In the modern world, we don't get many second chances, especially with cars that we let get away. After all, the market seems to continue pushing upward, and the unfound machinery out there tends to get rougher and rougher. If what you sold was a worked SS396 big-block Chevelle convertible, your second chance may be a 307-powered Malibu. Neal Reid knows all about it.
"I went to the Charlotte Auto Fair back in 1995 to sell a street rod," Neal remembers. Charlotte isn't far from his home in Denver. N.C. "The rod didn't sell, but I had to have this Chevelle convertible. It was too sweet to pass up."
Though the original engine was long gone, the Chevelle had been subjected to a stock rotisserie restoration, but was pretty plain. Neal spent the next year gathering parts and pieces, then took the car apart and completely rebuilt it as a street cruiser, adding conservative options and stock gauges to the package. He was very happy with the car, right up until his second show.
"I couldn't believe it," he says now. "I was driving home with the top down on a beautiful day, and this woman turned in front of me without looking. She literally removed the driver's side fender, door and rear quarter. It was really torn up."
Of course, out of the furnace of adversity comes strength, and the convertible was repaired back to show status. Neal's ride was even a star on an early episode of Hot Rod TV when the Chevelle got its front disc install. However, with other projects looming and in an admitted bout of insanity, Neal sold it and it went down the road to another owner in 2002. Three years later, in early 2005, a rumor surfaced that the car was for sale. Neal went to go look at it.
"It hadn't been well cared for and had been sitting outside for over a year. It was a mistake for me to sell it in the first place, and now it needed another full resto."
This time, in November of 2005, the car came apart for a complete redo with some major changes. The front suspension was rebuilt with Hotchkis quick-ratio steering, and Hotchkis also provided the gear for the back end. The aforementioned GM front disc brakes added earlier and the factory rear drums slow it down, and the factory wheels were replaced with 21st century Billet Specialties versions. These are big 17x8 up front, and giant 18x9 out back, both shod in low profile Diamondback tires.
A fresh top let the sun shine in, and the interior was left mainly stock, including the wood steering wheel and blinker-type tach. One neat option rarely seen on any Chevelle was the pricy adjustable steering column. The stereo was vertically mounted and hidden down inside the center console, with an amp and Alpine disc changer in the trunk. Once the body was ready for paint, Marty Brooks of Hot Rods & Harleys in Concord, North Carolina took on the charge of covering the sheetmetal with DuPont Bolero Red pigment. Brooks proved he was very capable of handling something smaller than a standard paint gun; those ZL1 emblems on the front fenders and cowl are airbrushed on.
Jerry Windell helped Neal out with assembling the specialized engine. NASCAR fans may have heard of this guy - he builds Cup motors for Tony Stewart's Home Depot car. Needless to say, it runs pretty well.
The car was finished in April 2006, just in time to make it to the Year One Experience at Road Atlanta in Georgia. It measured right up to the status of the magnificent machinery at the event again this year, and was a rolling tribute to the breed out on the two-plus mile road course. Neal gave special thanks to Eddie Robinson and Wes McLawhorn for helping get the car into the condition you see here.
Nobody likes to think about the ones that got away, and second chances can be hard to come by. Neal made the most of his 'third time around' with this Chevelle, and this time it may be the keeper.