Though musclecars ruled the streets then, the '60s are not remembered as an era of Chevrolet dominance on NASCAR's old Grand National circuit. After all, Ford and Chrysler were openly funding their efforts with special engines and cars, while GM's dominance in the early part of the decade ended when skittish corporate bigwigs pulled the plug on all racing activity in early 1963. As a result, by the time the Chevelle made its appearance in 1964, only a handful of independent racers were using the model for circle-track action.
Tracy Hicks, who lives in Jonesborough, Tennessee, not far from the fabled Bristol Motor Speedway, is a longtime Chevy fan who makes his living as a street-rod and automotive metal fabricator. His Wizeguy Rod & Custom shop is filled with everything from prewar Cadillacs to classic shoebox Chevy designs, but he had a special place in his heart for this early classic when the chance to buy it came up about five years ago.
"I was looking for my next project when I heard that a local fellow was going to sell this car," Tracy says. "He had just had it painted but didn't really like it. Since I really didn't want a standard '67-'69 Camaro or '66-'72 Chevelle, I knew immediately this car was what I wanted, so we made a deal."
Indeed, with the ghosts of Smokey Yunick and Curtis Turner on his shoulder,Tracy decided to forgo the dragstrip, street machine, or even the resto look. The idea was to make the car look like a street-driven Grand National car, with modest trim, black-wall tires on steel rims, and a nasty rumble under the hood.
One of the first things that catches your eye is the functional all-steel cowl hood, which Tracy fabricated from sheet stock and welded together himself. Just like the prior owner, he was not happy with the paint, and he had paint-gun artist Richard Fine, also of Jonesborough, spray the car after it had been stripped, reblocked, and sanded. Once the new hood was done, Keith Kyker at KBS Auto Restoration took up the charge and expertly matched the Goldenwood Yellow PPG work that Richard had done. Richard was involved in many other aspects of the project as well.
The rest of the body is basically stock, with some unique items like the taillight block-off plates. They would not be there had Tracy not been talking with Mike Ausley of Ausley's Chevelle Parts in Graham, North Carolina, one day while chasing some of the N.O.S. trim pieces on the car. "I told him I was building this car and how I wanted it to look," Tracy recalls. "Then he asked me if I had a set of back-up-light delete plates." Mike had an N.O.S. pair that had been sitting around for more than 20 years, and he thought they would be perfect for the car. "They were perfect, too," Tracy says.