Where It All Began
By Mike Earley
The year was 1993, a young Mike was standing on the side of O street during AmeriCruise. All of my senses were on overload, the bright colors and chrome, the smell of race gas, and tire smoke filled the air. My body was beating from the earth shaking rumble of open headers on a Big Block Chevy. Then from across the street I heard the blackity blackity blac blackity blac. It sounded a lot like the opening drum solo from Van Halens, “Hot For Teacher”.
Then I saw it, bright yellow with black racing stripes, sitting on draglites with some big meats out back. I reached over and tugged on Ricks shirt (one of my dad’s car buddies) and asked him “ What’s that car”? He looked over and said “that’s a 71-72 Chevelle”. That was the moment I decided I must have a Chevelle when I can drive! Fast-forward 5 years, at the age of 15, I am scouring the want ads and thrifty nickel for a 70-72 Chevelle. However, every Chevelle I ran across (7-8) were cat piss green on cat piss green on cat piss green and they all needed to be restored or rebuilt to be drivable.
That was not something I was able to do with my limited skill set and workspace, aka the driveway. So the search continued for another year and a half until early April 2000. Just days after my 17th birthday, I came across a red on black 1969 Chevelle that looked decent. It had a 4 barrel 350 with a Posi rear end. What more could a boy ask for? The only problem was the car was over an hour away. Lucky for me, my dad was going to be driving right by where the car was located the following day and he agreed to stop by and take a look at it for me (I had school). He took a bunch of pictures of the car with a disposable camera. That night when he got home I rushed to Wal-Mart to get the pictures developed. The car I saw on those pictures was instant love and I knew it had to be mine.
The following weekend 4-16-2000, my mom and I went down to look at (buy) the car. On the test drive, I pulled onto the highway and stopped, I had to make sure it would do a brake stand….. It Did! I drove the car daily for the next 8 months before I got some crazy idea that I was going to restore the car before my graduation in 4 months.
So a buddy and I began stripping the car down until it was a bare shell sitting on a frame. Plus, I had an Ace up my sleeve, a family friend, Adam, was in the bodywork industry and offered to help me with the restoration process. On the first night, we rough-cut the passenger side quarter off the car. The next night while I was drilling out the million spot welds that hold a quarter panel on, Adam was rough-cutting the drivers' side quarter off. We were really making some headway; I thought I might just be able to pull this off. That was the last time I ever saw Adam, did he die some might ask? Nope, he just ghosted me.
As a 17 year old kid with no idea how to do bodywork, let alone hang quarter panels, I was in way over my head. I had no choice but to figure it out or be left with a worthless pile of parts.
Let’s skip ahead 3 years, on my 21st birthday Aaron and I were reinstalling the interior in the car, after I had painted it Cortez silver. Needless to say I figured out how to do bodywork and paint. I drove the car here and there the next few years with a 60 over 283 with 12-1 compression.
One day, the oil pump pickup tube fell off, and lost oil pressure and toasted my crank/bearings. So in 2005 it was time to rebuild that motor. We kept the pistons and rods and on went a set of Dart Iron Eagles heads (200 cc, 2.08, 1.60 valves, and 49cc combustion chambers New compression ratio was around 13.5:1) Next came the .600 lift roller cam with roller rockers. This thing was about as built as you can build an NA 283 and it never stopped pulling on the big end. But, the setup with the short stroke made it gutless down low with an automatic.
In 2007 I ditched the Th350 automatic for a T56 six-speed and converted to E85. All I have to say is this car never should have been an automatic, the stick shift made the car a blast to drive and the E85 made it so I could afford to drive it. This setup stayed in the car for 10 years when the 283 threw a rod through both sides of the oil pan and chunked out one of the cylinder walls.
So, it was time to start the LS1 swap. I had scored a low mileage LS1 out of a 2002 Trans-am, found a Cadillac CTSV blower on eBay, and had to fabricate 3/4” aluminum adapter plates (using a table saw, drill press, and die grinder) to convert the cathedral intake ports on the heads to the rectangle ports on the blower.
Next we install a BTR Stage 3 Positive Displacement Blower cam, and had the heads cleaned up. We mated the engine to a Mcleod RST clutch and upgraded the existing T56. This is the current setup we are running in the Chevelle today.