The latest addition to our Chevy stable of project cars is one of the most popular cars from the early muscle car era: a first year 1964 Chevelle two door sports coupe in stunning white. Chevrolet produced the midsized Chevelle to compete in the muscle car market against Ford Fairlanes and Pontiac GTOs.
In 1964, 76,860 Chevrolet Chevelles were produced with either a 283ci or 327ci small-block, a bit small for the competition at the time. The Chevelle line was soon beefed up and it’s strong performance at a reasonable price made it popular with the muscle car crowd.
We immediately saw the potential to keep this car popular with the muscle car enthusiasts and envisioned a high performance LSx crate engine swap from BluePrint Engines under the hood. Getting this project car into our stable was a “no-brainer.” LSx swaps are an increasingly popular method for adding reliable power, and “Project BluePrint” was born.
We picked up our Chevelle project car for a tidy sum of cash because it was in fantastic shape. The exterior paint was fairly new and well done. The sheet metal was in great shape and the bright work was perfect. Aesthetically, the Chevelle was in excellent shape, which meant that we could focus on the real nuts and bolts for the project car. So, we laid out a plan.
We wanted to put together a moderately priced car that posed a threat at the strip, on road courses and at autocross events. In order to achieve this goal, we needed to get the right combination of components that would highlight the best behaviors of our early muscle car in each of the racing disciplines.
The car came to us with a warmed-over 468ci big-block Chevy that the previous owner claimed was rated at 550 horsepower. There was some obvious attempts at squeezing more horses out of the big-block with the addition of long tube headers and an upgraded cooling system in the form of an aluminum radiator.
The car seemed more like a weekend warrior driver with the stock TH400 automatic transmission and 12-bolt rearend with 3.42:1 gears. The suspension was mostly factory, including the stock springs, front upper and lower a-arms and 4-link rear. Although, at some point, the owner had boxed in the lower rear control arms.
We knew that the drivetrain and suspension were going to be replaced but we wanted to get it out on the autocross track for a baseline test. For that, we scheduled a run to the Goodguys Rod & Custom show at Del Mar for the Fall Nationals.
It was there the true colors of the Chevelle bled through. The car could drive and haul along fine on the freeway, however, getting out through the cones left us feeling like we had been opening and closing drapes all day. Sawing at the wheel left us tired and the car pushed through each hairpin. While this is all expected, we were after something more, much more.
For good measure, we thoroughly examined the Chevelle before it ever left the powerTV shop. Last thing we wanted to do was demolish the new project in our first run on the autocross course for lack of checking some routine maintenance items.
Our freshening up began with checking and changing the fluid in the brake system. Anyone familiar with autocross racing knows that brakes take a beating. Drivers get on the stop pedal hard then get back to the throttle as soon as possible.
Making sure that the brake pads and rotors are in good condition is important, but ensuring that fresh brake fluid without suspended air particles is equally important for a firm brake pedal.
We had our doubts on these clapped-out “race” seats, which the owner had previously installed. Unfortunately, we were unable to swap them out before our time on the autocross. We have plans for a whole new seating arrangement. Why are seats important? The more comfortable the driver feels in the car, the better the reaction and clocked times will be. That’s one of the most overlooked reasons for upgrading suspension components; driver confidence! It matters more than most people realize.
While we were changing the fluids, a complete drain, flush and refill of the engine oil system was in order. Empirical evidence has proven that the engine’s life blood will help protect the internal engine components such as bearings, valvetrain and crankshaft. For us, regular house beverages were not going to get it done. We went straight for the top shelf and pulled down bottles of Royal Purple engine oil.
Royal Purple’s SAE 5W-30 is a staple in our garage for streetable engines. The Royal Purple engineers have designed the additive package for street use, API licensed motor oils, which provide engine lubrication and protection that we are looking for while preserving the lifespan of the catalytic converters. Federal EPA regulations have lowered the amounts of ZDDP and detergents in motor oils designed for use on public streets. These regulatory standards have led to enthusiasts to use racing oil or oil additives that can shorten the life of catalytic converters. Royal Purple’s automotive engine oil contains an additive package that does not harm regulated pollution controls, which makes it ideal for street and street/strip use.
For good measure, we also swapped out the battery. Another often overlooked item, especially in the warmer climates where battery failure happens less frequently and you’re not stranded in the snow when it does happen. While being stranded in the snow might be life-threatening, failing to make your start time at an autocross event because of a deceased battery will lead to dying of embarrassment. We selected the Optima Red Top battery to prevent any electrical supply issues.
Optima Battery’s Red Top line of batteries have proven to be a very durable and long lasting choice in automotive batteries. Add in the fact that the Red Top battery is leak proof, maintenance free and resistance to failures caused by repeated charging and discharging, the Red Top battery is ideal for our project car.
Without knowing what maintenance was routinely performed on the car before we owned it, we did a quick check and change of the spark plugs and wires. A simple and economic routine check to prevent your plans from misfiring.
Finally, we got down to some specifics. Autocross events place a lot of strain on engine driven components with the “hard on the throttle” then “hard off the throttle” action. That jolt through the drivetrain is notorious for flinging off accessory drive belts if they are not in proper alignment. Speaking of alignment, we also double checked the basic alignment settings. Caster, camber, toe and even weight distribution. If a baseline benchmark is going to be valid, the car has to be prepared as if it was going to race normally.
We’ve got a ton planned for our upcoming build. Quite honestly, there’s a definite buzz around the powerTV office and shop. We can’t wait to see our Chevelle completed and up and running. Matter of fact, we’re already taking bets to see who gets to drive the Chevelle first once it’s completed. Future stories coming down the pipeline will include a comparison of how the project car did in the autocross and once we have data to compare the baseline to, we’ll be publishing our results. Until then, let’s take a look at some of our planned upgrades for our BluePrint Chevelle project.
Engine: We plan on removing the classic style BBC and replacing it with a modern 600 hp LSX engine from BluePrint Engines. Starting as a small hobby business 20 years ago in central Nebraska, BluePrint Engines continues to build high performance crate engines for all needs and budgets. Giving their customers exactly what they want is what the company claims is their hallmark.
Front drive system: Billet Specialties really stepped on the big stage with LS engines. Making some of the most creative accessories for the modern GM engines, Billet Specialties have won awards from many tradeshows for their innovative products.
Fuel System: AED Performance Carburetor. ‘Nuff said. We plan on using an AED performance carburetor, Holley fuel pump and Earl’s fuel lines and plumbing to get fuel to our fire. These quality names sends a signal that this is a truly blueprinted project.
Starter: MSD Ignitions LS starter. Since opening up shop in 1971, MSD has become another one of those companies that auto enthusiasts have come to trust.
Cooling System: AFCO Racing. It’s no secret that AFCO started out as a small radiator company, but they have grown into a major company manufacturing and supplying many different components for racers. While they have diversified into other areas, their knowledge and experience in cooling systems has continued to advance as well.
Exhaust: We plan to tag team the exhaust effort with two names that are revered in the performance marketplace, Hedman Hedders and FlowMaster Exhaust. We expect this to be a very popular upgrade to our project car and look forward to hearing how many of our readers duplicate our choice in exhaust systems for their LS based engine.
Transmission: We’ve selected the 4L65E Gearstar Level 4 transmission with converter for our project. We needed a transmission that was able to deal with the abuse that we were going to subject it to. In our do-it-all project car, we selected a solid do-it-all transmission.
Suspension: For a spectacular all around suspension that will help our classic muscle car put it’s best footprint forward, we selected an air suspension from Ridetech. For street, road racing and autocross, we expect Ridetech’s air suspension to really make a difference in the way our Chevelle handles.
Brakes: SSBC Brakes. Performance brakes are a necessity on road and autocross courses. We selected a brake company that we were familiar with and had used on previous project cars with much success. These big rotors and multiple stainless steel pistons will help us slow down at the last possible minute for quicker track times.
Wheels: Billet Specialties 17X8 Front/17X9.5 Rear. Once again we went with a company that we were familiar with. Billet Specialties brings the strength that we are looking for in a wheel with the added benefit of helping our project car become more than just a race car. We wanted show car good looks to complete the “Do-it-all” theme of this beauty.
With our game plan in place, it became clear that this project build was well thought out and the goals were very achievable. What makes a well defined project car that can achieve the target goals is a clearly defined build plan with purposeful selection of components – a blueprint, if you will. The final step in planning is to give the project a name. Based on the thought process that went into planning this build, BluePrint Chevelle seemed like a meaningful project name.
As work has already started on our BluePrint Chevelle project car, you’ll want to check back often to see where we are in our build process. We promise to give you all the details, each step of the way. Pardon us while we go back to the blueprints and get this project rolling.