Most of us remember our first car with fondness. It probably didn't run too well, and the way it looked ... well, looks aren't everything. The important thing is that it got us around and gave us our first real taste of freedom. But how many of us actually had a cool first car, let alone a car as cool as a '65 Chevelle? Toby Hernandez is one of those lucky guys whose first car was more than memorable.
Toby purchased the car when he was 15 with help from his father, Oscar. The '65 Chevelle sedan came with all the ingredients of a great street machine-a straight body, big-block, Turbo-400, and 12-bolt rearend. Since Toby wasn't old enough to drive, father and son immediately tore into the rough, albeit complete, A-body. Initially they planned on patching the floor, renovating the interior, and painting the car, but the project gained momentum with each subsequent article they read in Car Craft. Before they knew it, the body was off and the ground-up reconstruction began. Oscar's first paint job gave the Chevelle a dark purple Corvette hue.
Extensive cruising was always the goal, so they swapped the Turbo 400 for something easier on a high school student's wallet and added a freshened-up 700-R4 with Corvette internals and a converter out of a Caprice cop car. The 402 that was living under the Chevelle's hood was punched out and given TRW forged pistons, C&A rings, a Lunati hydraulic cam and timing chain, and a Melling oil pump. The stock oval-port heads were treated to a porting job and Manley 2.19/1.88 valves, and the little Rat was topped with an Edelbrock Torker II intake and a 750 Holley.
Toby didn't finish the car before graduation, but he did get it running well enough to drive on graduation day-sans hood, trunk lid, and interior. Ten years later, Toby still has his Chevelle, and every year the father-son team gets a little closer to perfecting it. If only our own first cars had been worth keeping!
Car Craft Q&ACar Craft: What an awesome first car! We're jealous! How did you end up with a Chevelle as your first set of wheels?Toby Hernandez: Well, my dad and I actually toyed with buying a Camaro first, but after driving a few, I didn't really like what I found. Then one day my dad spotted a '69 Chevelle for sale on his drive home from work. We looked at it but realized that it wasn't the right car for us. Just down the street we noticed the '65 parked at a body shop with a "For Sale" sign in the window. We drove it, fell in love with it, and bought it on the spot.
CC: How did you get into musclecars?TH: My dad has owned a basically stock '68 Corvette since the early '70s, which was partially responsible for sparking my interest. Together we decided to buy and build a special car for my first ride.
CC: What's in store next for the Chevelle?TH: I've had it for 10 years and I have no intention of ever getting rid of it. A stroker big-block is next on the agenda, and I've got a 454. Air conditioning is also in the future. The funny thing is that we never intended to go this far. But, we kept reading magazine articles and before we knew it, the body was off the frame. We built this car to drive. It never even crossed our minds to trailer it. We've driven to the Summer Nationals in St. Paul for the last four years in a row, and we even drove an 1,800-mile leg of the Power Tour.
CC: Any other projects on the horizon?TH: We plan on getting to the '68 Corvette before too long, and we picked up a '63 split-window Corvette about five years ago that we'd like to restore. We've got our hands full!