You might say Chris Gullilkson has a thing for Chevrolet’s classic and timeless Chevelle muscle car.
The Minnesota native campaigns one of the finest examples of GM’s A-Body you’ll find anywhere in the sport of drag racing, and for Gullikson, his prized piece is a generational affair that his entire family has been involved in.
“Growing up as a kid, my parents had a silver 1968 Chevelle and I remember riding in it all the time. Then my dad purchased another ’68 and cut it apart to make it into a circle track and dirt racing car. Ever since then I’ve always wanted one for myself,” Gullikson shares.
That opportunity came in 1991, albeit under difficult circumstances.
“That year, my father was involved in a serious life-threatening accident which resulted in our family receiving a small settlement check. Myself and my three siblings all received $2,000 to do whatever we wanted. My youngest brother, Jimmy, purchased a year-old Yamaha Blaster; my sister, Jennifer, purchased a 1985 Cutlass Supreme; then my other brother, Dan, purchased 1986 C10 pickup that he turned into a drag truck. I used the money to purchase my own 1968 Chevelle from a car lot in Oakdale, Minnesota. I bought it for $2,200,” Chris shares.
That Chevelle, which he eventually transformed into a full-blown, 8-second racecar with a 588-inch Steve Schmidt-built big-block Chevy for power, was but a part of the 25-year racing career of Gullikson (between drag racing, dirt track racing, snowmobile drag racing, and building engines). “Later, in my drag racing career, I started my own automotive repair business called C&S Automotive, and business took off. I couldn’t spend as much time racing as I wanted to so I ended up selling the car. Ever since that day, I’ve regretted selling it and wanted to build another one which led to this car.”
After the turn of the century, with radial and small-tire racing in its infancy, Gullikson got the itch and went scouring for another Chevelle. Although it took some convincing on his part to get it, that car — the very car you see here — was right around the corner.
“A friend of mine who was a used auto salesman had found one but the owner wouldn’t to sell it to him because he knew he would just flip it and sell it. The car originally came from a local radio station giveaway and is a true SS 396 138 car with around 40,000 miles on it. I met the guy and we struck up a deal. However one of the stipulations was the owner had every single part to put it all back to stock and he was happy that I told him I was going to do so. I owned the car for that summer and blew the whole car apart and sent it to the chassis shop to get a 25.3. Still to this day, I have all the numbers-matching parts and pieces for this car,” he explains.
Gullikson says the original plan called for a belt-driven, blow-through ProCharger big-block street car — something he could drive to and from car shows on low boost and then change the pulleys and run in the mid to high sevens at the dragstrip. But, as he’s quick to admit, that snowballed into a 25.3 chassis, fuel-injected, gear-driven ProCharger-fed, stock suspension, full-on racecar.
Gullikson relied on the help of a host of individuals to assist him with the chassis, fabrication work, and painting, but he did get plenty hands-on himself, wiring and plumbing it as it neared completion after a 2.5 year build process.
The current combination is a 540-inch Chevrolet built by Steve Morris fitted with Dart Pro 2 380 heads flowing the air from an air-to-water-intercooled F3-136 ProCharger. The combination produces an impressive 2,650 horsepower and 1,750 lb-ft of torque on C6 fuel. An M&M transmission and converter deliver the power. Suspension components from TRZ were used liberally throughout the build, and the RC Components “Hammer” wheels complete the beautiful exterior.
In its first season out, Gullikson ran in the 4.90s (at a hefty 3,700 pounds), but was able to pick up a win at the Brainerd International Raceway. The year ended on a lesser note. however, when he cracked a cylinder wall at the season finale. That offseason, with the engine torn apart for repair, he put the car on a diet, shipping it off to Sinned Customs to replace the stock trunk floor and install carbon fiber wheel tubs, make the front end and doors (new carbon fiber replicas) removable, design a tubular core support, and add a front-mounted fuel cell. Combined with aftermarket windows from Optic Armor, the entire overhaul netted a loss of 350 pounds.
Gullikson had the car repainted and in just 14 days he and his son, Taylor, reassembled it and went racing. That 2016 season was plagued by a variety of mechanical woes, but in the build-up to 2017, he made a converter change, acquired new double-adjustable shocks from Mark Menscer, and shaved an additional 20 pounds off in the process with some new TBM brakes to make a run at things.
Right off the trailer at Brainerd this spring he uncorked a 4.73 at 163 mph and followed it up with a career best 4.62 at 167. “That same weekend, I was on a high 4.50 pass and the car went into tire shake, lifted the driver’s door off the hinge and the wind sucked it right off. My son and crewmember jumped in a car, drove home, picked up the old steel door that was originally on the car, drove back, we mounted the door that night and continued to race all weekend and won it,” Chris shares.
The car went a relatively soft 1.25 to sixty-feet on its 4.62 run, giving Gullikson confidence it can run into 4.40s consistently and perhaps into the .20s or .30s on a “flypaper” track. He uses Mickey Thompson 29.5 x 10.5 Pro Drag Radials or 315/65/15 radials on the car, depending on the use.
Gullikson has many to thank for his racing endeavours, including his wife, Susie, “for not going crazy when I’m in the shop all night,” Dennis at Sinned Customs “for building a badass chassis,” Ryan Witte from Holley Performance, Greg from Ultra-Carbon, Steve Pennebaker at Steve’s Collision, Ron Flood at Cedar Machine, Todd Spreck at One-Off Machining, Mark Menscer, TRZ Components, RC Component Wheels, and TBM Brakes.