What is it about muscle cars that we love so much? For some, it was the signal of recognition from Detroit that people enjoyed speed over practicality, a lust for the redline over the resale value. For others, it was a different take on the shoebox, pontoon-styled automobiles that permeated much of the postwar American landscape, entailing sharp edges, distinctive colors, and aggressive stances that lent the cars an attitude never witnessed before.
By 1964, the mantra of “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” was as vibrant as ever for GM, Ford, and Chrylser, and things were just beginning to heat up: Ford had the 427ci V8 Fairlane Thunderbolt, Chrysler had the Dodge Dart Max Wedge, and GM had the 409ci V8 Impala SS.
It was the late 60s when the musclecar craze peaked, and new for that year was Chevrolet’s second-generation Chevelle. Already an established player in the muscle car scene, the mid-size coupe Chevelle was indeed a potent machine when ordered in SS trim, the top option of the day. It packed a 396 cubic-inch big-block motor capable of up to 375 horesepower, achieving 0-60 miles per hour in 6.5 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 14.5 seconds at 100 miles per hour.
46 years later, these cars are still as impressive as they were in their heyday, perhaps even more so thanks to the vast aftermarket support that’s readily available for upgrades. So when a guy like Guy Simkins got a line on one of these brutes and went to see it in person, it didn’t take much for the man to plonk down some cash and wheel away his dream machine.
We had a one-on-one with Simkins to get a better sense of his prized SS and its full story. In doing so, we learned quite a few things, including how he found it, its connection to Speedtech Performance, and all the fun you can have on pump gas.
Guy Simkins: “I’m the founder and owner of Guy’s Automaster Incorporated here in St. George, Utah. We do business with the folks at Speedtech Performance from time to time, and I’ve known Ben Meissner for quite a while. You guys did an article on his Cutlass “Pumkinator” not too long ago. Great stuff.”
GS: “I grew up on a 90-acre cattle farm in Hamilton, Montana, and from a young age, I just always had a gearhead mentality. Engines, power, how things work. When I joined the Marine Corps, I was assigned to be a mechanic at the Salt Lake City International Airport and spent time tinkering on airplanes all the time. The work there was interesting and inspiring, and I guess you could say it got me thinking about opening up my own shop.
I started the shop in 2004 and made it work, knock on wood. General automotive repair is what we handle, myself and my three technicians. We are the only shop in Southern Utah that is EPA certified to install CNG (compressed natural gas) conversions and repairs. We also specialize in all areas of domestic and import Automotive repair.”
CHC: What is one of your most favorite car-related memories?
GS: “Heh, had to be when I first had a Chevelle SS back in the day. I was 19 when I had a ’68 like the one I have now. I made friends with like-minded guys in my community and got to learn how to appreciate muscle cars and hot rods. I’ve been a gearhead ever since.”
CHC: Who were some of your biggest influences when it came to cars?
GS: “Probably those same friends I had way back when. We all helped each other when something broke or needed attention. It helped me to appreciate the camaraderie in car culture.”
CHC: What’s the most important car-related lesson you’ve ever learned?
GS: “That it costs a lot more money to build them than you can sell them for. They are definitely a labor of love, no doubt about it. It’s a big source of stress when you look back and go over all the receipts and invoices. I mean, I have tens of thousands of dollars invested in the Chevelle by this point, and it’ll be finished by sometime next year.
I wouldn’t say I regret getting into this build, just because it’s brought out a lot of joy for all the investment I’ve put into it. It’s been a good five years that the car has been torn down and put back together, and I’m happy with how it’s ended up so far. I stay motivated partly just from the love I have for muscle cars like the Chevelle, and partly from getting the thumbs-up of my peers.”
GS: “I like how companies have taken the muscle car segment and really pushed the envelope with them. Thing was, these cars couldn’t hand jack squat when it came to cornering or sudden slow-downs. Their body roll would cause the car to lurch, the understeer would make you cut too wide and run into something, or the brakes would lock up and put you in a wreck in an instant.
Companies today like Speedtech Performance have made a big difference in these issues now, and made it so we can have better, more well-rounded performance. So that’s definitely a trend I like to see continue.
As far as trends I don’t like, I’d probably go with import cars. To be honest, I kind of hate them, since they swooped in from movies and video games and nabbed a lot of potential youngsters who would’ve gone on to enjoy American street machines. Try as I might, I’m just not a fan of the import scene, and that’s that.”
CHC: And what would you like to tell those youngsters that do wind up liking muscle cars?
GS: “I would advise that they read up on the history of muscle cars. I think the deeper they fall down the rabbit hole, the more they’ll be driven to owning their own ride someday. It’s hard work and lots of money, but it’s worth it, trust me.”
Simkins Builds His Dream Car
When it arrived at Speedtech for work, it was clear that the paint and engine were already squared away, but the suspension was in dire need of replacement. The build team made it all better with a new Track Time A-Body suspension kit, comprised of new upper and lower control arms up front, upper and lower trailing arms out back, and QA1 adjustable shocks on all fours. Also included was a new Currie Enterprises 12-bolt rearend, Wilwood brakes, and new wheels and tires.
Now capable of handling long-duration drives, Simkins was primed and ready to test everything out as he drove over 700 miles from St. George, Utah to his hometown in Hamilton, Montana. “One of the main reasons Guy built the car was to take it back home [to Montana] for a big burnout contest there,” said Meissner. “The car wasn’t even totally finished when he loaded it up and took off for the event this past summer! He even bought a second set of wheels and tires specifically for the purpose of burning rubber.”
Elsewhere, Speedtech took the liberty of installing a three-inch exhaust system (stainless steel, naturally) as well as revamping the interior. Simkins paid a premium to sit in comfort while driving the SS, having fitted Corbeau leather sport seats behind a custom baseball-stitched dashboard, making the two match each other.
Prior work done to the Chevelle’s Speedtech upgrades included its powertrain, constituting a Mark IV 454ci BBC V8 that had been bored .030 over and stroked to 4.25-inches for a total of 496 cubic-inches of displacement, and packed to the brim with aftermarket support from Edelbrock, MSD, and COMP Cams among others.
“It can run on pump gas and still make 608 horsepower and 622 pound-feet of torque,” said Simkins. “Just a total beast.” The big-block Chevy was fitted to a Turbo 400 with a 3,900 RPM stall converter, controlled inside by the stock shifter and console.
In closing, Simkins is nothing if not proud of his well-built Chevelle. Regarding any big lessons or takeaways the man has gleaned from owning car, Simkins told us: “Heh, well, other than the labor-of-love aspect of it all, I guess I’ll just say this–Having too much horsepower is like having too much fun; it doesn’t exist!”
Simkins would like to credit the following people for their help with the build, and turning a man’s dream into a reality: “Blake, Tony, Robert, and Jeremy at Speedtech Performance, thank you for all you did and put up with on this car. Earl and Glen Snow from Snow Performance, they did the machine work and built the motor to its current state. Lastly, there’s Manual Medina from Alex’s Collision Repair, he did all the body work and paint, and an excellent job at that.”
We’re glad to see a street machine like this rolling around the highways and byways of America, getting loud and catching eyes everywhere it goes. Speedtech Performance’s pivotal role in making it happen can be done for you too. All it takes is a click or phone call with the provided contact information below. Till next time, stay safe, have fun, and keep it real.