For the longest time I’ve always wanted to redo my Chevelle. My dad and I had restored it when I was a high school kid, and while it’s a good “20 foot” car it’s always had it’s issues. First off, we began with the worst shape car to restore that I’d ever seen. It was an absolutle train wreck of rust and problems, but it was the soul of the car that mattered to me most, and the “little” things like massive amounts of rust could all be fixed. We did get the car put back together again in 1993, and while I’ve souped it up a few times since then it’s always had some structural problems. What problems, you ask? Well, the body is really not hooked to the frame all that well. Chevelle’s have 14 bolts that hold the body to the frame. I have 10, and that’s because remaining 4 locations don’t have any mounts in the body to bolt to (we never did get those fixed).
Fast forward to 2011, and I was recently contact by Jeff Allison of Allison Customs. Jeff has been a long time listener of the podcast show and offered to help me rebuild the Chevelle at his shop in New Mexico and on his dime. If I supply the parts, Jeff will take care of the labor. Why would he do such a crazy thing? Honestly, I’m still not quite sure myself, but Jeff really just wanted to thank me for giving him the prod that he needed to go out an chase his dream. He’d wanted to start his own shop for years, but his career as a professional airline pilot, kids, and other businesses all got in the way. He’d always had the shop, had the tools, and had built cars for years. He decided to go for it on a professional level and pursue the thing he’d always wanted to do, and he was choosing to let me reap the benefits. Listen to podcast Episode 72 to get the full details!
In early March of this year I flew down to meet Jeff, met his family, and saw his work. He is absolutely utterly the real deal. The ’66 Impala he has built his son is incredible, and the crew cab ’68 Chevy pickup he built for himself is pretty sweet as well. (For those if you saying that GM never built such a vehicle….you’re right. Jeff made it himself from a Suburban and a couple of pickups.) We put together a plan of attack for the build and will likely take it in phases.
The first phase, which we will have completed by mid June, will involve pulling the body off of the frame, replacing the floor, trunk, and all body mounts, boxing the frame up a bit, and then put it all back together. We will upgrade the suspension to Detroit Speed’s A-Body setup as well, and if there are enough dollars left we’ll throw on a snazzy set of wheels, tires, and brakes. We’ll also try to source some more appropriate seats so I can stop driving the autocross with one hand on the wheel and the other hand on the passenger seat holding me in place. The 350 I’ve got in the car now will stay, as it will just rebuilt last spring. That being said, it’s got a bit of a “smoking” problem, and if we have time in the build we’ll replace the heads. I won’t go into great detail on that subject other than to say that when rebuilding a small block Chevy it’s very easy to spend more machining bad heads than just to buy a nice set from the aftermarket.
The second phase will likely occur over next winter and will include an LS engine swap and body work. While my Chevelle looks cool enough in the video here, believe me, there’s not a squared up panel on the car. I’d also like to install a Vintage Air setup at some point and really make the interior of the car a livable place at 80MPH with the windows up and the tunes blasting. So, long story short, this weekend my bro-in-law Greg and I are loading the Chevelle up on a trailer and doing a 2200 mile road trip (Iowa to New Mexico and back) in 3 days. I’ll plan to post updates from the road to our Facebook page and give you a recap of the trip when I return. Jeff Allison will also be taking plenty of pictures as he goes and I’ll plan to set him up with his own blog section here on the website.
It’s hard for me to think that in just 2 years this website and podcast show have gone from a “side project’ to my full blown profession. Don’t give up on your dreams, kids; you never know how God may answer you!