They say that opportunity only knocks once, which is just fine with Dan DeKruger, given that he's not the type to wait around for a second rap at the door. This readiness to act has paid off: Once, 11 years ago, when DeKruger made the right moves at the right time to get his hands on a nice '72 Chevelle, and just recently, as he jumped at the chance to transform his faithful A-body into a unique, modernized machine in the Pro Touring mold.
A buddy first saw the Spectre Red '72 Chevelle on the lot at a used car dealership. "I gave him a chance," DeKruger claims. "I was being a sport." A chance, yes, but we'd guess he wasn't exactly rooting for his pal to take home the prize. And when said friend couldn't come up with the dough, DeKruger didn't miss the opportunity. It took some convincing, but he got Mom to come through with the necessary funds, and Dan brought the Chevelle home during his senior year of high school.
Lowered an inch-and-a-half...
Lowered an inch-and-a-half and riding on 18s, Dan's Chevelle sports that just-right musclecar stance. The Spectre Red paint job is 11 years old, though you couldn't tell by looking at it. The SS emblems were added before DeKruger bought the car; he likes how they look, so they've stayed put.
And what did he get for Mom's $2,900? "It was a very original car," DeKruger recalls. The paint was fresh, the interior decent, and under the hood was a tolerable 350 powerplant wearing a two-barrel carb and backed by an automatic transmission. One feature of the old Chevelle was altered almost immediately. "When I bought it," he recalls, "It had the factory exhaust on it, and I got asked, 'Is that a V-8?' The next day, the hacksaw was out." Exhaust note notwithstanding, the Chevelle performed daily driver duties for the first three years DeKruger owned it. He performed his first tune-up and brake job on the '72, and also modified the car here and there, adding a four-barrel carb atop an aluminum dual-plane manifold, Hooker headers, 16-inch Edelbrock wheels, and what DeKruger calls "one great shifting Turbo 350." The '72 was then retired from daily driver duties, though it got rolled out of the garage every summer during DeKruger's college years. "From the end of final exams until school started again, rain or shine, that was the car," he told us. But as DeKruger latched onto other projects, the old Chevelle got neglected, though he "really wanted to do something with it." A good thing, too, since opportunity was about to present itself at Mr. DeKruger's door again--and he wouldn't be remiss in answering.
Now to the heart of the matter--the...
Now to the heart of the matter--the ultra-clean engine transplant. Being able to lift a complete engine and harness from an '02 GMC Yukon ensured that the necessary parts were on hand; all DeKruger had to do was make everything fit and function. We'd say mission accomplished; the 5300 Vortec mill looks right at home. DeKruger set the engine back almost two inches from stock, fabbed the dual-snorkel intake, and picked Cadillac Escalade engine covers for looks. The Stainless Steel Brakes billet master cylinder looks good, but also provides the necessary power for the Chevelle's mondo stoppers.
The knock came when DeKruger got the chance to obtain a complete 5.3L powerplant from an '02 GMC Yukon that had seen better days. He also had access to the harness and computers, along with just about anything else he wanted--and the price was right. "After messing with my '97 Firebird," he told us, "the chance to go high-tech appealed to me." Not that he jumped blindly; DeKruger did his research, and singles out LS1tech .com as a particularly valuable Web site.
"There are a fair amount of guys doing LS1 swaps, and I looked at the interchangeability--what would bolt on to the 5.3L truck engine." He ended up installing an LS1 Nitrous Works wet nitrous system, and plans on a cam swap at some point. But a look at the stock power of the engine--295 hp @ 5,200 rpm and 330 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm--and the thought of running that kind of power in the Chevelle, which weighs approximately 1,700 pounds less than a Yukon, was attractive in and of itself. DeKruger liked the numbers, grabbed up the necessary Yukon parts while he had the chance, and set about doing "something."
According to DeKruger, fitting the new-gen motor into the old-gen Chevy was not as hard as you might expect. Since he wanted to install new inner fenders and paint the front framerails, he pulled the Chevelle's front clip, which made it easy to slide the engine in and out until the right location was found. "It was really easy to find the fit," he says. He used an F-body oil pan on the new engine rather than the truck pan, enabling him to avoid any cutting or notching of the crossmember. He also pushed the motor back as far as possible without modifying the firewall--DeKruger estimates that the truck motor sits between 1 and 2 inches farther back than the original 350. DeKruger fabricated his own motor mount adapter plates, as well as the very clean dual-snorkel intake and the framework to mount the Be Cool radiator and fans.
The trunk hides the super-size...
The trunk hides the super-size amp and subwoofers, as well as the bottle for the Nitrous Works laughing gas setup, the only performance mod DeKruger has made--so far. Also note the aluminum panel, which allows access to the '94 Impala fuel tank and sending unit that feeds the 5.3L mill's fuel injection system.
DeKruger also exercised some creativity in the exhaust system department. He used JBA headers built for the Yukon but had to cut a passenger-side primary tube into pieces and reweld it to avoid the control arm; he then cut the flanges off both headers to gain framerail clearance. DeKruger also welded up the pipe necessary to connect the modified headers to the Flowmaster exhaust system that was already in place, and added the necessary bungs for the O2 sensors required by the new motor's computer. And though he liked the slick-shifting Turbo 350 the Chevelle was sporting, Dan happened to have a TransGo Shift Kit-outfitted 4L60E--a leftover from the six-speed conversion he had done on his '97 Firebird Formula. The modern overdrive tranny was a good match for the Gen III motor, and also fit without the modifications the truck tranny would have required, making this a done deal.