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1965 Chevy Chevelle - Mom's Ride

What started out as a street beast became the Lau family cruiser

By , Photography by Eric McClellan

The usual evolution of a street machine is from a grocery-getter to a boulevard bandit, a domesticated six-cylinder cruiser to a barely tame beast that breathes fire and scares young children. While the car in this story isn't the opposite of that prototype, it certainly splits the lane as a nonconformist. Our tale begins with Brian Lau's big plans. He'd found this '65 Chevelle and was fully focused on stuffing a Rat motor and four-speed in between the framerails. He had already begun the transformation when his mother, Louise, borrowed the A-body for a quick trip to town. She discovered that the near 50-year-old sedan was a comfortable fit and told her son she needed "a hot rod of my own." With that, Brian's plans took a decided swing toward a more conservative approach. The mini-tubbed rear wheelwells would remain to allow stuffing a big tire under the back, but the motivation for those rear tires would now come from a breathed-on, 383ci small-block and an automatic with overdrive to make those trips into town more enjoyable. And it would be safe, with a complete set of Wilwood disc brakes on all four corners. Now Mom gets puzzled looks from the Honda and Toyota kid drivers who fully expect a much younger pilot behind the wheel. As dad Ron says "It sounds like it has a bigger motor than what's in it." That's OK. The kids don't know that.

Tech Notes

Who: Brian and Louise Lau

What: A Great White North '65 Chevelle

Where: Gleason, Wisconsin

Engine: The planned original Rat gave way to Winona, Wisconsin's Lawson Racing Engines–built 383 small-block that squeezes a 10:1 compression short-block with SRP forged pistons and a Scat crank and rods timed with a Comp hydraulic roller camshaft with 0.520/0.530-inch lift and serious valvesprings. The cam timing controls a set of 2.02/1.60-inch stainless valves in a set of ported GM iron heads. Topped off with an Edelbrock Performer RPM Air-Gap intake, a Demon 750- cfm carburetor, and a complete MSD ignition system, the motor made 430 hp at 6,200 and a strong 457 lb-ft of torque at 5,800 rpm. Hooker Super Competition headers complete the package.

Transmission: Since Mom would rather not row through a Muncie four-speed, the Lau clan converted to a B&M TH350 automatic with a TCI 11-inch converter that stalls around 2,800 rpm and then plugged a Gear Vendors overdrive into the backside of the trans to produce a highway-friendly 0.78:1 gear reduction that makes the effective gear ratio a 2.77:1. M&R Services did the 4-inch custom steel driveshaft with forged ends to make it all fit.

Rearend: Rather than a typical 12-bolt, Brian chose a Ford 9-inch with a 3.55:1 gearset and a limited slip just in case Mom wants to show the locals how this rascal hooks. Mike also narrowed the housing 6 1⁄4 inches to fit those fat tires.

Suspension/Brakes: This is where the action really started. Son Brian had already boxed the frame for added stiffness and also built a custom removable trans crossmember along with new upper rear control arms for the 9-inch. Global West rear springs keep everything at ride height. Brian also used Global West front springs along with 2-inch drop spindles, KYB shocks, and Hotchkis front and rear sway bars. With all this horsepower, whoa power is also essential. Mom doesn't have to worry about bumping fenders because Brian dropped in Wilwood Dyna-Lite calipers front and rear that do a great job of converting kinetic energy into heat. For power steering, the Chevelle relies on a stock GM 605 box.

Interior: While as a race car the Chevelle might have operated a bit more sparsely, Mike and his dad retained the stock seats but re-covered them in a two-tone-style blue vinyl and added a factory tach and gauges, plus an Auto Meter complement of oil pressure, water temperature, and trans temperature. They also added a pair of subtle lights alongside the steering column, with one as an oil-pressure warning light and the other as a shift light so Mom knows when to move the shifter. She will also stay cool, as this was a factory A/C car the guys converted to R134a refrigerant. It appears that the boys may still get a chance behind the wheel because there's a Line-Loc button located on the shifter. Maybe Mom uses it as a hill holder. There are also tunes to make the cruise to town more pleasant with a Custom Auto Sound head unit and 10-disc CD player, an MTX amp, and Infinity speakers.

Wheels/Tires: This whole project started with Mike's desire to stuff a big tire under the car. Widening the rear tubs by 31⁄2 inches and moving the trunk body mounts left plenty of room for a pair of 275/60R15 BFGoodrich fatties mounted on 15x8 1⁄2-inch American Racing Vintage 200S wheels. In a slightly smaller size, the fronts measure 15x4-inch wheels with Hoosier 26x7.50 tires.

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