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Mike Earley's '69 Chevelle

6/2/2021
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Anyone lucky enough to have their dream car sitting in the garage knows that it takes a lot of hard work to get there. Mike Earley’s ’69 Chevelle has been a dream ever since he was a little kid, when a yellow Chevelle with a lumpy cam, big compression, and open headers rumbled past his spot on the curb at the local cruise night. That moment changed his life.

It also helps that Mike grew up in a car family. His dad has had several cool cars throughout the years, including a ’57 Chevy that wound up on the cover of a Speedway Motors catalog a few years ago. When Mike was young, that ’57 had a hopped-up 283 and he could hear his dad firing up in the garage from his bedroom. Some kids have bedtime stories. Mike had a 283 with 12:1 compression.

As soon as Mike was old enough to look for a car of his own, he set his sights on a Chevelle like the one burned into that childhood memory. After looking at quite a few duds, this ’69 showed up in a nearby small town. Mike’s dad went to look at it and took pictures on a disposable film camera. That night, Mike hurried to the 1-hour photo to get them developed, and he fell in love right there in the store when the clerk handed him the photos of what would become his first car.

After driving it through high school, Mike decided a restoration was in order. He learned rust repair and bodywork the hard way - by doing it himself. He also ended up with that 283 that used to sing him to sleep as a kid. Mike and his friends rebuilt it with Dart heads and 13.5:1 compression. Mike now swears that small displacement engines have no business being in front of an automatic transmission. He swapped in a T56 transmission in place of the automatic and loose convertor. And as a bonus, the double overdrive made the 4.11 gears a bit more tolerable on the street. After a few too many 8000 rpm shifts hurt the mighty mouse, Mike decided to try out LS power. An aluminum LS1 was fitted with ARP rod bolts and head studs in preparation for the LSA supercharger that once lived on a CTS-V. Mike is a talented craftsman, and he made his own adapters to mate the rectangle-port blower manifold to the cathedral port heads. When asked to compare the blown LS to the old 283, Mike loves the instant power from the LS. As you might expect, the 283 had to be wound up quite a bit before it started pulling.

What’s next for the old Chevelle? Mike wants to hook it up with some drag radials and has some serious doubts about the 10-bolt rearend, so a 9-inch is in the works. Mike has a ton of other projects going on in his garage that range from a Ford truck that’s dropped over a late-model Suburban chassis to a Honda Prelude, so the trusty Chevelle now has to wait its turn to be worked on.

From juvenile troublemakers in high school to family man and family car, Mike and his Chevelle have grown up together. Mike may have a few other cars in the stable now, but this one is never going to leave the family. You never let go of your dream car.

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