We didn’t know much about Shawn Van Horn’s 1965 Chevelle when we spotted it in line at the Run to the Coast event at El Toro Air Base earlier this year, but there was something about the circa 1985 wheels that made us want to investigate it. Then, once we saw it carve the autocross course like a knife, we knew there was something more than just Corvette wheels going on under that early A-body.
As a former employee of Newman Car Creations, Shawn Van Horn used his knowledge of suspension geometry, fabrication skills, and a handful of good friends to classily combine a ’98 Camaro, an ’84 Corvette C4 and a ’65 Chevelle—an impressive combination for an old car that can also handle and brake like a factory performance vehicle, and one of the coolest aspects of the build, you can get all the parts from your local Chevy dealer.
“I bought it from a guy who bought it used in 1968,” Van Horn said. “It had a bone stock 283 with a ’Glide and 30-year-old bias ply tires and helper springs. I drove it that way for 1,000 miles before mouse smell and poor brakes kept me from driving it anymore.” With the help of good friends Tom Smith, John Dolan, and Shawn’s wife Krista, the Van Horn’s Chevelle transformed from a tired, lazy cruiser into a spry and agile one. “Since Tom wanted to learn how to fixture and build his own chassis and I wanted to learn how to do paint and body, a trade was struck.” It was at this time Van Horn decided to put the car under the knife to add a sports car suspension to the old ride with some expert fabrication skills. The frame was cut and removed at the firewall forward then Van Horn fabbed in his own rails that accepted the Corvette C4 suspension cradle. “I had to move the engine into the firewall 4-5 inches to clear the steering rack, which helped move the balance to 53/47, but it’s still heavy on the front,” Van Horn said. As for the IRS rear, the stock frame was cut and a new, 5-inch narrower section was built to accept it, as well. The powertrain was a simple score, an LS1/T56 straight from a wrecked 1998 Camaro Z28. “Building the chassis was easy for me, it was all the tedious bodywork that was difficult; glad I had Tom and Krista to help. She spent two days scrubbing the bottom of the car just to get it ready for paint—I couldn’t have done that.”
With the main components in place, Shawn used eBay and Speedway Motors to hunt down the remaining pieces of the puzzle. The interior and computer tune was subbed out, but everything else was done by the Van Horn’s, including the exhaust system. “We had a big push just to get the car running for the Run to The Coast event, so there are some things we have yet to do. The motor is coming out and being freshened up with Lingenfelter CNC LS6 heads and a hotter cam. The suspension will be firmed up as well.” We’ll have to keep an eye out for the Van Horn’s Corvelle at next year’s event, and as for the wheels that drew our attention, they were found in the garbage; proving once again that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. From the wrecked F-body to the abandoned C4 suspension, Shawn’s build is a great collaboration of parts people were ready to throw away, but look what you can do with some ingenuity and a loyal team of car buddies.
The engine is a bone stock LS1 from a 1998 Camaro Z28 that Shawn found wrecked. The LS1 engine is a rock solid engine choice that gets decent gas mileage, makes good power, yet can be easily upgraded with bolt-ons. Future upgrades include CNC-ported LS6 heads and a more aggressive roller camshaft to match. The serpentine system features a Vintage Air A/C and Van Horn configured the air filter down on the driver’s side so it can breathe fresh, cool air. An aluminum radiator from Summit Racing helps keep the LS1 right in it ideal heat range: 200-210-degrees F. The computer harness was flashed by Mark Romans and Speartech wired it.
The T56 transmission is also an unmodified piece from the wrecked pony car, even the clutch is stock. The rearend, however, is a modified Dana 44 from a Corvette that features 3.55:1 gears and a stock GM posi. Connecting the gearbox to the Vette differential is an aluminum driveshaft from Inland Empire Driveline.
Since Shawn’s wife drives the car every day, the interior had to be made comfortable, but with cornering kept in mind. For the black vinyl, carpet, and headliner, Van Horn contacted Greg Webster at Central Coast Upholstery in San Luis Obispo, California. Some highly bolstered Rally bucket seats were chosen from Procar which keep the Van Horn’s in place when turning aggressively and comfortable on long drives. The five-point harnesses are from Crow Enterprises and Dolphin Gauges keep everything monitored.
The body of the Chevelle was thoroughly worked on by the Van Horn’s; putting in the hours and hours of sanding it takes to make an old car straight. With the guidance of Tom Smith, the team sprayed the car with GM D-code Mist Blue Metallic paint, that Van Horn admits to featuring some cone rash from autocross action. Other than LS1 fender badges, the body is completely stock: chrome bumpers, shiny grille, and antenna in place.
Wheels & Tires
The wheels were literally picked from the garbage, cleaned up and sprayed a charcoal color. They measure 17x8.5 in the front and 18x9.5 in the rear. The tires are Nitto NT555 all around, 245s in the front and 285s in the rear.
Brakes & Suspension
The brakes are straight from the C4 Vette; 13-inch rotors in the front with J55 Corvette two-piston calipers, and standard 1985 Covette 10.5-inch discs in the rear. The Dana 44 rearend is attached with the composite Z51 springs that came on the mid eighties Vettes, while the stock shocks are designed by Bilstein at all four corners. The trunk was also modified to fit the C4 IRS cradle. The steering rack was also adapted into the A-body from the C4.