There is no doubting where Fred Otto’s automotive passion lies, as he started his e mail to us by saying, “I’ve owned nothing but Chevrolet my entire life, and I still do. My Father was a certified Chevrolet mechanic for more than 40 years, and he taught me everything I know.” Like many educations, the learning part didn’t start out very exciting, as Fred tells us that he started by pushing a broom in his father’s garage, and cleaning tools before he could learn the mechanics of a car. It was when Fred was a very impressionable 10 years old, he got his first glance at a new ‘72 Chevelle, “I knew one day I’d own one.”
Like any responsible adult, Fred’s youthful mindset would not come to fruition until after raising his family. That means it was 37 years later that he started looking for his dream Chevelle. Nothing less than his childhood dream car would suffice, “I wanted a ‘72 Chevelle SS, but what I was finding was either out of my price range, or a poor excuse for a quality build. That’s when I decided to buy a clean car and build a SS tribute myself.” Fred’s vision was to build the car resembling the “back in the day” look. Fred continues, “I searched everywhere, logging many miles to look at many Chevelles, but most were hacked up and made to look good from afar.” After traveling untold miles, and looking at countless cars, he finally found what he wanted while at home, doing an online search.
He purchased the Chevelle you see here from the original owner in Michigan. It was a six-cylinder car that was showing 52,000 miles on the odometer, and was powered by a six-cylinder engine with a two-speed Powerglide transmission. Fred tells us, “It was a very straight car to start with, and had no rust issues due to the original owner spraying the underside every year with Texaco undercoat grease — and I do mean grease.” Fred was able to buy the Chevelle, and immediately after getting it home, he began to tear it apart to build his dream. After removing the original driveline and all of the suspension parts, he then had to heat and scrape all of that greasy undercoating off the firewall, frame, and all the other under-body components. Fred says he didn’t have to replace any metal since it was well preserved. He did however install a cowl hood with hood pins, as well as all SS badging and dual sport mirrors.
When the body was ready for the new driveline, he then installed a 402 cubic-inch big-block that uses a mild hydraulic flat-tappet camshaft, Edelbrock Performer intake and 750 cfm carburetor. Dress up items include a pair of chrome Chevrolet valve covers and air cleaner. Fred replaced the Powerglide with a rebuilt Turbo 350 that is “improved” by a shift kit, and then added a posi-filled rearend.
The interior was near mint condition, so all that was needed was to add a few aftermarket gauges to monitor the new engine, the rear package tray, sail panels, and SS emblems on the door panels. Tunes are required, so a Pioneer stereo was added inside the glove box to avoid cutting up the dash. He also installed 6×9 Pioneer speakers in the rear deck.
With the reassembly completed, Fred then sent the car for paint, which actually ended up taking two years. The car was finally painted the original Placer Gold with a little pearl added in to highlight the body panels and black stripes.
Fred told us, “In the end, with a lot of time and hard work (and the money), my wife Brenda and I enjoy driving it, lighting up the tires, and having fun with it. We’ve taken it to six car shows, and have brought home five trophies. In the end there is a lot to be said for building your own dream car. You know every nut and bolt, and you can go out and beat on it and have fun, and still respect it, knowing all you’ve put into it.”
Do you want to read about more Home-Built Heros? All you need to do is click here. If you own a Home-Built Hero, we want to hear about it. Since we’ve started the Home-Built Heros series, we have received more than a few candidates, but we are still in need of more. If you want to see more cars built by you the readers, send us a few pictures of your car showing the engine, interior and exterior, along with all of the pertinent information, and we’ll make you Internet famous. You can send your submissions to [email protected].