In the late '70s, in a remote corner of Illinois, the Du Quoin Street Machine Nationals became the unlikely cradle for the Pro Street movement. Through a haze of campfire smoke and Pabst foam, your street machine forefathers were there rockin' the facial hair and Hijacker suspension before you did, and they have the Polaroids of sketchy friends and blown Camaros to prove it. Sure, there were problems with public nudity and beer-fueled fistfights, but that's what your dad did. Even our editors had long hair and tie-dyed, yello-striped shirts sporting beer stains. They saw what was happening through chrome aviators and 35mm film cameras.
Du Quoin is the show that made whistling blower belts and gigantic balonies famous. More than 30 years later, crustier members of the Car Craft management team and a group of diehard Street Machine Nats fans somehow remembered the show and brought it back. Different time, same place.
Last summer, we found ourselves staffed up at the little-changed Du Quoin fairgrounds and looking for a car for the coveted Best of Show award—a car to represent what this show meant to people then and a reason to celebrate its return. That's when Stan Hutchison rounded the corner with a freshly built Pro Street Chevelle pounding 3-inch Flowmasters and flashing chrome like the sun exploded in blazing-red paint. The car led a trail of man-children seemingly entranced by the sound of a high-compression big-block on a big snort of C16. It was clear the show hadn't missed a beat, and Stan already had the award in the bag.
If you are thinking Du Quoin groupies are a collection of throwbacks trotting out ancient builds, you would be pleasantly wrong. Yes, these guys are still building Pro Street cars, but the technology leap allows them to look the part and still be driveable with big cams and EFI. Stan's car remains the perfect example of this show's past without being a dinosaur.
Stan bought this car when he was a junior in high school in 1976 and has dragged it with him his entire life, blowing up six small-blocks along the way, while he learned the fine arts of engine building and burnouts. The late-'70s and '80s were good.
In about 1989, Stan traded "some Pontiac parts," for a 454 out of a '73 Chevy, maybe a truck. He put a big cam in it and drove it to car shows and picnics with a tunnel ram. The 454 had a little hit of nitrous, and the car became a street/strip machine, always bright-red. For the next five years, Stan drove the car all over the Midwest, often making it to the original Street Machine Nationals show.
The trouble began in 1994 when Stan stepped up to a slightly hotter 468-inch big-block and decided to add a rollcage for safety at the track. "The guy made a mess of it," Stan says. "He cut the floors out and everything." The Street Machine Nats died, and the car languished until 2010 when Stan had the cash to bring the car up to date.
"I had the car restored on a rotisserie, and the chassis was upgraded," Stan says. "I did most of the work myself in my garage. I worked with Jerry Bickel Race Cars to get the parts and had a chassis shop bend the tubes, and then I would weld them in." Stan was aggravated with the 20-year-old carburetor, so he tried the Atomic EFI from MSD. "It doesn't run differently; it's just easier on plugs, and it stopped huffing fuel everywhere."
Now the car serves the same purpose as it did in the '80s. Car Craft brought him back to Du Quoin, and only one of his buddies made it back. "The rest of guys sold their cars and bought boats." His companion for the 2013 show was Mike Freeman, the man who has personally painted the car twice.
I have room for one car. So that's all I got. —Stan Hutchison
Who: Stan Hutchison
What: '70 Chevrolet Chevelle
Where: Florissant, MO (It's a former French colony that means blooming in English)
Engine: Yep, there's nothing better than a 454 with 12.0:1 compression on race gas for the street. It's a basic combo with Chevrolet Bow Tie heads and a factory steel crank with Eagle H-beam rods and JE pistons. The pop from the high compression combined with the 300/310 duration at 0.050 Comp cam adds the right sounds and smells to this car. It turns everybody's head. Those are March pulleys and a Meziere water pump. We expected to see a big Holley instead of the MSD Atomic EFI throttle body. It's a testament to modern technology when a radical big-block can run a bolt-on EFI unit and still handle fairground cruising and the dragstrip. The car runs high-9s with a 250hp shot from the NOS nitrous plate.
Transmission: This car is a classic. The transmission is a TH400 from 1968 with a B&M Pro Stick and a 3,800-stall converter.
Rearend: Have you guessed yet? It's a narrowed 12-bolt with Mark Williams axles and 4.10:1 gears.
Chassis: The entire chassis is made from 15⁄8-inch mild steel tubing. Fish Chassisworks, Jerry Bickel Race Cars, and Pie's Chassis shops all had a hand in building this car. The front suspension uses Strange struts and a Mustang II rack-and-pinion. In the rear are ladder bars and single adjustable Koni coilovers.
Interior: Stan calls the interior "stock," so maybe he doesn't notice the Jaz seats, Simpson five-point, complete array of Auto Meter gauges, and the Grant steering wheel anymore. We noticed those things and the sheetmetal transmission tunnel. The pedals are Alston's Chassisworks pieces.
Rollers: The wheels are Weld Draglites. The skinnies are 15x3.5, and the fatties are 15x14, with 165R15 Coopers and M/T 31-18.5-15s.
Goodies: The small tank near the core support is for nitrous fuel enrichment.
Thanks: Mike Freeman, Sally, A.J. and Becky, and the guys from Jerry Bickel, Fish, and Pie's chassis shops.