"I wanted something new for a change instead of something old," says Brent Walker of his decision to send his '70 Chevelle down the road and pick up a '96 Camaro SS. It couldn't have been an easy decision, given that Brent had already performed a frame-off resto on that A-body during the decade or so he'd owned it. "The Camaro's handling was incredible," Brent affirms. "The six-speed was fun, and the reliability was nice." It all sounds so very practical, does it not? On the other hand, Brent hedged his bet, and that bit of foresight has paid off. Part of the deal for the Camaro involved picking up another '70 Chevelle SS, which, once equipped with modern suspension and a hopped-up fat-block, quickly supplanted the late-model F-body as the object of Brent's vehicular affections.
Could it be that this Chevelle obsession was triggered by a humble station wagon? We can't say, but Brent's dad, Gip, worked for GM, and his ride of choice was a Chevelle wagon. "It was hard for me to go somewhere else," Brent recalls, and indeed he didn't. Although his first car was another F-body-a '77 Trans Am-Brent's been a Chevelle guy ever since, having been through a '73 Malibu 350 and a '70 LS5-powered car before. He didn't keep that car for long, but there was another Rat-powered Chevelle in Brent's future.
Thinking back to the '70 Chevelle he'd sent packin' in favor of the Camaro, Brent can only find one fault with the car-if it can be called a fault. "The other Chevelle was an SS with a stock 396," he recalls. This time, I wanted more." That more would be what many enthusiasts want these days. Despite the clear functional superiority of the fourth-gen F-body, Brent was still unconvinced. With that, he sold the Camaro and prepared to build his latest Chevelle by setting a budget and deciding on a direction for the car.
The course this A-body build would follow actually wasn't hard to determine, especially given that Brent had just spent a year driving a slick-turning SS Camaro. "The Camaro easily outhandled the other Chevelle," he observes. "I wanted something to that effect, but with the appeal of the older car." Loaded with ideas from his suspension-savvy brethren on pro-touring.com and lateral-g.net, Brent was well on his way to creating a modernized, sweet-handling Chevelle.
On the other hand, Brent consciously took a more traditional approach to the Chevelle's powerplant. "I like the factory look, the old-school motors," he tells us. "I wanted to get as much power as I could, but keep it original and drivable." Given that Brent was starting with the Chevelle's original 396 big-block, there was plenty of power to be had, especially with a set of ported LS6 heads in place.
As for that drivability, well, that's pretty much been covered too. This SS Chevelle has been totally disassembled and recreated, using a combination of modern technology in the running gear and good old-fashioned power parts under the hood. Come to think of it, it sort of looks like Brent Walker has been hedging his bets again...and who can blame him? The strategy has certainly paid off.
Stick And Go
Brent was looking for a substantial handling upgrade, so improved rolling stock was mandatory. To that end, he mounted up a set of Intro Pentia wheels measuring 17x8 inches up front and 18x10 out back. Nitto was tabbed to provide a quartet of its sticky 555-series tires, coming in at 255/40ZR17 up front and an appropriately wide 285/35ZR18 to bring up the rear. Braking prowess comes via a Baer Track system, which comes complete with a master cylinder and prop valve-along with 13-inch drilled and slotted rotors grabbed by PBR two-piston calipers up front, accompanied by 12-inch discs in the rear.
Much of this particular '70 SS Chevelle's interior-namely the dash, gauges, and steering wheel-was in decent shape. The carpet, headliner, and door panels were replaced through Year One. The stock seats, on the other hand, were a no-go. "I wanted something that wasn't far off from the factory look, and comfortable," says Brent. A set of '96 Honda Accord buckets fit the bill and was covered in imitation black leather by Dixie Upholstery of Jefferson, Georgia. The AM radio in the stock hole sits front and center, but real listening pleasure comes from the Kenwood CD/stereo tucked away in the glovebox and the matching speakers in the stock locations.
When it came time to select a powerplant, Brent Walker didn't have to look any further than the 396 fat-block residing under the SS' hood. Brent entrusted the two-bolt main Rat to Garland Smallwood of The Machine Shop, located in his hometown of Gainesville, Georgia. The engine's 3.76-inch stroke crank and rods were retained; the holes were bored 0.030 over and filled with Wiseco forged pistons to create a 10:1 compression ratio. A Comp Cams hydraulic-roller setup works the valves; specs are 0.540/0.560 inch lift, along with 242/248 degrees duration at 0.050 inch. Brent's friend Billy Dunn came up with a set of LS6 cylinder heads and, once pocket-ported by Smallwood, they were added to the mix, fitted with 2.19/1.88-inch valves and a full Comp valvetrain, including 1.7:1 Magnum roller rockers. Induction is via a 750-cfm Speed Demon carb perched atop an Edelbrock RPM Air Gap 2-0 manifold, while ignition is actuated by an MSD 6AL box, Blaster 3 coil, and Pro Billet distributor. Flowtech headers and a Flowmaster exhaust system take out the junk. The radiator is stock; the Nissan Sentra electric fans, not so much. All that big-block grunt is transmitted through the Chevelle's original Turbo 400 tranny, rebuilt and fitted with a B&M cooler and a Holeshot 3,200-stall converter. Brent's friend Terry Pruitt rehabbed the car's original 3.73:1-geared Posi 12-bolt, which is spun by the car's stock driveshaft. Power output is estimated at 475 hp, certainly enough to keep things interesting.
Goin' All The Way
Brent Walker began this project by totally disassembling his '70 SS. The body was parted from the framerails, at which point the former was media-blasted and the latter was stripped to bare metal. Patch panels were installed in the normal Chevelle problem areas, specifically the lower quarters and the rear deck filler panel. The refreshed body received a coat of PPG Electron Blue metallic basecoat/clearcoat along with gloss black stripes. The Chevelle remodeling job was rounded out with a new black vinyl top by The Vinyl Stretcher of Gainesville, Georgia.
There's more than one way to catch a Chevy High photographer's eye, but all things being equal, this method works pretty well.
Brent did some one-stop shopping for much of his Chevelle's suspension setup, choosing a Hotchkis TVS (Total Vehicle System) package, which includes front and rear springs and sway bars, along with adjustable upper and lower control arms for the back. On the other hand, Brent wanted the improved front caster characteristics provided by the popular B-body conversion; he picked up a set of taller Impala spindles, then sourced Global West for the appropriate upper control arms. Steering duties are handled by the car's stock power box and column.