While the paint gun was active, Mike and Gil collaborated on a side project, indulging Gil's desire to have as much color in the engine bay as possible, painting the slick Ram Jet 502 intake and block with the same House of Kolor hue found on the Chevelle's flanks. It could have been the SS' original 396 that got painted, but internal politics once again changed the course. Maintaining domestic bliss meant making sure Gil's wife Susie could take the wheel-out with the four-speed, in with the automatic.

Not that updating the powertrain was a compromise; the agenda also lent itself to Gil's plans to drive his long-sought SS on the 2006 Power Tour. 'Cause whatever else he's created, this two-year-long project turned out driving like a new car. "It's tight," a satisfied Gil declares. "It feels good, it's solid. It's got a great ride." In all ways, even working from the inside out, he's got the car he's wanted for so long, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Power Train
Gil went for power and reliability under the hood, installing a color-matched GMPP Ram Jet 502. A full array of Street & Performance accessories, including a serpentine belt system and valve covers, further the dress-up effort. While the Ram Jet intake end came with the motor, Gil and Mike went for an exhaust smorgasbord at the other end: Sanderson headers, Doug Thorley electronic cutouts, custom-bent pipes, and MNM Design mufflers. Cooling duties are handled by a Desert Cooler radiator and Scotts fans. This big engine is backed by a big transmission, namely a 4L80E built by Bow Tie Overdrives (Hesperia, California). The plus-size automatic sports a shortened Gennie shifter run by a Compushift controller, and shoots those 502 hp and 565 lb-ft of grunt back to this Chevelle's original (rebuilt) 10-bolt rear, which now spins an overdrive-friendly 3.55:1 ring-and-pinion.

Mike Cinqmars of Mike's Street Rods in Apple Valley, California, created an all-new steel dash panel for this SS, and outfitted it with Classic Instruments Vintage Series gauges residing in a Stanton billet insert. Victorville, California's Luis Valenzuela rebuilt the Chevelle's stock seats and covered them in gray hide, continuing his leather artistry across the dash and onto custom door panels. The ididit tilt column is topped by a Budnik steering wheel, and the pedals are by Lokar. Power windows and a Pioneer stereo round out the package, all tied together by a custom wiring harness.

Most of this A-bod's metal was in good shape when it reached Mike's Street Rods, but the Montana weather had had its way with the trunk floor and the floorboards. Mike also smoothed the firewall before spraying on the vibrant House of Kolor Cobalt Blue.

Wheels, Tires, Brakes
This thing will stop on demand with a Baer Serious Street brake system. Budnik Fontana 18x18-inch hoops score style points and permit Gil to use serious rubber, BF Goodrich g-Force T/A radials, 225/402R18 and 245/402R18.

The frame was soda-blasted clean, smoothed, and beautified by V&L Powder-coating in Apple Valley, California. Poly-urethane bushings were installed as the original control arms and swaybars were reattached to the fame; new springs created a 2-inch drop out back and a111/42-inch dip up front. Monroe shocks handle damping duties, while a fast-ratio power box from True Connections ensures turning prowess. While he was at it, Mike ditched the factory gas tank, installing a custom-built fuel cell instead.