If you can dream it, you can make it a reality. No truer words have ever been spoken, and no matter your budget, a creative mind and a solid vision can create a wonderful masterpiece. A discussion started the other day in the office about building a dream car, and what each of us would consider the perfect car.
That got me thinking … what would I build? If I were to build my dream Chevrolet, I would first amass a laundry list of aftermarket parts I feel would get the job done. I’m the kind of person that prefers to keep things clean and simple on the outside, all the while crafting a beast that lurks underneath.
There is a myriad of car choices a Chevy guy can choose from: a first-generation Impala or Chevelle — or even a third-generation Nova — are all timeless classics that still resonate with us today, and there is a custom build we each envision as ideal. With so many options in the Chevrolet car line, for me, it’s easy to choose name my top pick: a first-generation Chevelle/Malibu coupe. Ride along as I take you on a journey through my imaginary build and the perfect, custom Chevy of my dreams.
The Initial Thought
When it comes to building a ride that reflects your personal tastes, it isn’t all that simple to decide how to build a custom of any kind. Making decisions between a powertrain, and leading to aesthetic choices, everything is relational in the overall game plan.
To begin with, you need an initial plan. We can’t ell you how many projects end up going to new owners because the builder kept changing directions on a plan, and never finished the car or never set a budget threshold before starting. Building a custom ride can go several directions, and each has a specific financial requirement. Conducting thorough research and consuming advice from trusted experts is always a great first step in determining what’s right for your custom build, and what you can afford.
Finding The Classic
I have no preference whether I start with a barn find or a car in immaculate condition. My hunt will begin in the classifieds for a 1966 or ’67 Chevelle, but I wouldn’t hunt for an SS, due to its rarity and street value, so a Malibu or 300 would suffice as a foundation.
The first-generation Chevelle boasts nice body lines, great proportions, and a classic aesthetic that demands attention when it’s driving down the street. Even if the car is only powered by a 283 or 327 cubic-inch small-block, or even the 250ci six-cylinder, the car’s look will garner attention and I can swap in a larger engine to make more power.
I fell in love with the first-generation Chevelle because of its versatility and design. Like the bubble top 1961 Impala, the 1967 Chevelle has a look that is truly hard to beat. There are some that think it doesn’t stack up to the Tri-Fives or even the second-generation Chevelles and Impalas, but I feel the first-gen stands in a class of its own, much like the A-body Camaros that are still the base design for the new Camaros we see today. Diversity is what makes this hobby great.
A Look At The First-Gen Chevelle, 1964-1967
- Available as a coupe,convertible, or sedan
- Engine Options:
- 194ci (3.2-liter) Chevrolet I6
- 230ci (3.8-liter) Chevrolet I6
- 250ci (4.1-liter) Chevrolet I6
- 283ci (4.6-liter) Small-Block V8
- 327ci (5.4-liter) Small-Block V8
- 396ci (6.5-liter) Big-Block V8
- Wheelbase: 112 inches
- Length: 197 inches
- Curb weight: 3,256 pounds
To be quite honest, the ideal build for me would not be a show car per-say, but more of an all-go type vehicle. I wouldn’t want to attract too much attention to my street-legal Chevelle.
After acquiring the car, the first thing I would do is lay out the game plan of what needs to be taken care of before proceeding with the necessary swaps and modifications. Checking the rocker panels and other major body components will determine how much fabrication work the body needs in order to support the build moving forward.
An inspection of the driveline and suspension components will also be key in determining where to begin with the project build. I could care less about the interior, as that is a priority that sits at the bottom of my to-do list.
My aim for this project leans more towards a custom build. While a restoration project would be nice and all, I would want to give the car its own identity so it did not look like the rest of the bunch. However, let me make it clear that by “custom,” I would not ruin the car’s historic integrity and timeless body design.
Depending on what engine is under the hood when I purchase the car, I would hunt for some specific modifications that I feel would amount to a quality build. If the car needs an engine, I would probably choose one that delivers decent power and awesome reliability at a relatively small budget, preferably a 350ci small-block. Sure it might sound cliche, but don’t write it off just yet. This V8 has stood the test of time, and is known not only for its reliability, but also its power output and overall durability.
Call it a chameleon engine, the 350 small-block possess immeasurable amounts of potential, and is plausible on a small budget. There is a reason why it is one of the most popular crate engines on the market, especially given the expansive spectrum of aftermarket parts.
Mated to the 350ci small-block will be a 4L60E four-speed automatic transmission. Sure, I could install a manual transmission, but I want to make the build “somewhat” conventional, and easy to use.
This is pure opinion, and I realize tastes vary, but I am more comfortable with a simple and clean look rather than something that is over-the-top grandiose. That being said, I would keep the body in original condition, and I would be very picky when it comes to wheels and tires. The only thing I might remove from the car is some of the chrome, which I would do to give the car a cleaner, sleeker appearance.
For wheels, my choice would be a set of Forgeline DE3C Concaves, measuring 18×9.5 up front and 18×11 in the back. Continuing the theme of aggressive looks, I would use a set of high-performance Michelin Pilot Super Sports, measuring 255/40R18 on the front and 285/35R18 on the rear.
With strategic pieces of chrome removed from the car, a simple look with an aggressive stance will put this classic over the top. I would also install headers and a dual exhaust with the tips hidden beneath the body.
I want my Chevelle to handle like a dream and not a boat. That means power steering and power brakes would definitely make things easier. The Chevelle would sit on QA1 coilovers and lowered to a clean ride height that provides a balance between handling and road clearance.
An Eibach Anti-Roll Kit will also help stiffen the suspension and prevent body roll. Stopping power would consist of a Wilwood AERO6 big brake kit for the front, and an AERO4 big brake kit on the rear, which will be sure to fill the expanse of the Forgeline’s open wheel space.
Since the car is not a Super Sport, the aforementioned de-chroming would include the emblems. That way, people wold have a hard time figuring out what’s really going on. Like I said, the interior isn’t high on the priority list, so I would keep the interior the same. I would, however, change out the steering column and steering wheel for an Ididit retrofit tilt steering column and an all-black Grant steering wheel to finish it off. A set of Scat Procar Rally seats will add to the interior comfort, and be suitable for butt placement when traveling at higher speeds.
All In All
This may be a rough vision for a Chevelle, but I feel these upgrades and modifications would make for a great looking custom Chevy. With so many choices and options available on the market, I’ve narrowed it down to these parts simply for their function and performance potential. Settling for dark colors, and nothing gaudy on the exterior, my custom Chevy would speak volumes without saying anything.
I aim to create a look that provokes questions, like “what’s he running under there?” to “how did he fit those wide wheels in those fenders?” My custom Chevy would be a restomod that elicits class and simplicity. I visualize a custom Chevy that looks good and has the ponies to back it all up. It may just be pure opinion and my taste may not go well with all of you, but just like you, if I can dream it, I can build it.