little map of orange with ease. As Hotchkis has developed a whole plethora of aftermarket suspension goodness for A-bodies, every bit of the catalog was in place and ready for work.
At the start line, the initial launch got me rolling perfectly straight. Wheelspin was minimized and the car put down power quite well., The initial "dogleg left" followed by a quick right found the Chevelle oh-so compliant and easy to position under power coupled with light steering input. Another left-hander and the car smoothly threaded around the apex and presented itself to the first slalom cone under full power. What I especially loved was the Chevelle maintained the "forward" so easily and gave me plenty of opportunities to route a proper driving line. This wasn't a car that I had to so much react to but rather one I could move anywhere, trail brake and then rotate around a tight, decreasing radius corner, and then track-out at my, not the car's, opportune moment. Gotta say that not all cars are like this.
At the end of the high-speed four-cone slalom, the Baer Track and SS4's did their job and got about 3,500 pounds of steel suitably slowed for the turnaround at the end. This was followed by a quick flick two-cone weave followed by serious braking, the Chevelle, planted on it's nose for the hard left that followed, offered a hint of push. This quickly was dissipated using light throttle while unwinding that steering wheel and reminded me that what I learned in Autocross-101 many eons ago: "Slow in, fast out," does have some merit.
Entering (or sliding into, as the case here) my go-to element, a "Chicago Box," I was able to position the car straight before braking like mad to get through the tightest corner, a right-hander, and then hammer it back across the course to the "walloms." Again, the Baer binders performed admirably and the Chevelle dipped in front, gave me precise corner-entry for that tight right-hander, allowing me to get back on the throttle feet before the apex. Across the course at WOT at the top of second gear, there were little expected traction issues but none that upset this car's "forward" as the Nitto NT01's hung on and did their job. Setting the nose at the end of the ‘cross, I trailbraked, then rotated, the big car into each of the three wallom offsets and from there, hammered it again through the finish lights. I was especially impressed with the Nitto's as after five back-to-back hard runs, the tires produced the same consistent feel each time.
If you're looking for a bolt-on suspension system that produces miles of fun, Hotchkis has the answer. I found this car extremely well balanced with almost every system and their bits working in sychrony. Like I mentioned earlier, I'm tossing almost two tons of metal all over the tarmac and what stood out the most is that this Chevelle didn't "drive heavy" under pressure and at speed. It simply went where it was pointed and was able to take lateral weight transfer without staying locked in place. The only change I'd recommend would be a slightly quicker steering ratio, as I felt it was a tad slow causing me delayed steering reaction time. Other than this minor nit, this is a car I'd be more than willing to go the distance in all the while grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat. —Mary Pozzi
On the Street
Out of our five challenge cars, this was the most enjoyable to hit the streets with. That's not a knock on the other cars, as they were right there with the Hotchkis Chevelle, but this one had me ready to steal the car and head for Mexico when no one was looking. The ZZ383/Tremec TKO600 five-speed combo gave the car plenty of motivation (in fact, this was the only manual transmission equipped car in this year's field) and the Centerforce clutch was just right for the street. The only complaint, a minor one for sure, was the shifter handle on the Tremec was a tad short. As I have about six inches more height than the car's owner, so I'm sure it fits him just right.
Driving along with John Hotchkis riding shotgun, I was impressed by the responsiveness of the suspension, but it didn't give the Chevelle that buckboard, rough ride feel like a lot of other suspensions will. Admittedly, this car tied for the longest wheelbase (115 inches) of our five challenge entries, which helps, but it felt so smooth and so good you could see driving this Chevelle every day. Even going over a rough railroad crossing, the '65 remained stable and straight, with no teeth-rattling sensations transmitted through the suspension to the passenger compartment. The Scat ProCar seats were form fitting but comfortable, while the thick, ringed Grant steering wheel allowed for the perfect amount of feel and control.
Even though the car has a roll bar, it didn't affect the comfort of the cabin. The clutch had great feel without being a burden in traffic, and the 17-inch diameter wheels left plenty of room for tire so the ride quality was further enhanced beyond the suspension.
The steering was still the factory GM design, just upgraded with a quicker ratio power box. It wasn't heavy, it wasn't light, but spot-on in the middle of perfect. The manual brakes (Wilwood master cylinder combined with Baer calipers) were surprisingly light, not requiring an enormous amount of effort to actuate, and had plenty of feel and control. You could lightly lay into the brakes for light stopping or hit them hard for a panic stop with no difficulties. They really showed what a correctly set up manual brake system has to offer.
Overall the Hotchkis Chevelle was just flat out awesome. Smooth roads, rough roads, traffic, clear lanes, didn't matter. Everything was so well balanced and had the right amount of feel, doing a cross country trip in this classic would be fun. Even without air conditioning!
|Car: 1965 Chevelle Sport Sedan|
|Color: Artesian Turquoise with low-gloss clearcoat|
|Owner: Dick Eytchison|
|Type: ZZ383 Chevy crate motor|
|Fuel Delivery: Holley Avenger 650 cfm carb and Edelbrock's RPM Air-Gap manifold|
|Transmission: Tremec TKO-600 five-speed|
|Clutch: 10-inch dual friction Centerforce|
|Rearend: Currie 9-inch (Narrowed 1-inch), 3.70 gears with Truetrac|
|Chassis: Stock GM with polyurethane body mounts|
|Front Suspension: Hotchkis Total Vehicle System (TVS) with tubular arms|
|Steering: AGR 12:1 quick ratio box|
|Springs: Hotchkis 1 inch drop|
|Spindles: B-body spindles|
|Shocks: Hotchkis spec'd Bilstein shocks|
|Sway Bar: Hotchkis 1-3/8-inch with Billet Mounts|
|Brakes: Baer four-piston Calipers with 13-inch rotors|
|Rear Suspension: Hotchkis TVS with adjustable control arms|
|Springs: Hotchkis 2-inch drop|
|Shocks: Hotchkis spec'd Bilstein shocks|
|Sway Bar: Hotchkis 1-1/4-inch|
|Brakes: Baer Alumasport with 12-inch rotors|
|Wheels & Tires|
|Wheels: CCW LM20, Front-17x8, Rear-17x9.5|
|Tires: Nitto NT01, Front-245/45R17, Rear-275/40R17|
|Cost of Suspension:|
|$4,317.95 (less brakes)|
|LF: 910 | LR: 812|
|RF: 904 | RR: 781|
|Skid Pad: CW 0.91g, CCW 0.99g; Average 0.96g|
|Slalom: Best 48.5 mph; Average of five runs 46.9 mph|
|Autocross: Best 51.11; Average of five runs 52.25|
|'13 Corvette Grand Sport|
|Skid Pad: CW 0.98g, CCW 0.99g; Average 0.99g|
|Slalom: Best 48.5 mph; Average of 5 runs 46.9 mph|
|Autocross: Best 51.10; Average of 5 runs 51.58|
|'72 Chevelle SS396|
|Skid Pad: CW 0.69g, CCW 0.76g; Average 0.74g|
|Slalom: Best 38.7 mph; Average of three runs, 38.2 mph|
|Autocross: Best 1.03.87; Average of three runs 1.08.64|