"I wasn't sure about the yellow at first," Bob Chipperfield says about the first time he beheld this now-sano '67 Chevelle. Then again, the SS 396's sickly, sallow complexion was only the most visible item that needed attention. Not that the semi-complete 'Velle didn't have some good things going for it. The frame had been powdercoated, the body was straight, and it wore good chrome. On the other hand, the neglected yellow hues were joined by lots of dirt and a non-running Rat motor wearing a set of beat-up headers--this wouldn't be a drive-away project, to be sure. It is, however, a successful project, far surpassing Chipperfield's goal of creating "something nice to drive around." And to top it all off, he's even found an affinity for the Chevelle's now healthy yellow hues.
Unlike many of us, Chipperfield didn't have a particular model in mind when he went looking for a chunk of Chevy muscle. "I went to a lot of shows and saw a lot of nice cars" he recalls. "I did at least a year's worth of looking." At the end of all his research, Chipperfield decided his next ride would be a '64-67 Chevelle--a very cool choice, but one that his gearhead past wouldn't have indicated. Our new A-body aficionado began his motoring career by helping his father restore an '18 Model T touring car. Chipperfield drove a '32 Ford Coupe during his high school days, though he quickly graduated to a '57 210. Growing up in Phoenix, Bob and his brother Steve took the shoebox out to Beeline Raceway on weekends, gaining experience that would serve them well in the future. The brothers then got serious about their straight-line activities, campaigning a Super Stock '66 Nova at various venues throughout their home state, also making the occasional foray into neighboring California. "We called our car The Giant Killer," Bob recalls. "It was similar to Bill Jenkins' car." Chipperfield Bros. Racing did pretty good back in the day, garnering S & S Headers and Cragar Wheels as sponsors. With Steve wrenching and Bob piloting the low-11-second Deuce, Bob reports that the team even managed a couple of AHRA national class wins. Though the team kept at it for six years, their run ended somewhat suddenly. Bob had kept up his racing schedule while attending college--with graduation and marriage on the horizon, he hung up his helmet.
Fast-forward several years, Chipperfield did his homework and was on the prowl for a suitable Chevelle at the 2003 Cruisin' for a Cure show at the Orange County (California) Fairgrounds. One fellow A-body fan pointed Chipperfield in the right direction, namely toward Chevelle guru Dick Brandt of True Connections. It was a fortuitous connection, as Brandt just happened to know about a Chevelle for sale. The intact '67 SS 396 had been sitting on the side of its owner's house, collecting dust and going nowhere fast. Upon taking possession, Chipperfield brought a decidedly more upbeat tempo to this SS metamorphosis.
First on the agenda? Total disassembly, of course, performed by Joel and the crew at JH Restorations. Although the frame had been powdercoated and was in good shape, Chipperfield was looking to improve the veteran 'Velles running gear and binders. To that end, a full complement of Hotchkis and Bilstein suspension components was installed, followed by a True Connections power front disc brake conversion kit, complete with slotted and cross-drilled 12-inch rotors. Brandt and company also provided a rebuilt GM power steering box, complete with quick-ratio gears. Chipperfield originally equipped his ride with 15-inch Americans, but quickly moved up to 17-inch Intro Vistas wearing Z-rated BFGs, giving the Chevelle a total handling make-over. Once stopping and handling prowess was ensured, the 4.11:1-geared rearend installed in the SS was replaced with a stout 9-inch rear fitted with highway-friendlier 3.55:1 cogs. With the body resting back on the frame, Chipperfield turned to the Chevelle's interior digs. The weather-worn interior was replaced with natty black leather and tweed covered seats, stockers in back and Corbeau buckets up front. Ironically, our former drag racer didn't like the "big racer tach" the car's former owner had installed, so it was ditched in favor of a hard-to-find factory blinker tach. While they were on the case, True Connections also came up with a factory center console to further dress things up. Chipperfield didn't neglect the creature comforts either, installing Vintage Air A/C and a powerful Eclipse/Pioneer stereo combo for maximum cruising tuneage.
Of course, the best melodies come from under the hood, where a resurrected 396 provides maximum grunt. OC Cars, located in Chipperfield's hometown of Lake Forest, California, brought the tired Rat back to life, outfitting the original block with a stock crank, Eagle rods, and JE pistons, which bump the compression up to 11:1. They chose a relatively mild COMP Cams 'stick, but teamed with Dart heads, a Performer manifold, and an 850-cfm double-pumper, providing a powerful but balanced engine. With more than 500 ponies and 500 lb-ft getting to the ground, this SS 396 hustles, covering ground every bit as quickly as the roar through the Flowmasters tells you it's moving.
Of course, there's one thing Bob Chipperfield didn't change, and that's the custom yellow paint his Chevelle came with. Instead, the pigments were nursed back to health, and once again give off a radiant glow. "I wasn't sure about the yellow," he repeated, "but it turned out nice. I take this car out, and people are all over it" It did turn out nice, Bob, and we're all over it, too.