As a rule, cars that walk the fine line between hot rod and custom car seldom do either camp justice. Like multi-fuel cars that run on everything yet don’t run well on anything, they often fall short in one way or another.
But as rules go, each has at least one exception. With its custom grille, molded driprails, and tuned-up bumpers and body lines, Frank Duval’s ’67 Chevelle is definitely custom material. At the same time its Art Morrison chassis, 572-inch fat block, and five-speed transmission makes the car go as well as it looks.
The car owes its split personality to two generations of Spokane builders, Derek Hall (OCD Customs) and Ron Pryor (Pro-Automotive). “[Pryor’s] a go-fast legend in Spokane for making things run hard,” Hall says. “I credit them for the soul—the car is a menace; it’s vicious.” Hall, on the other hand, is sort of the new kid with something to prove, specifically that a great car is a balanced system rather than simply a collection of cool parts.
The car came to Duval as a true four-speed, big-block SS. “I bought it as a driver but after a while I wanted more,” he says. Pryor obliged by installing the car’s current running gear. At first, he subcontracted Hall to address a few sheetmetal issues but a few change orders—specifically the new chassis Pryor installed—opened a Pandora’s box of ancient questionable repairs. “Initially, I was to just paint the car but it ended up needing so much more,” Hall says. But as Frank says, “I really liked his ideas so I decided to hire him to take the car in that direction.”
Considering the raft of modifications Hall made one could consider the car’s new direction an entirely new chapter. “Everything has to be done the same way and to the same extent,” he says. “It has to be the same idea, the same theme, (and) the same amount of effort. Whatever you’re lacking is what everybody else will obsess upon. If you do a car 99 percent they’ll go right to that 1 percent you didn’t do the same way.”
Though a great notion, it’s not one without a price: labor. Hall explains that such incredibly intensive work wouldn’t have been possible without generous help from friends like Andy Dunham, who miraculously appeared at the last minute to help, and Hall’s Web developer Nick Ernst, whose promotions based on Zach Isaacson’s photos helped earn this car its spotlight.
The result is the metaphorical iron fist in a velvet glove. “This thing is a straight beast,” Hall says. It looks sharp in an understated way. But most importantly, “Everything that it looks like it should do, it does it,” Hall concludes.
The chassis packages that Art Morrison created inspired a whole new definition for muscle car performance. With them, cars can accelerate laterally just as well as they do in a straight line. This particular mandrel-bent 2x3-tube chassis rides on a detailed C5 Corvette front suspension and a triangulated four-link rear suspension. Naturally, Art Morrison dispensed with all rubber bushings in favor of more stable urethane replacements. Both ends benefit from Strange Engineering rebound-adjustable coilover dampers and Adco antiroll bars. Derek Hall finished the ends of the chassis to accommodate the moorings that pull the bumpers close to the body. Naturally the new chassis shape required new floors; Rich Gortsema and his sons Brad and Mike fabricated them