You can tell that this Chevelle is a little bit different from any that have gone before and that it’s probably the stance that does it. Pull back just far enough and those big, fat wheels become monolithic and the undeniable focal point. Is this a natural offshoot of the Pro Touring shtick? No, you can’t just leave it at boisterous rolling stock. There’s more to it than that.
We don’t know if Ryan O’Tool has a bent for taking fast corners on the edge of his seat or just likes to look the part. As you will see, all the requisite pieces to do that are in there, and in spades. It’s everything the common Pro Touring Camaro would be but in a different body, one that is out of the ordinary. Ryan lives down in that incendiary pocket of rod building commotion puddled at the very bottom of California. Those cats have their own way of doing stuff and routinely make the pages of buff books like CHP to prove it.
Whatever the motives behind the Raider, what you see is a lot less than you get. This A-body seethes with high tech and high expectation. Every bit of equipment is out-first, leading-edge stuff, from chassis to drivetrain, and the emphasis is on the entire build not just the stuff that makes you go around corners fast or brake like hell was coming down around you.
With a plan baking his brain, Ryan sought the counsel of old hands and the experience at Randy Clark’s Hot Rods & Custom Stuff in Escondido. Here’s what they came up with. Let’s throw out all the original stuff, including the chassis, and then whittle on the body some, smooth it down, making for a better visual. Then, we’ll blend the latest LS engine combo, mit compressor, a six-gear manual transmission, the latest hi-jinx suspension bits, and give it more brake than necessary; you get the idea. So long as you’re going for it, go all the way the first time.
Engine & Drivetrain
Turn Key Engine Supply in nearby Oceanside is a mainstay of the “incendiary pocket” and born and bred on LS architecture. They based the build on a 364ci LS2 cylinder block and fitted the bores with Mahle 9:1 pistons and forged H-beam connecting rods. Considering the goals and the mission overall, Turn Key deemed the nodular iron crankshaft stout enough to handle business. Apparently, specs for the hydraulic roller camshaft are locked in Turn Key’s cam spec vault. Suffice that it goes to the block with single-roller timing gear. Turn Key screwed the bottom end closed with a stock 5-quart oil pan and a Moroso remote oil filter. Curiously, the LS2 heads are unmodified by the CNC machining process. They feature 64.5cc combustion chambers, 210cc intake ports, GM beehive springs, chromoly pushrods and accessories, and 1.7:1 rocker arms. The induction system is stout, based on an intercooled 2.6L Kenne Bell twin-screw supercharger drawing through a 90mm throttle body supplied by a Turn Key Stage 3 fuel system. Ignition is faithfully administered by the OE coil packs in conjunction with a Turn Key–tweaked MEFI engine controller. As you might expect, the 3-inch diameter exhaust system begins with Hooker Super Comp 17/8-inch primaries, thence to QTP electronically operated exhaust cutouts, and finally rumbles from a brace of Spin Tech silencers. Dynamometer-measured output is 680 hp and 680 lb-ft of torque. Engine redline is 6,600 rpm. We send up a small “hooray” to Ryan for choosing a clutch-operated transmission, in this case a D&D Performance T56 outfitted with a 2.66, 1.78, 1.30, 1.00, 0.80, and 0.62:1 gearset. Torque is passed by an LS7 clutch/flywheel assembly and a custom-made prop shaft takes it to the 9-inch. The Detroit TruTrac differential spins a 3.70:1 gearset and 31-spline axles. Ryan is able to cruise very lightly with a 2.29:1 overall ratio.
One look down the flanks of this car and you know that the techs at Hot Rod & Custom Stuff wore out a sanding block or two and maybe their stock of expletives. Clean seems to have been the operative word during that time and to that end, HR&CS removed the door handles, side-view mirrors, driprails, and body markings. The firewall also underwent the shaving and smoothing act, leaving it absolutely naked . . . and quite remarkable. To receive the 305s without worry, Hot Rods laid in DSE mini-tubs. The whole deal came together very well under the coats of PPG custom-mix Driftwood Metallic.
Wheels & Brakes
Monster stoppers repose not so nonchalantly behind those dark-hued, cranky-looking nodulars. Wilwood gave their all, 14-inch rotors pinched by six-piston calipers. Master cylinder, booster, and so on, were relocated beneath the dashboard proper. Boze Friction wheels are 18x8 and 20x11 and capture Michelin Pilot Sports in sizes 225/35 and 305/25.
Sun sizzles and sears down near the border so it’s shady glen in here. Somber interior falls hard for lighter hued exterior and the whole thing works visually and technically. Ryan faces a MOMO steering wheel and a Covan dashboard stocked with Auto Meter carbon-fiber gauges. Ryan’s Chevelle departs from the norm even more with its Isis modular wiring system—a master cell is connected to various power cells (front, middle, and rear) and all are connected by a single, small-diameter (maybe 1/2 inch) bundle. For example, taillights connect to the rear power cell with a few inches (not several feet) of wiring and the wiring can be of lighter duty. Vintage Air chases the sun demon away pretty well and what it doesn’t will fade inexorably into the audio wave. A Kenwood KDL-X494 head rams through a pair of Kicker 650.4 amp and Boston Acoustic speakers. Armando’s Custom Upholstery in San Jacinto, California, is responsible for all the work, including supple leather, the flowing custom-built center console, and the Glide Engineering seats.
Mr. O’Tool has a big ace up his sleeve. Rather than wrangle and reconfigure a 40-year-old system that was inadequate when new, Hot Rods infused the Chevelle with a sophisticated Roadster Shop (Mundelein, Illinois) Fast Track chassis. In this sphere, it is the mother of all rails, folks, and one that can even be augmented by an independent rear suspension system. Ryan’s Chevelle retains a live axle, however. The comprehensive Fast Track system spiderwebs the undercarriage together and is therefore high on rigidity, adjustability, and accessibility. Further, it tucks stealthily up under the rocker panels. The space between the front frame stubs accommodates a Thunderbird power steering rack. Based on C6 uprights and Z06 hubs, the tubular control arms provide revised steering geometry and low mass. The system incorporates double-adjustable coilover shock absorbers and a splined 11/4-inch diameter antisway bar. In the rear, a modified four-link setup works another set of AFCO coilovers. Note that the Roadster Shop’s structural boon has eliminated the need for a rollcage and a rear antisway bar. Now that’s using a hot rodding head. CHP