The timeline of muscle cars in the life of John Lyons fishtails with tires smoking all the way back to when his interests shifted from bicycles and green plastic army men to the meanest and fastest machines getting kicked out from Motor City. A 1967 396 Chevelle with a 4-speed rolled back into John's life to take a recent and rightful place in the timeline as it continues on. The car stands today as stock Chevrolet muscle captured at the moment of final production and will remain as a preserved example of the way the factory intended it to be.
The year 1967 was when Sam and Dave's "Soul Man" crackled out of the speakers of solid-state transistor radios across the land. This was also the year the right build information made its way down to the assembly line and a 396 with a four-speed was installed into the body of a Chevelle that would eventually find its way to John. Unlike a great number of the Chevelles that rolled off the line so equipped in '67, this one happened to fall into the hands of a single owner who kept it in original trim throughout its life. While countless other Chevelles were raced, hacked up, or wrecked into oblivion, this one stood stock even as Sam and Dave made way for the hi-fi hits that followed.
John's interest in Detroit iron began in the early '70s while working for his father, who worked in the automotive salvage end of the insurance business. As a result, John repeatedly witnessed firsthand the end run of horsepower-a-plenty and inexperience combined with '60s-era suspension and brake designs. Muscle cars running though the salvage facility ranged from almost new and wrecked, to driven hard--to the demise of the car, and often times the driver. Seeing these cars up close in his early teens was merely part of the beginning of John's continuing admiration and respect for the Detroit heavies.
On the garage wall at his boyhood home hung the headers for various engines on the floor below. Speed and stock parts alike filled any remaining garage space, all of it waiting patiently for install on one of the long line of big-blocks and muscle cars that always graced the Lyons' driveway. Before John or his brothers could even drive they got to ride in some now legendary machines. John's dad called a '69 Charger R/T his throne. While Mopar reigned in dad's kingdom, it was Mom who rowed through the gears Pontiac style, behind the wheel of her '66 GTO 4-speed. Both cars were sold before John and his brothers were old enough to drive, but the mold for the future mayhem had been poured and set.
John's brother was a drag nut early on. It was he who drove the family tradition of muscle cars from the garage right on out to New England Dragway. A '70 Buick Gran Sport and a '67 Chevrolet Corvette were but a few of the cars in the family that hit the strip.
John got out to the races whenever he could, but enjoyed driving off track more than his sibling. Street racing was there for the taking but never played heavy in his travels. Muscle cars did. The year 1976 had a then 17-year-old John rolling in a Marina Blue Chevelle 4-speed that packed a 396 and was given the warm-over by his drag racing brother. John eventually sold the car, but not before the Chevelle etched itself into his memory as a daily driver with an extra helping of big-block soul.
John first became aware of the very car that would bring the Chevelle back into his modern life through a friend. What he heard was that not too far away existed a one-owner 1967 Chevelle SS with a 396 under the hood and a four-speed in the tunnel. The owner that had purchased the car new was ready to retire from driving, yet held interest in the car going to a good home. John took time out to go check out the Chevelle. He was amazed at its preserved original condition. No part of the car had ever been modified, and only a few regularly scheduled maintenance items had been swapped as they wore out. With a mere 25K miles on the clock, John knew he had found something very special that deserved to be kept that way.
John had the car delivered to his brother's shop for a closer look. John's brother Dennis handles restorations in his own shop, but, with a heavy schedule looming overhead, Dennis suggested Todd Lewis from Extreme Restoration be brought in for the meeting of the minds. The three talked over the car and which direction the project would travel. John's final solution was to keep the car as original as possible but at the same time restore the inner workings to showroom perfect or better condition. Only the chassis and drivetrain would receive a workover back to OEM specs. The rest of the car would remain 1967 factory original.
Brother Dennis and Todd Lewis worked together on the project from transporting the car down to Extreme Restoration's shop right up to the point where John got to kick it over and take a drive in the big-block way-back machine. The 396 mill was machined back into 100 percent factory specs by Nat's Incorporated in Swansea, Massachusetts. The chassis and underbody were restored to better than good working order. Everything from the Muncie M-20 wide ratio trans out to the original factory racing stripe remains as it was from the factory. The results had John smiling all the way back to the late '60s.
"Now I know what it may have felt like to drive one off a dealer's showroom floor back in 1967. This car is as tight and smooth as a modern day car. It's an absolute joy to drive," John said.
Having driven the car a few miles since its restoration, John plans to keep it as a time capsule. He plans on preserving and showing the car in the present day, while maintaining its original condition for the coming generations to enjoy. Even the original owner stays in touch with John, and is looking forward to seeing the car at some shows in the near future. The family appreciation for American muscle that started so long ago with a few pairs of headers hanging on the garage wall continues in the Chevelle. John's son just started driving last year and carries with him the same interest in cars that John's dad began. John's next project remains as unknown as the time that has not yet passed, but his passion will certainly continue on.
"I'm not really sure what the next project will be, though I do have some other interesting cars," added John.
"As for this one, I'll probably keep it for my son, but you never know what's ahead."