When you were a high school kid, you had to have wheels, but even if you didn't, you always knew someone who did and became their best pal whether you liked them or not. The four O'Conell boys had it made. Jim was the oldest and therefore held the ticket to the universe-a white '65 four-door Chevelle with a red vinyl gut. They shared it for nearly a decade ('70 through '78). It carried them to school as well as every game, dance, and party. They never forgot the camaraderie. Or the car.
By modern standards, that saloon had nothing going for it, except that it ran and took them wherever they wanted to go. It was a spartan sled, no air, no power anything, bench seats, and three-on-the-tree-but the boys did find cultural enrichment by hanging an eight-track tape player under the dashboard and sinking big speakers in the doors.
Two years ago, Jim began his search for lost youth. A year later, he found that fuzzy photograph in his mind and bought it sight unseen, save for the images online. "I didn't want the vehicle because it would be rare but because it was the same make and model that I'd shared with my brothers. I was pleasantly surprised at how great the body was. It was blue with a blue interior. I thought I'd give it a coat of white, make it drivable, and tool it around on Sunday afternoons." But Brian Dean at Ultimate Customs (ultimateva.com) in Dulles, Virginia, took one look and planned radical moves.
"He quickly convinced me to give it modern technology that would keep me interested once the nostalgia wore off. Wow, was he right! Corvette engine, automatic transmission, power everything, leather, big brakes and suspension, 18s, state-of-the-art sound system, and a lot more detailed stuff. Everything on the outside says 1965 but the vehicle is present day," says Jim.
Though the White Bomb is show-car neat and lavishly appointed, it was built strictly as a driver, with low maintenance and reliability as its priorities.
Builder Brian attests, "The exterior was to have an old-school appearance with a touch of modern muscle, and we wanted the engine compartment to retain the uncluttered look of the '60s."
For the interior, Brian retained the column-shift steering post, factory gauges, factory radio, and so forth, but also has it vibe a comfortable, more luxurious feel. One look says he engineered success. We're not fond of a red gut, but the way this one's been done casts some doubt about that now. As for that cultural enrichment thing, the powerful audio/information center is off the hook. Brian says the sound quality is amazing because of the high-end components and the flawless and quite hidden installation. The leather-lined trunk is cool touch. It looks great but is still rugged enough to swallow four sets of golf clubs.
How'd the boys like it? "When I got the car back, I had my brothers over for a showing. They all thought they were seeing a ghost," Jim chortles, "Except that the original 'Velle never looked like this. Seeing the car brought so many memories for all of us. We reminisced late into the night over more than a few Heinekens. Although, if we really wanted to relive our youth, we would have found some cold cans of Schlitz."