When you spend 31 years racing the same car, you amass a knowledge base on that car like no one else. You know every nut and bolt-which ones will strip if you turn them 1/4-turn more, and every specialty fastener-and you know what works and what doesn't. Just like being married for more than a decade, you also know every blemish on your love, and have learned to overlook them. You've shared some of your best and worst life experiences together, and you know that there's more to your relationship than show-quality paint.
Keith Seymore has been racing this '74 Chevelle for 31 years, and his history with the car extends longer than that. His dad worked for General Motors for 35 years. One of the long-standing traditions of working at a Detroit automaker was ordering your new car every few years. Even to this day, people who really care about cars take special care to custom order their car exactly the way they want them. And if you can, you call in favors to make things happen that aren't on the options list. That's how you find cars decades later that defy what order books say was possible for that year-muscle car collectors have dreams about these sorts of things. When it came time to order a '74-model GM car for Keith's mom, his dad wanted a two-door Chevelle, but he wanted to add the police package goodies. He also wanted the opera window, which turned out to be the biggest challenge of the custom order. After working with the car order desk for weeks, they finally gave him the phone number of the plant manager and said to work it out with him. So he did.
Keith's mom drove the Malibu for four years, and then it was on to the next new GM car. And the Chevelle with the cop motor, cop suspension, and cop shocks was offered up as Keith's car to drive. In stock form, the car was pretty impressive, especially for a mid-'70s commuter. Even though the engine from the era of detuned V-8s, it was still a 454. The police package gave it the LS4 version of the big-block, which had a rating of 235 hp, an aluminum intake, and Q-jet four-barrel. The TH400 transmission had a performance valvebody, and the 10-bolt came with 3.42 gears and a posi. Eight-inch Corvette Rally wheels were also part of the deal, wrapped in HR60-15 Goodyear blue dot pursuit tires. Heavy-duty suspension and skid plates, beefy sway bars, and a gauge cluster that included a tachometer and actual gauges were also thrown in. One of the more interesting items was a performance console transmission shifter.
It didn't take long for Keith to find himself and the Chevelle at Lapeer Dragway, a local dragstrip that a lot of Detroiters make use of. The car in stock, 4,100-pound form turned a 15.10 the first time down the dragstrip. By the end of the day, Keith had quickened that to consistent 14.90s. And that was the start of a 31-year racing relationship with the car, and the start of a refinement process that continues today.
With a 4,100-pound car, there's a lot of weight to shed. Low-hanging fruit included the steel hood and the 60-pound front bumper. And behind the front and rear bumpers was reinforcement and miscellaneous fat that was worth about 50 pounds on each end. As Keith's relationship with the car lengthened, he got more and more refined in his weight-reduction tactics. He found that a 12-gallon gas tank from a Chevette would fit between the rear framerails, retaining a factory look and avoiding the need for a fuel cell. He started moving weight from the front to the rear, such as the battery. A two-core radiator holds less coolant than a four-core, therefore weighing less. And by some miracle, the car cools fine with a two-core radiator.