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1971 Chevy Chevelle - Big Bucket Of Steel

Photography by Scott Crouse

If you read car magazines like this one regularly, you know that there's a movement afoot that involves stuffing old cars full of modern technology. It could be a simple brake upgrade or perhaps an entire computer-controlled drivetrain, just as long as the Pro Touring mantra of updating vintage iron for improved performance is upheld. You'll see plenty of that sort of car right here in Car Craft, but this isn't one of them. This car adheres to the brutal basics of street machining: Look stock and carry a big bad motor.

Lou Calangelo had a few simple demands: He wanted a Chevelle, and he wanted it to go really fast in a straight line while remaining streetable. Oh, and it had to be a lot faster than it looked. The project stemmed from a youthful memory-Lou's sister once had a boyfriend with an LS6 '70 Chevelle. The recollections of ludicrous acceleration mixed with covetable looks stuck with Lou for years. Of course, by the time Lou was ready to do something about it, original LS6 Chevelles were worth as much as a small house; besides, his idea of fast had evolved well beyond the capabilities of a stock LS6. The solution was to create a similar Chevelle to house a contemporary version of the hardcore big-block Chevy engine.

The car Lou selected was actually a '71, though it was an original SS 454. Lou had a 461ci big-block built for the car but soon realized that he needed a lot more power, so he turned to well-known East-Coast engine-builder Scott Shafiroff for a plan. The two settled on one of Shafiroff's 540-inch Ultimate Street big-block packages, which is basically a detuned Sportsman engine. Still, even in street form with a 114-degree lobe separation angle on the cam, the 540 cranks out 690 hp and 660 lb-ft of torque

The rest of the drivetrain is made up of similarly basic yet bulletproof components-a TH400 prepped by Tim Deal of Huntington Beach, California, with Kevlar clutches and bands along with a 3,200-rpm converter feeding the power back to a Chevrolet 12-bolt that's been completely overhauled with Strange hardware and 4.11 Richmond gears.

Since this package was street-bound, Lou required it to be legitimately bearable on a regular basis, so the 540 breathes through what he refers to as "the biggest Super Turbos I could fit," while the suspension remains mostly stock, though fortified with Metco adjustable upper control arms, QA1 adjustable shocks, and an Air Lift airbag in the right rear spring for positive dragstrip action. The body was also refurbished, but again, factory appearance and components were mandatory, so you won't find a single piece of fiberglass anywhere, and all factory trim remains intact. Of course, all these things conspire to push the scales to nearly 4,000 pounds, but Lou's fine with that, since nearly every competitor in the other lane is left with a quizzical look as the big green Chevelle blasts away to another high-10-second pass.

Car Craft Q&A

Car Craft: So, Lou, you've had other rods before this one, right
Lou Calangelo: Yes, my first was a '64 Impala that I bought for $50. Later I had a big-block powered '67 Firebird, and a few other street/strip cars.

CC: Do people expect this Chevelle to work as well as it does out on the street?
LC: Not usually. In fact, the best are the kids with the Hondas-they actually line up with me from time-to-time.

CC: How does that go?
LC: It's usually over pretty quick. The message is simple: I've got a big bucket of steel, and I'm gonna stomp your ass. Most of them actually take an interest after you really tromp them, though.

CC: So any chance this car will evolve into a strip-only ride?
LC: No, I've got a Super Gas Monza for that. We're prepping it now, and hopefully it'll run 9.30s or so and be competitive.

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