When many of us think street machine, our mind's eye conjures up mainstream images of first-gen Camaros, early Chevelles and GTOs, or Chargers and Road Runners-but a '73 Chevelle? Even the most hard-core Chevy guys have shunned this forgotten body style for decades. After seeing the big-block-toting '73 Chevelle of Rick Schmitz, we don't understand why, though. We gave Schmitz the Car Craft award for Best Unrestored Car back in 2000 and even tried to catch him on film. Just like Bigfoot, Schmitz and his '73 managed to elude our cameras, but we had a second sighting at last year's '02 Summer Nats.
When we asked Schmitz why he opted for a platform so many car crafters consider unconventional, he admitted it kind of fell into his lap. Schmitz's father purchased the car new, but sadly passed away the following year. With only 770 miles on the odometer, the '73 resided in the family's garage for the next 12 years and served as a backup car for his brother.
In 1985 Schmitz finally took possession of this unusual Chevelle, and while the small-block 307 had amassed a mere 2,914 miles, it was too tempting to swap the weak-kneed powerplant with a much more robust GM Performance Parts 502 crate motor. After meticulously completing the transplant that included a Turbo 400 to support the brutal horsepower and torque, the 10-bolt rearend was outfitted with a set of 3.90:1 gears, and the body lines were accented with a set of factory Rally wheels with police caps.
Schmitz's '73 is an excellent example of what a little creative engineering can produce with these "late-model" A-bodies. It has plenty of brawn, an abundance of sheetmetal to intimidate any current-day models, and above all it has personality. What do you think?
Car Craft Q&ACar Craft: How did you decide to build a '73 Chevelle?Rick Schmitz: It wasn't my first choice. It sat in the garage for 12 years until I eventually purchased it from my mother. I really started to enjoy it and now I simply love it. With only 15,200 miles, it still rides and drives like a new car.
CC: Judging from the low miles, we take it your mother never drove the car while she owned it?RS: Actually, she quit driving when I was born. She thought the traffic was getting bad back in 1949.
CC: What was the determining factor to drop in a 502 crate motor?RS: The 307 hardly had enough power to push itself out of the way, so in went the 440hp 502. It was only last year that I stuffed the 502hp 502 crate motor in it.
CC: Be honest. Have you ever smiled at an unsuspecting person in the lane next to you and matted the pedal?RS: Umm...yes, but these days I try to avoid doing anything that'll get me in trouble.
CC: Anything new we should look out for at the '03 Car Craft Nationals?RS: I really liked the Vortech supercharger you guys tested with the 454 crate motor. Seems like great bang for the buck, but only time will tell.
The DetailsCar: Rick Schmitz's '73 Chevy ChevelleEngine: 502ci big-block ChevyHeads: GMPP aluminum 2.25 intake/ 1.88 exhaust valvesInduction: GM aluminum dual-plane, Holley 850-cfm carbCamshaft: GM hydraulic roller, 224/234 degrees duration at 0.050-inch lift, 0.527/0.544-inch liftPower: 502 hp @ 5,200 rpm, 567 lb-ft @ 4,200 rpmTransmission: GM TH400, Hughes 3,000-stall converterRearend: GM 10-bolt, 3.90:1 gearsSuspension: Factory GM, front and rearBrakes: GM 11-inch discs, front; GM 9.5-inch drums, rearWheels and tires: 15x7 Rallys with BFGoodrich P225/70R15 TA Radials front; 15x8 Rallys with BFGoodrich P285/70R15 TA Radials, rearPaint: Original GM Burgundy MetallicBest e.t.: UnknownCost to build: $13,000