Not far west of Philadelphia – the City of Brotherly Love – there’s a town called Reading. Due south, in the backwoods of Reading, is a zip code with the name Mohnton attached to it – this is the home of Maple Grove Raceway. It’s a place that pulls car nuts from all direction in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, New York, and even New England.
And on July 14-17, 2011, with weather that perhaps will be the best of the summer, about 1,500 Chevrolet owners and nearly 400 swap meet vendors converged at Maple Grove Raceway for some Bow Tie fun.
As an owner of a Brand X General Motors vehicle, Chevrolet is just another GM brand to me, albeit one that made super-cool SS 427 Impalas and mid-year Corvettes. But I’ve learned the Chevrolet posse is a bit more than just followers of the Bow Tie: They are restorers, hard-core racers, old-school hot rodders, and original owners. Sounds like any brand can make that claim, no? But Chevrolet represents more than a brand – it’s an automotive lifestyle.
This guy is the perfect example. Chevrolet built well over a million Chevettes, but how many do you see today? Using a well-designed motor as the basis for creative-ideas-on-wheels is what it’s all about.
Next to this Camaro was an early-1950s Plymouth wagon. It too was given the Rat Rod treatment but obviously has had a transplant to Chevy power.
Which brings me to the question: Why are Chevy guys and gals so hell-bent on installing their motors in anything? Isn’t it sacrilegious? But I arrived at a breakthrough thought – it’s a hot rodder’s mentality. In another era, hot rodders would buy whatever car they could get their hands on, then install the hottest motor they could find, whether it was a Flathead Ford, a high-compression Cadillac or Oldsmobile V-8, or a 331 HEMI. Due to the popularity of the small and big block Chevy motors, this mentality continues today with any Brand X car. Take a look at this rare 1972 Charger Rallye as a great example.
But what about regular Chevrolets? How about Bow Tie power in Chevys? Relax! Plenty of variations at Maple Grove, from the Blue Flame Six, small blocks starting at 265 cid, the W-motor 348 that evolved into the 409, the Mark IV big block starting at 396…even a Cosworth-modded aluminum four-cylinder in a Vega. They all have had their proud moments, which is why Chevrolet is America’s favorite brand. How would you like to start? Citation? Bite your tongue! Let’s start with the Chevelles.
Early Chevelles don’t have the popularity of, let’s say, 1970 LS6 454s. However, there were plenty of 1964-65 cars to show that they’re not the red-headed step child of A-bodies. It’s also neat to see the evolution from basic mid-sized transportation to America’s favorite muscle car.
But this wouldn’t be a Chevy show without Camaros! The 1967-69 Camaro is the spiritual successor to the 1955-57 Chevy in the hobby. The combination of classic GM “Coke-bottle” design with two of the best engine series in America has made it a love affair for many. Which year do you prefer? With or without Rally Sport trim?
There’s enough variation with different years and trims to give an automotive archeologist a hard time deciding which configuration he or she likes best. Is it a car with the Style Trim Group like above? Or a ’67 Rally Sport with the chrome rockers? Or maybe you don’t like the vent windows on the ’67?
Every once in awhile you stumble upon something that’s different from the same old, same-old that everyone else is doing. Look at the above ’67 RS – it’s using perhaps the best color combo known to Man, and the owner did a nice job flipping the colors for a “shadow mask” effect. Nice, eh?
None of this could happen without Chevrolet’s big cars. The Bel Air spawned the Impala, which spawned the Caprice, but in between all those there’s the 150, 210, and Biscayne. In some years one may have been the top of the line, while subsequent years may have knocked it down a notch.
In 1957, Chevrolet unleashed Fuel Injection in two flavors: 250 hp and 283 hp. It continued for 1958-59, but for those years they are very rare for the full-size cars. The owner of this ’59 convertible built a Fuelie car using all the correct parts, from NOS Fuel Injection badges to the little screw that held the air box. By 1959, the top 283 was rated at 290 hp.
Do you know what the above photo is? It’s a Sun tachometer for a 1961 Impala SS with a 409. The car is a true Super Sport – the first year for the package – but it originally came with a 348/350, which is rare enough as it is. Tommy Nolen from Virginia is the proud owner.
Below you can see the proud owner of this 1968 Caprice sport coupe. Wouldn’t owning that make you proud too? But, the thing is, he bought it new so the pride runs deep.
In case you think pre-Tri-Five Chevys don’t get any love, this one’s for you!
Next up are the Novas. Created as the utilitarian Chevy II to offer a conventional alternative to the advanced Corvair, it soon developed into a serious performance vehicle, especially with the L79 327/350 in 1966. By 1968, big blocks were being offered.
As I had mentioned earlier, I came to the realization that being a Chevy guy may mean being into building an outrageous motor for an outrageous car. What may have passed for outrageous back then may be tepid today, but the older way seems to always stay in style.
So where were the Corvettes? America’s Favorite Sports Car is a Chevrolet, after all, and always has had Chevy’s top motors. Fuel Injection? Check. Mark IV big block? Check. Aluminum ZL1 427? Check. But late-model Vettes also get some love too.
The 1970s surely were a tough time to be a car guy or gal – this was true throughout the world, not just in Detroit. It was a long road to get back on track with horsepower, but that doesn’t mean those cars along the way aren’t interesting. Take this Vega for example.
Truck fans were not ignored either. From funky orange behemoths to pickups to Blazers and more, it was a reminder that “Chevy Tough” was an idea before a copywriter came up with the tagline for a certain vehicle from Dearborn, Michigan.
But this is Maple Grove Raceway – where’s the racing?
There were over 800 racing participants – wow!. From stock muscle cars to jet cars (which I don’t believe are small or big blocks – do you know?), they all put on a big show for the crowd that was willing to enjoy the heat.
Parise Racing are a husband-and-wife team of Pro Modders who race 1953 and 1963 Corvettes. They also created Vettes for Vets, a VIP program that invites veterans, wounded warriors, and active duty military for a fun day of racing.
Next on the agenda was the swap meet. Sometimes it seems everything you need for a Camaro is being reproduced, but not every Chevrolet benefits from that luxury. If you needed that Liquid Tire Chain to restore your Impala correctly, this may have been the place to find it.
So what were my favorite cars? I found two similar cars that were equipped in interesting manners. First for your enjoyment is this 1971 Chevelle Concours three-seat wagon. Sold by Lafferty Chevrolet of Warminster, PA, it was ordered with AC, clock, roof rack, air foil, AM radio…and a 402/300 and a 4-speed.
However, I think this car caught my heart. While the motor is 52 cubic inches smaller, it also puts out an even 300 horses. Invoice shows it came with power tailgate window, AC, “special” suspension, Posi, engine block heater, mag wheel covers, and fiber optics. Pretty cool, right? So what if it had a 4-speed behind that 350? Me want now!