Mike Cronin's purpose and his method are crystal clear. You need only read the entries on his tech sheet. Mike doesn't belong to any clubs, doesn't know how much power his engine makes, and couldn't care less for car shows. In the old days, he would have been a Lone Wolf, a guy with no club affiliation, maybe even have a placard swinging from the rear bumper saying just that. Despite (and because of) the very excitable paint color he has chosen, his SS is still perceived as minimal, so much so that it plainly makes you wonder what's under that minimal cowl hood. It's just a nice resto? There's not a wisp of the big-bore artillery huddling beneath its reflexed metal. What's that soft whine? It'll rip your heart out!
Are we like Mike or is he like us? His recipe for someone else's disaster seems the same as ours: clean, straight sheetmetal, nice paint, no giveaways, but lots of presence nonetheless...and a motor that could take you straight to Mars if you wanted it to. Look at that thing. Serious parts all over it. Matte finish everywhere and but a drop of chrome or polish or billet anywhere else. And that contrasting flat-black firewall provides a somewhat unfinished backdrop, a constant reminder that work on the Chevelle will never really come to an end.Mike brought his '71 SS back from the dead, more or less. It nearly dropped its bones the day he took it home. "I bought this car in late 1998 from an 18-year-old who'd pretty much beat it to death. He'd bought it two years prior from the original owner. I drove it from Covina to Los Angeles [about 15 miles] and the car nearly disintegrated on the way home. The motor wasn't bolted down and the U-joints were screaming."
The exterior had about four bad paint jobs over the original Cranberry Red and a ton of rust. He replaced the wheezing 350, the TH350 transmission, and the one-legged 2.73 with a 383 stroker, a new 350, and a rebopped 12-bolt with a gear ratio guaranteed to give him a good time. Mike was also supporting a '72 Elky at the time. He loved its Porsche Red paint job so much he put the same to his Chevelle. In all, the Chevelle project required seven years to get where it is now, a lot of it squandered on changing residence five times in three years. We know about protracted projects. Finished or not, we appreciate them like an old friend.
"The interior looked like someone had locked a mountain lion in it for a few days and let it go insane." Nothing special here, but the neatly finished vinyl retains the dignity and the ambience of the original SS scheme. The only glaring deviations from stock are the Auto Meter gauges and the Grant steering wheel. There might be room in the trunk for a couple of six-packs and some zucchini, but that's it. Most of the floor space has been usurped by a 20-gallon fuel cell and an Aeromotive delivery system.
After the red was on and the cockpit was subdued, Mike was pulled onto a different plane and could no longer dismiss his thoughts of a stump-shredding engine. An SS needs a big, nasty Rat, don't it? "I owe a lot of thanks to some of the Team Chevelle members (chevelles.com), to Mike Lewis of Lewis Racing Engines in Laytonville, California, and Ted and Brad at Westside Perfor-mance in Santa Monica." Mike lassoed all this knowledge and experience and built himself a 502ci low-compression blower motor short-block. Got him some big AFR cylinder heads and a prodigious Holley carb and anointed the thing with a Procharger that avails 8 psi of positive manifold pressure.
How much grunt from that silver boulder? Mike has no idea. It's only what he perceives and only where he perceives it. He would rather navigate on the fringe, under the radar, hidden in plain sight. He says he rarely drives the Chevelle, so for him it must be about some form of retribution. Only when the moon is full? Only when he needs to blow the cobwebs in his head to kingdom come? That's a personal thing. It's the stealth factor times two. It's exactly what we would do. Long live the Lone Wolf.
M&S Auto in Santa Monica, California, took the thoroughly road-rashed body to bare metal and made all its pleats straight again. They put primer on the carcass and then applied two-stage Porsche Torch Red paint. Wanna dive in? M&S laid down the SS-like stripes a little later. Big Bulbous was reattached to the rails with new body bushings.
Beneath that bleeding exterior thumps a maniac heart. Mike based his Rat on a 502 four-bolt main block. The deck was squared and the block was align-honed, bored, and fitted with an internally balanced rotating assembly (forged crankshaft, connecting rods). In antici-pation of bloodstorm boost, Mike sunk 8.6:1 JE pistons in the holes and installed a Crane hydraulic roller with a 0.621/0.646-inch lift and a 114-degree lobe separation. He sealed the bottom of the engine with a Moroso high-volume oil pump, Milodon windage tray, scraper, and 7-quart pan. Up top, it gets serious. Out-of-the-box Air Flow Research 325 heads sport 121cc combustion chambers and 2.30/1.88 valves. On the flip side are dual valvesprings providing 255 pounds on the seat, Harland Sharp 1.8:1 rocker arms, and Chet Herbert custom-length pushrods. A Weiand Team G single-plane hosts an 850-cfm Holley by CSU Carbs. Explosions are caused by an MSD 6AL and Pro Billet distributor, and exhaust is dumped by Sanderson C7 headers. The Procharger D1SC centrifugal supercharger produces 8-psi boost. A Mike's Transmission Turbo 400 absorbs the torque and features a manual shift pattern, 200-psi line pressure, and a Continental PIPS 10-inch converter. Mike protects his feet with an integral Ultra Bell safety shield. A '67 Chevrolet 12-bolt axle spins the limited-slip differential and 3.55:1 gears.
WHEELS, TIRES, BRAKES
There's nothing out of the ordinary here. Maintaining some sort of fake innocence, the Chevelle does just fine with the stock disc/drum braking arrangement (including a 9-inch booster) and 15x7-8 Rally steelies wrapped in 235/60s and plentiful 295/50s. Shadowy teeth on such a big, bad (were)wolf.
Mike says some of the Chevelle's frame cracks were stitched up in 1999, but otherwise it is original. Steve Parish at Beeline Automotive in nearby Venice put in tubular control arms, hooked them to the stock spindles, reinserted the coil springs, and slowed the motion down with KYB adjustable gas dampers. Body lean is checked by a 13/8-inch Hotchkis bar and a stock GM rear antisway bar. Steve hooked rear axle to chassis with Hotchkis adjustable upper and fixed-length lower links. Hotchkis coils, airbags, and more KYBs take up the slack. Mike reels it all in with a quick-ratio steering box, a cool KCR Type-II GM-style pump, and steel-braid lines all over the joint.
Since Mike doesn't live in his Chevelle and drives it only when the Red Mist begins to spray, he had Loyola Upholstery in Culver City, California, do the seats in standard vinyl instead of dead cow skins. But what's cooler than a black-on-red scheme to make a ride really stand out? A stronger combination of storm and stress would be difficult to replicate. True Connections installed an SS instrument panel and Auto Meter Sport Comp mechanical gauges, wiring the Chevelle with an M&H harness. The Grant steering wheel nearly blends in with the basic scheme.