Project Chevelle: Phase One is Complete, Time for a Road Trip!
If you've been paying attention to our little Chevelle project, you've seen us take a very nice '72 Chevelle that was stock as a stone and turn it into a respectable muscle car. It now has the power and performance to back up the lowered, big-tire attitude that we've been working into our build. In addition to making it more fun to drive, we built it to be reliable, too.
To prove our point, we hit the road with the 2018 Street Rodder Magazine Road Tour. Our destination; Louisville, Kentucky for the 49th NSRA Street Rod Nationals. That meant 700-plus miles in a car that's done nothing but putter around town for a few weeks with its new engine, drivetrain, and fuel system. It sounded a little crazy to us, too, but we had faith in our parts and our work, so we loaded up our bags and headed out.
We met up at Speedway early on Sunday morning and threw in our luggage and a few tools, just in case. Having driven the Road Tour last year with the Week to Wicked '52 Chevy truck, we were thrilled with all the room in the Chevelle, both for our stuff and for us. From Speedway, we drove downtown to meet up with the Road Tour group at their hotel.
After a short driver's meeting, we were off. The first leg of the tour had us heading to Kansas City, about a 3-hour drive from Lincoln. It was a beautiful morning, and it began to sink in that we were on the road with Project Chevelle. We sat back and enjoyed the thrill of road-tripping an old car. In our book, it doesn't get much better than this.
Upon arrival in Kansas City, the Road Tour group was given a special parking area at a car show being held at the World War I Museum downtown. Walking around the show, we spotted everything from a modern Porsche to a real Barris-customized '41 Ford. After the show, we kicked back with some Kansas City barbeque and the happy thoughts that our Chevelle was performing so well.
The next morning we made the quick trip across town to Pete & Jakes. There is a ton of hot rod history in this place and we always love stopping by. After a tour led by owner Jason Slover, we hit the road again, with St. Charles, Missouri as our destination. On this leg, Road Tour honcho Jerry Dixey plotted a course that kept us on scenic, two-lane highways for most of the trip. Rumbling down the road less traveled in a car that we had been feverishly wrenching on for the past few months was the ultimate reward for all the late nights and busted knuckles.
Along the way, we made a stop at an unassuming roadside car museum in Fulton, Missouri called Auto World. Inside, we were greeted by a whole fleet of classic cars that were staged in elaborate sets built to reflect the era of each car. It's worth checking out if you're in the area.
Back on the road, it was a short haul to St. Charles, a quiet tourist spot just outside of St. Louis that's full of history. It also happens to be full of beautiful backdrops for taking pictures of old cars. We jumped on the opportunity and grabbed some shots of Project Chevelle as the sun rose the next day.
The final day of driving was a long one, covering almost 300 miles to Louisville. Project Chevelle once again covered the miles without breaking a sweat. In more than 700 miles, we didn't have to add a drop of fluid or turn a wrench. Proof that old cars can be reliable if quality parts are installed with careful workmanship.
So how does Project Chevelle perform on the road? We're happy to answer that it's an absolute joy to drive. The newly tightened suspension is sure-footed without being too harsh. Even the big bumps that you brace for and prepare to drag the headers resulted in little more than a soft bounce. No kidding. The Tremec 5-speed and Speedway 3.50 rear gear had the BluePrint 383 rumbling along around 2000 rpm at 65 miles per hour. The big-stroke engine has plenty of low-end grunt, making downshifts almost un-necessary (but still fun). We clocked 17.4 mpg on the highway with a 400 horse engine slurping through a 770 Holley. Not bad. The exhaust note inside the car is noticeable without being harsh. We didn't get around to our stereo install, but the burble through the Flowmaster exhaust was musical enough that we didn't mind.
Each day ended with us ready to keep on rolling down the road, shutting down only to stay with the tour group. It takes a special car to leave you wanting more at the end of a full day behind the wheel, and Project Chevelle is that car. Are we a bit partial to our baby? Yes, but we've even surprised ourselves with the grown-up muscle car that Project Chevelle has become. Our goal of improving the car without ruining it's well preserved soul has been met, and we're not even done!
Be sure to check out the Project Chevelle series to see how we got here and follow along with where we're going!
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