Throughout the history of this hot car thing we love so much, people have gravitated to the current cool image, the discipline that forsakes all others, the car that everybody wants. See, if it's a feature in a car-buff magazine, it has got to be the greatest. But there are legions of mavericks out there who do what they want just because it pleases them. Some stuff dies hard. The old Pro Street ethic is one, yet it lives strong and vibrant in the hearts of many and likely always will. In essence, these cars will always be the embodiment of the sport: Yeah man, burn rubber, go like hell in a straight line and the corners be damned!
Steve Heath doesn't seem to care that his '71 'Bu lacks an overdrive feature, offers no creature comforts of note, pulls a stiff gear, and gets hideous fuel mileage. Doesn't care a whit. He didn't pretend it was anything more than what it really is-and certainly not an SS clone. It's a big-block A-body with skinnies and monster drive tires. A drag race clone might be what it is, the seed that grew Pro Street back in the twentieth century.
Steve lucked out and bought someone else's half-cooked misery. Got rid of the misery part and made it his alone. The half-finished piece...wait a minute. You're thinking that ol' Steve must be waving a mullet to go with his Old-School Chevelle, but no. This guy's nearly 60 and he looks straight as an arrow. But looks are usually deceiving. The Chevelle's buttoned up pretty tight, but check the size of those back tires and that six-point 'cage.
What Steve did to his Chevelle is from an ancient recipe: big-block motor, lots of compression, juice on tap, mountainous stall speed, race gas, anxiety attacks, stuff that most people chose not to continue because they wanted to appear responsible, conservative, and "green." At least Steve's got the stones to just say no and kick propriety right under the bus. Sure looks like he's living for today.
To remind him of that choice, the Chevelle can't be too much fun to hustle around in traffic or glide effortlessly and gracefully down the road. The Rat swills petrol and not just pump gas. That lofty compression requires more octane than that, so the price (and the frequency) of a gallon is more too. Could you abide 4.56 gears and no overdrive? We used to run that 40 years ago. Now? We'd commit hara-kiri tomorrow morning. Back tires so big that they tend to steer the front ones? Emergency active safety maneuvers?
But if you do a lot of your tricks at the Irwindale and Fontana street-legal drags then this Chevy is just about right. "This car is street legal, but completely ready to race," said Steve. We can see how this car would appeal to a young gun, but not to somebody as wise and experienced as Steve Heath. In any case, the money aspect would appeal to everybody. Steve claims that he has a paltry $26K in the Blue Monster and a piddling 18 months of build time. "I have worked on the car for about a year and half. It's not done. I don't think it ever will be." Yeah, but it's done enough for a short putt from Steve's home in Huntington Beach to the Pacific, where winter weekends are vastly calm and undisturbed by humans.
Steve cranks up the Blue Flame Special, the cam echoing in the cold engine lopes eccentric, husky. He thunks the shifter in Low and brings up the Rs to get the 'Bu moving. By the time he reaches PCH, the motor's clean. The highway's clean. He gets the motor up, lets fly the transbrake, and rockets out of a small nuclear explosion and down the road sweet and ungodly loud. A little later, it's just him, the car, and the sinking fireball burnishing the bejeezus out of the 'Bu. Steve closes his eyes briefly and thinks, Did I make too much stinking noise and commotion back there? A smile lights up his face. Yes, I did, but so what?
Fire & Smoke
The hallowed catalyst is a fully machined, four-bolt main bearing a 454-inch Rat fitted with an Eagle forged crankshaft, connecting rods, and 12-to-1 pistons, a firm bed for a staggering dose of the inevitable nitrous oxide. Steve Heath kept the Comp cam secrets to himself but was less selective about the valvetrain: Comp roller rocker arms, pushrods, hardware, and stud girdle; and Crane valve springs. The cast iron heads have been ported and polished and hold standard steel valves. The upper repertory system is composed of a Victor single-plane intake and a whopper 4500-series Dominator. The actor lurking in the shadows between them is a 225 NOS kit. Debris from the cylinder explosions is swept away by Hooker Super Comp headers through 21/8-inch primaries and then through a 3-inch system. Flame kernels are generated by an MSD 6 system. In the end, a 4,500-stall converter muffs the torque to the big Turbo 400 transmission that has been outfitted with a trans-brake and a Hurst gear changer. A steel driveshaft transfers said torque to a narrowed Dana 60 axle prepped with 4.56:1 gears and a limited-slip differential. At a 3,950-pound race weight, the Chevelle has tripped the quarter in 10.98 seconds at 122 mph.
Evidently the interior had been finished by the previous toiler, so there's not much info on it. Beyond the hop-sack upholstery gripping the stock seats, panels, and dash pad, and the smattering of critical Auto Meters posted near or around the steering column, the interior looks clean but tame. A six-point roll cage stiffens the chassis, protects Steve, and forms attachment points for the five-point safety equipment. Gloved hands cosset a Grant Evolution GT steering wheel.
The period-correct Center Line Convo Pro wheels are 15x4 and 15x15. The leading tires are M/T 26x7.50 Sportsman Fronts and fast and bulbous 31x18.50 Sportsman drivers. Those two-piston caliper, 12-inch disc brakes front and rear are all but swallowed by the steamrollers.
This full-frame car was stabilized by a six-point 'cage to quell torsional and bending forces under the Rat's hammer. Steve hung the narrowed axle with ladder bars and Pro Active Components adjustable coilover shock absorbers. Bigger tubs made room for the big Mickeys. The front end is stone stock.
Aside from the wheelwell surgery, the all-steel Chevelle required no other attention save for swapping in the 4-inch cowl fiberglass hood. Stinger Professional Paint & Body Shop in Fontana, California, prepped the silhouette and laid on the Quasar Medium Blue Metallic.