1962 Chevy II
Those of us who have tried it know that it can be hard to balance a car addiction with family responsibilities. Cars are expensive, time consuming, and take up a lot of space. So are families. And everyone handles the balance differently. Some walk away from cars completely. But we love the stories about the family that does the car thing together.
The story of Jim White and his ridiculously clean little Chevy II is one of those. Jim had the typical misspent youth doing 60’s and 70’s hot rod kid stuff. He started (like so many of us) with model cars, completing one a month while his .25 cent a week allowance accumulated to the two-dollar sum for a new one. Then he had some cool full-sized cars, like a ’67 big block Chevelle, a Chevy II drag car, and a ’69 Camaro that he crashed into a cop car (you can’t make this stuff up).
And then life happened. Jim traded drag slicks for diapers and housework and was out of the scene for a dozen or so years. Then around 1994 a cool Chevy II popped up at an auction and, at his wife’s urging, Jim was pulled back into the garage. You can see from the pictures that this car started out as an exceptionally clean stocker. It had been purchased new by a couple for their daughter, who was a Catholic nun. As it turns out, nuns often have more important things to do that zipping about town and racking up the miles, so this car had only 40,000 miles under its original 4-lug wheels and 6-cylinder engine.
Jim and family enjoyed the car as a nice stocker for a while, hitting the local cruises and even driving to a Super Chevy show in Colorado. But we all know how hard it is to leave things alone, and Jim found himself with the urge to make a few updates. Disc brakes were swapped in place of the wimpy 4-lug drums to start things off. Then it was time for some power.
We’re approaching the year 2000 in our timeline, and the local junkyards are full of smashed up 90’s cars. Jim found a wrecked ’94 Camaro and, in true hot rod fashion, decided to use everything he could from the donor to hop up his Chevy II. This included the LT1 engine, computer, fuel injection, and 4L60 transmission. These days, the LS swappers have made these high-tech power transfusions routine, but twenty years ago it was still largely uncharted territory. But Jim had a plan and would not be deterred from making it all work. He sorted through all the wire harness spaghetti using the GM manual as a guide until the little car was back in action with twice the horsepower it had as a stocker. Jim also used the transmission and 10-bolt rear from the Camaro, and at one point the car sported some third-gen Camaro wheels as well.
So how did we get from a blue Chevy II to a red one? After running the car around for a while with the LT1 swap complete, Jim decided it was time to pull the engine to detail the engine bay. That turned into a mini-tub project and continued down the slippery slope, ultimately ending up with a garage full of blown apart Chevy II. While things were in pieces, Jim added one of our favorite details to the car. See that Chevrolet script on the door panels and radiator cover? Look familiar? It should, because those pieces were cut right out of the center of some original small block valve covers. Jim blended them into the surrounding sheet metal before sending the car out for the only thing on the whole car that was not completed by Jim and family in the home garage, the red paint.
Remember the family part of this story? Well, they didn’t go anywhere. In fact, they were right there helping with the project. Jim’s sons welded on the car and manned the controls of the engine hoist, learning valuable hot rod life lessons along the way. And they were rewarded with a cool ride to prom and even a pass or two down the dragstrip. (Would you believe this is a 12-second car?)
And so we offer up another case study, further proving that the family that does car stuff together stays together. Don’t you just love a happy ending?