The circle for the most complete Pro Touring car draws tighter by the day and Chris and Lynda Jacobs’ ’66 Chevelle is proof positive. Chassis builders dedicated to the genre went from adjustable shocks, tubular suspension members, frame connectors, and the stiffening agent of a rollcage, to complete front and rear subframe assemblies and enlarged tubs to house the biggest available tire and wheel combinations, and now to complete perimeter frames, including suspension members. The latest and the greatest development is the inclusion of a bulletproof independent rear suspension system.
On smooth, uninterrupted tarmac the solid rear axle has traditionally been considered the best for this type of work. But on the vagaries of public roads and a sometimes crumbling infrastructure, smooth becomes a relative term. The best-handling road cars have always included an independent rear suspension for its ability to absorb irregularities per wheel and not transfer the oscillation to the one opposite, thus centering the vehicle better and keeping tire tread in constant contact with the road surface.
Let’s keep in mind that Pro Touring cars are meant to be street driven. The idea is that you actually drive them to the venue and back home again. They aren’t queens; they’re workhorses that transport you to cruise night, on sightseeing trips, and maybe the occasional street bash on the way back from the supermarket. They’re meant to be lived in. Well, the Jacobses have taken their car several steps beyond.
Chris: “Our Chevelle has almost every feature you would find on a new Camaro or Mustang: keyless entry system and leather seats to power windows, A/C, and cupholders, too. Besides all of this it handles just as good if not better [than a Mustang or Camaro], gets 24 mpg on the highway at 80 with air on and makes more than 500 hp at the wheels. Does it get any better?”
This writer remembers a mid-’80s Pontiac long-led introduction that featured engineering toys, one of which was a Trans Am with an independent rear suspension system. I drove the production car over a circuitous mountain road and then switched seats and took the same route. I was astounded at how much more controllable the IRS car was and how smooth its ride was, a truly remarkable transformation that I can still feel beneath me.
Chris concurs: “That’s where the new chassis shines, is on the street. The car now feels much more solid and the ride is fantastic. While at Des Moines [Goodguys autocross Street Machine winner Heartland Nationals, 2011] we had to compete against much more purpose-built cars and still walked away with a victory … I had the second fastest time of the event.” Chris said that he’d only had two weeks on the testing and adjustments.
The first part of this saga began with a 283 ’Glide Malibu out of Colorado, rescued by Randy Johnson of D&Z Customs in Kewaskum, Wisconsin. Johnson settled in a Schwartz Extreme Performance chassis, added a tweaked LS7, bolted a T56 behind it, and followed up with a Johnson’s third member/axle. Chris and Johnson became friends and eventually the car belonged to Chris. That was in 2008.
In the winter of 2010, Chris took the car to the Roadster Shop (RS) in Mundelein, Illinois, just for some exhaust work. So happened, RS was looking for an A-body to prototype another version of its new Fast Track IRS chassis. The conversion included a perimeter frame, tubular suspension members, and an independent rear suspension system. Since then, “True Blue” has become the RS A-body development vehicle.
Chris: “The fact that [the Chevelle] is so understated in its appearance but is so technically advanced … is what makes the car so great.” Can’t argue with that.