It’s official, 2020 is over and gone. To say it’s been a roller coaster year would be an understatement. But like the ending of every year before this one, it’s time for the Top-10 lists to fill the internet. While most of those lists revolve around things like the best dressed or even the best place to get a good slice of pizza, we have a better idea. Since not many of those compilations actually list anything important – you know, like car stuff — I didn’t want to have you guys feeling left out. For that reason, it’s time to choose the 2020 Chevy Hardcore Feature Car Of The Year.
When I first got the idea to assemble this list, I thought doing a Top-10 seemed a little strange, especially since there are 12 months in a year. I felt it was a good idea to make this list cover the entire year, but the hard part would be choosing only twelve cars to make the list.
I realize that some of you will probably question one or two of my choices, and there will be no escaping a certain level of wrath because I didn’t include someone. That is okay. If we all liked the same thing, the hobby would get uninteresting quickly. But when it comes down to it, I can justify my choices by saying every car featured throughout the year is worthy. However, I could only choose twelve. Keep in mind, a great feature car doesn’t have to be a perfect restoration or an over-the-top restomod. It should, however, have a great story.
Finally, there were no hard and fast rules that guided my choices. The selections made were purely opinion-based. But that doesn’t mean I want to have all the fun myself. I need some help from you guys.
Even though I have chosen the twelve cars that I feel should be on the list, I didn’t choose the one that should top the list. That’s where you guys come in. I want you to crown one of these 12 feature cars as the 2020 Chevy Hardcore Feature Car of the Year. So comment below, check out our Facebook page, or just drop me an email at [email protected] and choose one of the twelve from the list that you feel should be crowned as king.
So, without further ado, here are the nominees from which to choose.
In a time when the golden age of muscle cars was coming to an end, 1973 proved to be an especially good year for Chevrolet’s pony car. It was no coincidence that Fred Heldreth saw this particular red beauty and picked it up right away.
This second-gen Camaro was owned by a friend of Fred’s before coming into his possession. Over the years, the car had seen various modifications, but had fallen into a bit of neglect and needed updating. While the body was in excellent condition, Fred, a huge fan of hot-rodded vehicles, wanted to take it even further. Some of the features it already included was a 414ci small-block, a four-speed, and 10-bolt rear.
Inside, you’ll find Dakota Digital instruments. black carpeting from Auto Custom Carpets (ACC), TMI seats, and a Volante steering wheel were added to make the interior more comfortable. For sounds, Retro Sound provided speakers and a brand-new stereo, ensuring Fred would have killer tunes.
You can read all the details about this custom cruiser by clicking here.
Have you ever heard of a ’57 Chevy pace car? Before you answer that, you should know it’s a trick question. While Chevrolet did commission these pre-race rolling advertisements for various years, the company didn’t actually do it during this memorable year of automotive history. However, even though Chevrolet did create many “sanctioned” pace cars throughout the last several decades, many models of Chevrolet cars and trucks became pace cars at various small-town racetracks, courtesy of track owners and local Chevrolet dealerships.
Thanks to a partnership with Adams Motors in Greenwood, South Carolina in the late-‘50s, this car did pace many races at a small dirt track in Greenwood. Every weekend, spectators would witness this car driving the clay-packed oval. The car surely delivered many enthusiastic car buyers to the Adams Motors dealership on Monday morning. At least, that was the dealership’s hope.
As you can imagine, the life of a dirt-track pace car can be grueling, and eventually, the car’s usefulness was deemed complete. Unfortunately, we’re not completely sure what year that was. All we can say is, for an undetermined length of time after that, the car sat in storage around the track until a local collector decided to bring it back to life.
“In 1992, a local couple, Mr. and Mrs. McCullough, purchased the car from the Greenwood Racetrack,” says the car’s current caretaker, Jim Simpson of Williamston, South Carolina. I’m betting the life it led driving in circles and through small-town parades means it wasn’t subjected to the grueling life a typical street-driven, everyday-commuter would encounter. Because of that, one would think the restoration was easy. Let’s just say, easy is a relative term.
To read the complete article about this car’s beautiful restoration, click here.
Root Beer Rally
Allan Nihart’s ’72 Nova Rally might not have been his first choice of a second car when he purchased this car in 1987, but he has no regrets. “I was actually looking for a second car,” says Allan. “I found this car sitting on a used-car lot in Fredericksburg, Virginia. I bought the car to drive back and forth to work, and mainly because it fit within my budget (less than $3,500). It didn’t have much rust showing and the floors were good.”
There are 388 cubic inches of small-block power under the hood. An Eagle Specialty Products rotating assembly creates a very streetable 10.0:1 compression ratio in conjunction with the Edelbrock Victor Jr. heads. Those aluminum air directors support a Victor Jr. intake and Demon 850cfm carburetor. In the heart of this small monster, we find a COMP Cams’ solid-roller with .590/.590-inch lift and 280 degrees of duration at .050-inch lift. Behind the mill is a California Performance Transmission-built 200R4 overdrive transmission.
What started as just a “second car” has become so much more to Allan. While he no longer subjects the car to the rigors of everyday highway use, you can be certain the Nova Rally does get the opportunity to stretch its legs whenever the sun is shining, and the roads are dry.
Click here to find out more about this Root Beer hot rod.
There is no denying Dennis Griffin is a car guy. He has been a lover of cars and trucks since he bought his first 1969 Camaro at the age of 14. He was able to do so using money he earned mowing yards. His wife, Tracy, currently owns a ’66 Chevelle she has owned since the age of 15. She grew up in a family with a father, brother, and several uncles who have their own hot rods.
“I had my eye on a ’67 shortbed truck in Arizona,” Dennis remembers. “I had been talking to the gentleman for a couple of years. Once we sold a Chevelle, I called him to let him know I was on my way to get that truck. He backed out on me, saying he just couldn’t sell it.”
That started the process of searching for the next perfect truck. “A couple of my buddies helped me find this one,” Dennis comments. “They knew the shop that built the C10 and they inquired about it for me. That’s how I ended up getting together with the guy I bought it from. It was nearly identical to the one in Arizona that I wanted.”
This hot hauler was originally built by JRE Automotive and debuted at SEMA in 2017. Dennis and Tracy bought and brought the truck to their home in Ashland, Missouri in April 2019. “The truck had less than 500 miles on it and had been shown just a few times out on the West coast,” Dennis says. “I love everything about it.”
To get all the information about this carry-it-all cruiser, click here.
Dave Bohler of Rochelle, Virginia, is a firm believer in the premise that hot rodding is a family affair. “I found this car in 2019, it was sitting in a shed,” Dave relays. “It had been parked there since 1976. There was no engine or transmission in the car, and it had quite a bit of rust. The car was mostly disassembled and was filled with boxes full of parts. But since my wife has always wanted a wagon, the deal was made.” She sounds like a keeper, Dave.
The first task on the rebuild list was to fix the rust. “I had to install a complete floor, inner and outer rocker panels, door skins, and the inner sections of the doors,” Dave explains. “I also modified the firewall to make room for the engine I wanted to use — a big block.”
Since Dave and his wife do plan to hit the highway as often as possible, the interior needs to be comfortable. Let’s face it, it’s already spacious, he just needed to make it look good. To accomplish that, Jack Huber Upholstery got the nod for covering the Glide Engineering seats mounted up front and stock rears with a lot of leather, apparently sourced from green cows, and ’59 Chevy cloth inserts. Monitoring the engine vitals and mileage accrued is a set of Classic Instruments gauges.
If you want to learn more about this family-affair cruiser, click here.
James Stewart of Haines City, Florida, is a diehard fan of all things Chevrolet muscle. In his garage, you’ll find a couple of first-gen Camaros (this one and a true COPO car), multiple C10 trucks, and various other hot rods. Yeah, he’s definitely a fan of the brand.
“A friend of mine owned this car before I did,” says James. “When I bought it from him, it was just a shell.” James began the rebuild process by fixing any sheetmetal that needed attention and then covering it with a mile-deep shade of PPG’s Burnt Orange.
Although the second-year first gen was available with the biggest big-block available at the time, James — like any true gearhead — wanted more power for his ride. For that reason, 572 cubic inches of “factory stock” Chevrolet Performance crate engine now strains the engine mounts to the limit. The monster ZZ572/720 is a definite powerhouse with 727 horsepower and 680 lb-ft of torque.
Matt Lantz of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, relayed to me that when he found this fourth-gen Camaro, he was looking for a project. However, he certainly wasn’t planning to take on anything this in-depth. “I found the car on Facebook Marketplace,” he says. “It was a shell. There was no interior, engine, transmission, or wiring. The owner was getting ready to scrap it if it didn’t sell. I paid $1,000 for the rolling shell.”
In actuality, buying something that needed so much in the way of parts might not have been a bad idea. You see, he already had plans to build something like he had never built before, and many of the stock drivetrain parts would have been tossed aside anyway. Matt, his dad, and his brother operate RMJ Restorations in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and the car was not only going to showcase the family’s capabilities in regard to paint and body, but also, the trio’s mechanical skills.
“The car went through a number of different hands before I go it. Each person took off what they wanted then passed it onto the next,” states Matt. “Now it has gotten a second chance at life. The car’s name is actually fitting for both of us. This is kind of my second shot at life since I put down the alcohol. I knew the name had to go on the car.”
If you’re a fan of this fourth-gen, click here to learn more about the transformation.
When it comes to meeting people at car shows and cruise nights, I have to admit, that really is one of the best aspects of my job. When I first saw Justin Gannon’s unbelievably cool ’71 Chevelle, I hoped there was a great story behind it.
“I was 16 years old when I built my first Chevelle,” says Justin’s father, Tom. “That was 36 years ago. The car ended up being a Super Chevy show winner. That car was obviously nice, but I never had the opportunity to build the car I really wanted to build. When my son turned 16, I felt it was time to build a showstopper, a one-of-a-kind SS Chevelle.” To say the duo accomplished that goal is a huge understatement.
This was always destined to be a street(able) car, so a comfortable interior is a must-have. The factory seat frames were covered with premium leather, accented with what is called DiModa faux-gator skin accents. The look is truly different than any Chevelle I have seen. An Alpine head unit and JL Audio speakers belt out the requisite tunes as needed. Even with modifications like the custom dash panel, tilt column, billet steering wheel, and red accents, the interior still retains the basic appearance as “stock,” but the small deviations really bring it into the realm of awesome.
The mill is displacing 632 cubic inches. The large-by-huge motivator is based on a Dart Big M block with a Callies crankshaft and 6.6-inch Oliver rods supporting Diamond Racing pistons. Deep within the heart of the block is a COMP Cams solid-roller that raises each lifter a total of .773/.773-inch and holds it there for 276/282 degrees of rotation. It’s a stout valve mover for sure. Up top is a set of Dart aluminum heads, and a 10-71 huffer is fed by twin 1150 carbs.
If you want to learn more about this red rocket, you can click here for all the details.
The story about this ’69 Nova starts out like many, as Benjamin Spotts’ dad happens to have found the car residing in a field. Years prior, it had been an unwilling participant of a chance meeting with a rising drawbridge. “This car was actually parked in a field, twice,” says Benjamin. “The first time occurred when the owner was able to collect an overabundance of traffic tickets. It was saved from that first parking solitude by another person who actually tried to “beat the rising of a drawbridge”—he failed.
When the senior Spotts found the car, it was missing the original engine and transmission. That’s unfortunate, as this is a true-blue big-block L78 car. According to Benjamin, “Although the engine and transmission were long gone, it was a solid project car with only 61,000 miles on the odometer.”
The Spotts duo could have done a perfect restoration on the car, but since the original drivetrain parts were missing, they were given some leeway during the rebuild process. For that reason, a 427 cubic-inch monster was built. It is definitely on the ragged edge of being pump-gas friendly. You’ll also find a hydraulic-roller camshaft from COMP Cams actuating the — as Ben puts it — large-by-huge valves. In case you’re wondering about horsepower output, it’s somewhere between stock and holy crap. You decide. Behind the mill is what almost every muscle car enthusiast hopes his or her ride possesses, a four-speed transmission and a 12-bolt rear.
Inside this tribute to day-two ingenuity is a testament to classic styling. Upon further inspection, it looks factory fresh, thanks to Legendary Auto Interiors. No frills here, as the factory AM radio is in place, and the air conditioning works flawlessly each time the car is moving with the windows in the “down” position.
To learn all the details about this day-two hot rod, click here.
The Ultimate Chevelle
We all have different visions about what we consider to be the ultimate hot rod. For some, that vision requires the car to be a numbers-correct restoration. Others feel that a few “day-two” style mods are part of the equation. Then we have guys like Michael Williams of Pittsfield, Massachusetts. One look at Michael’s ’70 Chevelle convertible, and it’s immediately apparent that his ultimate hot rod strays away from traditional.
Scott Shafiroff built an all-aluminum big block for the motivational duties. When the machine work was done and the engine assembled and dyno’ed, Michael was the proud recipient of a 598-inch big-block developing 900 horsepower. Behind that is a TREMEC T56 Magnum with a twin-disc clutch and aluminum flywheel.
Michael planned to spend as much time as possible racking up miles, so the interior needed to be reflective of how impressive the rest of the car was becoming. To that end, a custom upholstery was stitched together by Cassin Customizing in Woodstock, Illinois. The leather-covered Cobra-brand seats feature yellow stitching, and the Fesler fiberglass door panels were customized to receive a set of Audiofrog speakers. The dash has been wrapped in leather and surrounds an Ironworks billet gauge cluster with AutoMeter gauges. Keeping Michael cool is a Vintage Air Gen IV A/C system.
If this is your perfect Chevelle, you can read more about it by clicking here.
One-Off Two Door
Brady Ranweiler told us this wagon began its storied life as a 1963 Bel Air four-door wagon. “To my knowledge, GM didn’t produce a two-door wagon in 1963,” he quips. “It was originally purchased in 2005 to be a part’s runner. Our company specializes in aftermarket and reproduction parts for 1958 through 1964 Chevys.”
The engine is definitely fitting for a ’63 Impala — a cast-iron 409. It is bored and stroked to 509 cubic inches, uses Hilborn fuel injection, and is backed by a TCI Auto 4L80e transmission.
Looking inside, you will find a custom hand-built interior by M & M Hot Rod interiors. The design work of the interior is a Ben Hermance creation. If you like the subdued shade of red, it’s Italian-dyed Ox Blood leather. Finally, Dakota Digital created the custom dash cluster.
“This year, we were only able to show the car four times,” Brady states. “At Detroit Autorama, it won a Ridler. At Chicago, it won Legend Cup. At Des Moines, Iowa, Goodguys, it won the finalist for Custom Rod of the Year, and now, SEMA Battle of the Builders. During this entire process of building and showing the car, we’ve made countless friends from all over the country. We plan on showing the car around the country for the next two years or so.”
American Muscle A-Body
James Stewart of Haines City, Florida, definitely like 1960s-era Chevy hot rods. This ’66 Chevelle SS396 is his second ride to make our list.
In James’ words, “this car was not destined to spend most of its life in the garage or on a trailer.” From day one, James planned to drive the Chevelle as much as he could. The frame was treated to a full complement of Hotchkis Performance suspension parts. Making the car stop at will when James presses the brake pedal, Baer brakes were bolted on all four corners.
Under the hood are 427 cubic inches of big block. Inside the Merlin block is a stock, steel crankshaft, and heavy-duty H-beam connecting rods. Building the compression under the Brodix heads are a set of JE pistons squeezing the air and fuel to a ratio of 11.0:1. Finally, a COMP Cams roller stick, Chevrolet Performance intake, and Holley Sniper EFI were thrown into the mix. To say this is a stout mill is an understatement.
You can find out all the details about this Chevelle by clicking here.
There you have it, our twelve feature cars that are in contention for the 2020 Chevy Hardcore Feature Car of the Year. Now that you see the choices available, we really need to hear from you. You can let us know which car should be crowned king by either emailing us at [email protected], by commenting below, or by reaching out to us on our Facebook page. We look forward to hearing from you. We will close the voting on January 18, 2021.