I am a third-generation musclecar gearhead. My grandfather Dave, (I call him Pops), is a drag race announcer, host of Hot Rod TV, and a drag racer. My dad, Kevin, is a three-time NHRA Super Gas National Event winner and does research and development for Flowmaster. I was born in Glendale, California, and lived just down the street from my grandparents, Louise and Dave, until we moved to Rohnert Park in northern California when I was 3 years old. Racing and going fast has been in my blood since I was born.
For as long as I can remember, I have been watching racing and helping work on cars with my dad. My mom Lisa, sister Ashley, and I used to go to the racetrack in Palmdale, California, and watch my dad bracket race his '68 Camaro. Between races, I would help him work on his '57 Chevy Bel Air Super Gas car in the garage.
After we moved to northern California, my dad sold his Camaro and I helped him work on his '57 to learn as much as I could. To this day I drive him crazy with all of my questions. I remember the day that my dad finally started the '57. I was 6 years old. It was so exciting because this would be the first time that I would see my dad in his '57 Chevy. My family all stood to the side of the driveway while we watched it fire for the first time in 11 years. I have tons of memories from Bakersfield, Pomona, Palmdale, and of course Sears Point, our new home track.
Three years ago, for my 11th birthday, my parents bought me a one-day pass to Terry Ive's go-cart driving school in Prairie City. I was caught hook, line, and sinker. Not knowing there was any difference in the carts, I chose the only cart that fit me. It turned out it was a "cadet cart" with an 80cc instead of a 125cc engine. Even though my cart was slower, I was still faster than everyone out there.
All of the race cars in our family are named "Tuna Tank." I started out by adding my cart to the list of Pop's Fiat, my dad's '57, my dad's friend Tim Moore's roadster (which my dad drove to three NHRA National Event wins), and now my dad's own roadster which is "Tuna Tank 4." I started with Tuna 5, raced that for a year and a half, got a newer and better Tuna Tank 6 and raced that for a year, and now I've added "Tuna Tank 8." Between 6 and 8, my dad got an '80 Malibu wagon to turn into an NHRA Stock Eliminator race car that took the number 7 spot.
All this is background to my newest project. I have wanted to rebuild a musclecar since I was very little. I grew up riding around in my car seat in my dad's '67 Camaro and '65 El Camino. After my 14th birthday, I got the great idea that dad and I should build a car together. I never imagined it would be mine. I spent weeks of my time after school and homework searching for the perfect car. I found a '71 Camaro in Los Angeles near Pop's shop. Pops and Tim went to look at it, but it turned out to be way too rough. Tim knew someone who had a '65 Chevelle Malibu for sale and we bought it for $4,200. At first that seemed like a lot of money, but at a car auction in L.A., Pops saw a '65 Malibu that wasn't as nice go for 5 grand. My car is all original with a straight-six engine, Powerglide automatic, and a 10-bolt rearend.
I have set several goals for this car. By the time I get my learner's permit to drive, I want to be able to learn in my own car. I would like to show by doing these articles that there really are teenagers out there who still prefer American musclecars. My friends drool over the import cars. I have even been told by my friends "Musclecars suck! Why do you like them so much?" That really ruined my day. I have a friend who could get his dad's fully restored '69 Mach 1 Mustang. I'm not a Ford guy, but still it was a very nice car. Instead, he would rather have a BMW. His reasoning was that "I'd rather have a high-performance vehicle than some old car!" That also ruined my day. I could not explain to him that his dad's Mach 1 is a high-performance car. I have pretty much given up trying to alter my friends' views until my car is done and I have some material proof of musclecars' greatness.
My first goal is that starting on November 22, 2004, my 15th birthday, the car will be far enough along that I can drive my mom to school in it every day, and then drive home. When I am 16, in 2006, I will be the first in line to get my license. I will be two months into my junior year at high school and will have driven most every day of the past year. I would like the car completely finished when I have my license.
My goal with the Chevelle is to build a daily driver that looks and performs great. The first thing that we need to do is to finish tightening everything and change the transmission crossmember. Somewhere along the line, the original crossmember disappeared and the replacement is not right for the car. On acceleration and deceleration, the driveshaft lifts up and starts to bang against the floor. It hits hard enough that after our first 5-mile drive to lunch, we decided to park the car until we can replace it with a stock crossmember.
The biggest obstacle is earning money to put into the car. I am babysitting, cleaning my uncle's shop on Saturday mornings, and doing chores at home. I am collecting parts and pieces any way I can. I plan to change the 230ci straight-six engine over to an L98 TPI 350 small-block. It is an electronically fuel-injected small-block out of an '89 Chevrolet Corvette. It isn't the highest-horsepower engine out there, but it is plenty for a driver. Maybe later I will put a big-block or a bigger small-block in it. I am going to swap the transmission over from the stock Powerglide to a TH400 transmission out of Pop's '55 Del Ray. This is an awesome Darrel Young-built transmission with a B&M 11-inch converter that will take anything that I put in front of it.
I also need to rebuild the suspension to make it safer. The stock suspension is actually in pretty decent shape. I'm getting the 11-inch power disc brakes off of Pop's Buick Skylark because he is putting on 12-inch Baer brakes. They're the same brakes that my dad has on his 430hp '65 El Camino. I also want to put a 12-bolt in the car. If we cannot find an affordable '65-'67 12-bolt (if there is such a thing anymore), we have a couple of other options. The later '68-'72 12-bolt Chevelle rearends are more readily available. They are cheaper once you find one, and we could shorten it or have custom wheels made to fit the car properly.
For Christmas last year, my big present from Grandma Lu and Pops was a Custom Auto Sound stereo system, made especially to fit the stock dash. It includes an AM/FM cassette deck with a 10-disc CD-changer for the trunk. It also includes a pair of small speakers to fit in the front with two 6x9-inch speakers for the rear. We don't want to install the stereo until after we find an alarm system.
I also want to install aftermarket power windows. Manual windows and my love of cruising with the windows down don't exactly mix. I would like to have control over all four windows. Also, I would like power locks with and alarm and a key fob. Ever since we got our van that had a key fob, I have loved them. It makes things much easier. Since I will be parking it every day at school where I will not be able to watch it, the alarm is a necessity. I also plan to buy an aftermarket air conditioning system so I will have a good defroster for our rainy and foggy days in northern California. I don't want to be one of those drivers with one hand wiping off the windshield with a towel as I drive.
Right when I got the car, I knew I wanted bucket seats and a console. Our junkyard does not have any old musclecars on its lot, so I surfed the Internet. I found a console on eBay Motors that was closing in one day. It was only early December, but I talked my Grandma Joyce into letting me bid on it for Christmas. I told her that I had $200 saved to put toward it, and she said that she'd cover up to an additional $200. We were lucky enough to win the auction at $380. We still have to modify the shifter to work with the three-speed transmission and make the linkage. I also need a modern multiple-speed windshield wiper motor. Right now it only has the one-speed motor, and I don't like that very much. The headlights need to be wired better, and the bulbs need to be replaced. The most important thing that needs to be taken care of is finding the leaks and fixing them. The car is going to Sparky's Collision Center in Santa Rosa, California, soon to repair the rust. It leaks somewhere through the cowl down into the passenger side under the firewall and also in the rear window area just like every other Chevelle ever built. I really want to be tearing my car apart now, but with the amount of rain we get every winter, we need to make sure it is sealed up so it is not damaged any further.
This project is not going to be like others you've read in magazines before. This will require lots of work on my part and much more time. So follow along with us over the next couple of years and watch my '65 Chevelle become a modern-day musclecar. I cannot wait to take my friends out to the track to show off my hard work.