Right now, across this great country, there are young boys and girls spending time with a parent. The team is either in the garage working on an old car, or on the road enjoying a ride in the family’s prized classic. This hobby thrives on those memories, and that immersion into all things cars, builds character – and future car guys and gals. “I have always had a liking for cars, even before I could walk,” says Chris French of Ocala, Florida. “My dad, Lloyd, and my brother were the people that got me involved in hot rodding. From the start, I was hooked.”
One of the many memories everyone carries with them – even non-car guys – is that of their first car. It doesn’t matter if the car was the biggest POS, front-wheel-driven, hand-me-down imaginable. The memories made – usually surrounding the teenage hijinks perpetrated – are never far from recollection.
For us car guys, we also have the added enjoyment of a gained education during that ownership. That education was not part of book-filled instruction. It started by holding the flashlight for dad, and continued by eventually getting the appropriate tools for dad. Finally, it ended up with dad helping you. As young car guys, we learned many things about the proper care of a car – some by trial and error. Many of those lessons involved upgrading OE parts, and as we got older, those lessons became ingrained in our minds.
Such is the case with Chris. “My first car was a ’71 Chevelle that my dad bought when I was 12 years old. It cost him $35.00. The fenders and doors were rotted, and I pulled the 307ci engine out of the car, changed the carburetor and intake, and slid a DZ 302 camshaft in it,” Chris says.
“The best memory I have with that first Chevelle, is of my best friend and I pulling the engine out,” Chris says. “It was the first time I had ever pulled an engine. We had absolutely no clue what we were doing, but we were able to figure it out.” After the engine swap, he replaced the fenders, drove it for a short time, and then sold the car to buy another Chevelle, a 1967 model.
That first Chevelle was only the beginning of a line of several Chevrolet muscle cars, and in 2013, the ’68 Chevelle you see here became the latest on his list. “Initially, my dad found and bought the car at the Turkey Rod Run in Daytona, Florida. He owned it for a while and then sold it to my brother. After my brother owned it for a while, eventually, I bought it from him,” Chris noted.
The car was in very good shape, and Chris tells us the body looks the same now as it did when his dad bought it. “The interior was also in it, but I changed the engine,” he says. “I yanked the small-block to make way for the big-block. I also swapped the Turbo 350 for a Turbo 400 with a reverse-manual valvebody and transbrake. I finished the upgrades by changing the differential from a Posi unit with a 4.56 gear, to one with a spool and a 3.90 gear.”
That big-block Chris stabbed under the hood is assembled to create 496 inches of motivation that can turn tires into asphalt crayons at will. The seasoned Gen-V engine block is filled with a 4.250-inch Eagle crankshaft and 6.385-inch Eagle connecting rods. A set of Ross pistons squeeze the fuel mixture, and with the block machined to a “zero deck,” the compression ratio comes in at 10.8:1. The LSM-sourced roller cam compresses the valves .756/.737-inch, and holds them open for 270/278 degrees of camshaft rotation. The Dart Pro1 heads support the Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake and Quick Fuel 1050cfm carburetor.
The aforementioned Turbo 400 was built by Rollins Automotive Speed and Custom, and features an FTI 9-inch torque converter with 5,500-rpm stall and an FTI transbrake. Behind that is the spool-filled 12-bolt with 33-spline axles.
Since the car currently runs the quarter-mile in the low 10-second range, you can probably guess the suspension has received a few upgrades. While OE front control arms are still in use, a set of Moroso coil springs and Calvert Racing 90/10 shocks control the front portion of the car’s movement. The rearend is supported via TRZ adjustable control arms and Calvert shocks.
When we found Chris at the 2018 NMCA Muscle Car Mayhem in Bradenton, Florida, he was preparing to run the True Street class. After looking at Chris’ car for quite some time, it’s street-ability is undeniable.
The memories instilled in Chris at young age begin with a Chevelle. If the time and effort he’s put into this ’68 are any indication, the memories he will continue to create will be filled with a car that not only looks great, but is a heck of a lot quicker that any of his previous A-bodies.
Chris finished by saying. “It all started with my dad and brother, and now I get to share the experiences with my wife, son, and daughter. I took my wife Stephanie to her very first race three years ago. She knew nothing about any of it, and sat back and watched. She was hooked from the time I first went to the starting line. She always reminds me it’s not just about winning – although it’s nice to win – but it’s the adrenaline and the family memories you make along the way.”