Bob Phelps has two loves in life: The first is the LS engine family. The other is Chevelle convertibles. Bob currently owns an example of every year of Chevelle ragtop, minus a '72. A few are original, but most have had Bob's special touch added to them with upgraded suspensions, and LS engines of varying displacements for tire-shredding ability. This particular Chevelle spends most of its time as Bob's daily driver around Naples, Florida. When first purchased in 2007, the car had been transformed from an SS396 ragtop into an LS6 SS454 clone. Once in his possession, Bob had the car sent to his shop in Michigan for a body off makeover and left it in the capable hands of Jim Clark and Johnny Brown. Out went the LS6 and four speed, in went a new LS7 crate engine from GM Performance Parts, backed by a Keisler/Tremec six-speed. This was one of the first six-speed installs in an A-body, helping to lay the ground work for what's now a common swap. Because the firewall would be smoothed, the LS7 was converted to wet sump oiling so the oil reservoir tank wouldn't clutter up the firewall or engine compartment.
Underneath, most of the Chevelle's stock suspension was dumped in order to take advantage of some aftermarket goodies. Up front, BMR coil springs were swapped in along with a bigger BMR sway bar. The stock control arms were retained, but now hook up to Corvette Spindles with massive Wilwood 13-inch rotors and six piston calipers with a hydroboost system. Out back, the 12-bolt rear was yanked in favor of a DTS built 9-inch-style unit with BMR springs, Hotchkis trailing arms, QA1 shocks, and Wilwood 12-inch rotors and four piston calipers on the ends for stellar braking power. Billet Specialties wheels wrapped in Goodyear F1 rubber hold down all four corners, with 17x7 up front, and 18x10 out back so the torque monster LS7 has plenty of rubber to work with.
While all the mechanicals were being updated, Johnny Brown was stripping the Chevelle's body and smoothing everything out before respraying the car in PPG Red with black stripes. Once everything was set, the ragtop's body was mated back to its upgraded frame.
On the inside, the interior is mostly stock, except for a Classic Dash insert with Auto Meter gauges. Since the firewall smoothing eliminated the car's factory A/C system, a Vintage Air climate control unit was installed underneath the dash.
Once the car was all finished, Bob couldn't wait to hit the streets and enjoy the modernized Chevelle. With the LS7 cranking out endless amounts of horsepower, the A-body easily stomps on hopped-up diesel trucks and unsuspecting Mustangs, but still pulls down great fuel mileage so it can serve as the daily driver of choice. The author had a chance to drive the Chevelle himself, and I have to say it was a perfect harmony of restomod music. While retaining the classic look and feel of the most popular Chevelle produced, the modern tempo provided by the upgraded brakes, suspension, LS7 powerplant and six-speed trans, made the car as fun to drive as any brand new performance car. The Z06 mill had no trouble moving the hefty A-body, and was capable of excessive tire spin at will. It's all the more fun for great, smoky burnouts. The Tremec six-speed shifted smooth as silk, and the gear ratios were perfect whether the car was driven in traffic or running at highway speeds.
A classic Chevelle with upgraded handling, modern horsepower, and the well mannered and refined driving potential of a modern sports car. Is there really anything sweeter? We don't think so.