The owner of the turbocharged, all-wheel-drive Subaru WRX didn't see it coming. He should have, but some import guys aren't too astute. He should have picked on something with a third of the displacement; something smaller, slower, more innocuous, and perhaps foreign, but not the great white whale that passed him on the freeway onramp like he had just dropped anchor. But Ryan Allen's nasty '75 Chevelle is accustomed to winning encounters of this sort.
Ryan got this unusual Chevelle from his dad Kevin as a gift in 1991. Ryan was 1511/42 years old, and the senior Allen had purchased it for $500 from a customer at his auto repair shop. The car was packing a 155-horse 350, an avocado green interior, and curb feelers-not quite the stuff of high school heroism, but a good starting point nonetheless.
Ever so slowly, Ryan acquired go-fast parts to fortify the weak-kneed small-block residing under the long white hood of the Chevelle. First came an intake, then a cam, then headers and duals. Ryan was hooked on speed.
At 18, he thought he had the fastest car in the neighborhood, but when he received an unceremonious spanking from an acquaintance's Nova, his quest turned serious. His friend Tyler Stains suggested he step up to a big-block, and his logic was simple: Big cars need big motors. Tyler found a complete 454 long-block, and Ryan brought it home for a mere $300.
Over the next year, Ryan completed the machining and had built his first motor using new, used, and borrowed parts-some scavenged from his dad's boat motor. He dropped it into the Chevelle and added a Turbo 400 to handle the newfound twist and thrust and Weld wheels to hold the rubber. Ryan scuttled the 3.08:1-geared open rearend and replaced it with a modified 12-bolt from a '72 Monte Carlo after Hooper's Rearend rebuilt it with an Eaton posi, 4.11 gears, and 31-spline axles. Several transmissions later, Ryan got wise and bought a B&M Turbo 400 that has held together ever since. On his first track outing, Ryan laid down a 12.93 at 103 mph. Some fine-tuning and refining of the combination resulted in a best 11.99 at 111 mph.
Now 27, Ryan no longer relies on the big Chevy for regular transportation. Instead, he savors it on the weekends, cruising with his wife Teri for the sheer joy of it. After serving him reliably for many years, the Chevelle is now driven strictly for pleasure- Ryan's pleasure, that is. To the import guys, this white whale will always be the one that got away.
Car Craft Q&ACar Craft: Your Chevelle originally came with a small-block in it. What prompted the move to a big-block?Ryan Allen: My original plan was to build a stroker small-block, probably a 383, which came about after a neighbor's friend's Nova beat me in an "impromptu speed contest." I thought my car was quick, and then this guy smoked me. So, I wanted to build a hotter small-block, but a friend had a complete 454 long-block in his garage for dirt-cheap and that was that. It just made sense. You could get a big-block in a '75 Chevelle from the factory so the swap was easy.
CC: The Chevelle was your main ride in high school and in college. How often do you drive it now that it isn't your primary mode of transportation?RA: I also used it for deliveries I made for the print shop I worked for. The car is big, and it usually had enough room. People thought I was nuts! Now I don't drive it that often. Mostly on weekends to local cruises and the drags.
CC: What does the future hold for your Chevelle, Ryan?RA: The first thing on the agenda is a fiberglass cowl hood. You know the car weighs more than 4,000 pounds with me in it. I don't know how much further I'm going to go with it, as I'm at the point where I need to put a rollbar in it too.