Building The Perfect Tribute Chevelle SS With OPGI

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When it comes to Chevrolet’s Chevelle, if tasked to pick a favorite year or style, it is a nearly impossible choice. The model is an icon, and each year has special attributes that set it apart from others. Dave Leonard, founder and president of Original Parts Group (OPGI) has a true soft spot for the Chevelle, and his year of choice when deciding to build a project is 1970.

This car has sat in storage and has been used as a “test fit” vehicle for many OPGI restoration parts

The reason for desiring this particular year Chevelle is sentimental. Back in the ’80s, Dave was the proud owner of a ’70 Chevelle similar to this one. He always wished he still owned that car, so the yearning needed to be quelled. To satisfy his feeling of nostalgia, he decided to relive those memories, but take a few liberties in the recreation process. This time, some modern day conveniences and power upgrades will be part of the plan, and the folks at OPGI are calling this Dave’s “Executive” car. This second-coming Chevelle will still possess all the classic styling cues that make it look original, but, it will be brimming with modern components that give it state-of-the-art braking, handling, and of course – more power! When completed, this tribute Super Sport will be an exceptional, modernized interpretation of a true classic.

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We asked how Dave came across the Chevelle, and he told us, “We purchased this unrestored, factory original Chevelle Malibu more than 20 years ago. This car has sat in various OPGI-owned warehouses, and has been used as a “test fit” vehicle for many premium reproduction parts brought to market by Original Parts Group.” Dave continued, “In 2015, we figured it was time for this Chevelle to grab the spotlight – but we wanted to do something a little different. Since this was a standard Malibu (painted an unremarkable shade of blue), we decided to turn it into a fairly stock-appearing Cranberry Red Chevelle SS – with a tuned big-block tucked under the hood.”

Since Dave founded and is the president of OPGI, it stands to reason that most of the parts will come from the OPGI parts bins. But, the 350 small-block that once filled the area between the fenders is being tossed in favor of the aforementioned big-block – a Chevrolet Performance 502-cube monster with an MSD Atomic EFI system. Behind that will be a Gearstar-built 4L80E transmission.

The frame benefited from a frame-stiffening kit that is available through OPGI.

JH Restorations in Riverside, California, has been tasked with the rebuild, and so far, the car has been completely taken apart, media blasted, the frame and suspension rebuilt, and the sheetmetal finished in iconic Cranberry Red by Doug Starbuck.

The car’s foundation has been reinforced by way of a frame-boxing Frame FX kit from Hellwig. This will improve the stiffness and handling of the car by boxing critical areas of the factory frame. The kit includes pre-cut heavy-gauge steel panels that match the thickness of the factory frame and fit into the weak points of the original chassis. After that, the chassis was then powdercoated satin black before the Hotchkis-infused suspension was installed, supporting an Auburn rearend.

The interior will feature upgrades like a Super Sport dash conversion, and air conditioning.

A new black interior will finish things off nicely, and the Vintage Air A/C will make it cool – literally and figuratively. The Malibu dash has been treated to a Super Sport Chevelle Dash Conversion Kit, and you can check out the Part OnePart Two, and Part Three videos of how that was accomplished.

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At this point, the car is nearing completion. As Dave said, “It’s a killer Chevelle SS that looks like a stock restoration, but with its modernized suspension, handling, brakes and power, can be driven to the office every day.” As you can tell by the pictures, it doesn’t look like it will be too long before the Chevelle is road ready.

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OPGI has plans to unveil the car in their booth at the 2016 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, so you can stay tuned for coverage of the completed daily driver Chevelle project right here, and on the OPGI website.

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About the author

Randy Bolig

Randy Bolig has been working on cars and has been involved in the hobby ever since he bought his first car when he was only 14 years old. His passion for performance got him noticed by many locals, and he began helping them modify their vehicles.
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