All Snuggled In…

Last night marked a HUGE milestone… after five years, the Chevelle now sits in our garage once more!

(as always, click on the image to get a larger version to view!)


That’s right folks, another step on the (VERY) long journey!   Last night Dina drove me down to Mesa to visit Sean at Top Gear Motorsports.   He had taken the car through a full alignment and emissions testing earlier this week (she passed emissions with flying colors with only a generic base tune in the PCM for now!)  In talking about next steps we realized his work (for now) was pretty much wrapped up.  That meant “ROAD TRIP” to Mesa to pay the bill, collect the keys and make a very long (55 mile) maiden voyage back to the house in north Phoenix.  This must be what it feels like to take a new aircraft carrier out for her seaworthiness trials, right?   🙂

Here’s a shot on the drive home… my wife Dina is in the 2014 Volt ahead of me.


As I alluded earlier this is by NO means the end of the journey.   She is legal to drive but in a very basic sense, plus she has practically zero interior… two front seats bolted in place and powered and that’s about it!

So, I will be keeping her at home for now, driving her around the block to irritate the neighbors now and then, while I do some tinkering in the garage myself.  The next big step is to roll her down the road about 10 miles to the shop I’m likely going to contract to do the new custom interior.  More on that later, trust me!

For now though I’ll enjoy having The Beast back… even if it’s for a short time before the next step begins.   All that said though, it was damn fun last night driving her!  She’s raw right now… everything rattles, vibrates, screeches and crashes.   Last night was the first time she had driven more than about 100 yards in the shop parking lot so the suspension hasn’t even settled (and it will be replaced completely after the interior work is done!)

SO… for now I am short of pictures but long on smiles.   I’ll get her cleaned up this weekend and take more pictures to post in the next week or so, and in the coming weeks I will start teasing you about the plans for the interior.

Oh… by the way… while I still have some glitches with the Dakota Digital hardware, the Viper Alarm / GPS / remote start system works great.  Dina and I stopped last night for dinner on the drive home.  From our table inside I pulled out my cell phone, loaded the Viper app and clicked “Smart Start”.  When we walked out to the parking lot she was already running, A/C and all.   Truly modern technology in my 46 year old car.   What more could a nerd like me want?   🙂


One last picture…  I call this Bowties and Patriotism.   I’ll get an updated shot in June when our 2017 Chevy Bolt EV arrives.  Yep, two electric cars, The Beast and my Tahoe PPV.  Bowties and Patriotism, indeed!




Watch This Space… Update Inbound Soon!

Yeah, I’m teasing you a bit here…  I should have an update to post in the next week… if all goes well it could be as soon as Thursday.   We’re making progress on the beastie, even if I’m derelict in my duties about posting updates!   Stay tuned…

Next Tuesday, Feb 21!

Hi all – no new pictures to share this time around but some great news!   Next Tuesday, Feb 21, Kelly at Level 10 will be done with the Chevelle!

I will be driving down to Mesa to the shop so Kelly can walk me through all of the electronics we’ve installed in the beastie… the biggest one for me is the VIPER alarm, not for the obvious “alarm” functionality, rather for it’s GPS tracking and fully remote, cellphone app based remote start abilities!   Living in Arizona in the summer you really do want to leave the A/C turned on then remote start your car and let it run for 10 minutes before you head out.  No problem on a modern car… but now also in my 1971 Chevelle!

Once Kelly finishes the walk-thru (I will be snagging pics and videos for posting here later in the day), we will load her up on the trailer and take her back to Sean at Top Gear Motorsports.  Sean only had a few minor things to work though with the drivetrain (the ECU isn’t seeing the RPM signal for some reason so it never triggers the transmission to shift, plus a faulty starter motor and a few other minor adjustments)… then she will be ready for her final dyno engine tune, emissions test and her 3-day temp registration so I can DRIVE HER HOME!

Stay tuned!

Still Making Progress on the Chevelle

Okay, so I wouldn’t blame you if you thought I had fallen off the face of the planet.  It’s been quite a while since my last blog post about my Chevelle.  Suffice to say my family had a LOT going on in 2016 so while progress was continuing on the car, my free time required to do things like this was… well, cut short.   That said 2017 is looking to be a better year and I thought I would try to kick it off on a good note with a blog update!

So, what IS going on…  well, the car has been with Kelly at his shop in Mesa (Level 10 Performance).  He has been working on the electrical systems for me since we had the “unfortunately incident” with an electrical shop whose name I shall never mention again (yeah, it was a bad experience!).   Kelly, on the other hand, has been awesome!   He has the Viper alarm / remote start / GPS system installed, the full electric window upgrade (all four windows!) and all of the various Dakota Digital components.

He has also been working endlessly to fabricate custom brackets and such to get my new front seats mounted.  I opted for modern (fully adjustable electric) seats but had to search high and low (pun intended, as you will see in a moment!) to find the right ones.

Kelly’s first attempt to mount the seats met with a stunning realization… even though these seats were physically pretty compact, the mounting base used on the seat was NOT small.  As you can see in the pictures below the seats were sitting so high inside the cabin that when I sat down my head was literally touching the roof skin (no headline) and my neck was bent to the side.   Yeah, that ain’t gonna work!  (as always, click on the pictures to load higher-resolution versions!)

casey-frontseats-901 casey-frontseats-900

The seats themselves felt great so I asked Kelly to rethink the mounting situation.  That has taken quite a bit of time…  new brackets to fab, some “floorpan massaging” with the sledgehammer (I mean the Persuader!)… and now we have this:

casey-frontseats-002 casey-frontseats-001

I was down at their shop last Saturday (Jan 21, 2017) to test-fit the seat locations.  SO MUCH BETTER!    The seat leather is scuffed in places but no worries as they will be completely recovered in new tan colored leather when the car heads to the interior shop!

SO, we are on the right path with the front seats.  Remember, this car is intended to be a daily driver so comfort is a requirement and Kelly has nailed it!

What else has been going on?  Well, before the seat work Kelly went through the entire interior with some sound deadener… think DynaMat but without the price.  🙂

casey-soundbarrier-002 casey-soundbarrier-003 casey-soundbarrier-004 casey-soundbarrier-001

And here are some pics of the new glass, freshly installed (you can’t see the hardware but trust me, the conversion to all electric windows is there..

casey-newglass-002 casey-newglass-001

With the front seat locations approved, Kelly is wrapping up the final fabrication plus electrical hookups for the front seats, plus a few minor final electrical connections here and there.  After that the car will go back to Sean at Top Gear Motorsports to troubleshoot a transmission that won’t shift (looks like the ECM isn’t seeing the RPM signal so it isn’t triggering the transmission to shift) plus a few small items.   After that the car is COMING HOME…  complete with registration as she will be street legal!   More to come soon…

We Have Ignition!

Hi all,

I’ll keep the words short…  WE HAVE IGNITION!

Click Here for YouTube Video

That’s right folks, the beast lives!  We are getting very close to wrapping work at Top Gear Motorsports and sending the Chevelle next door to Level 10 for some more electrical work inside the cabin!

I will be heading down to Mesa sometime early next week to wrap things up with Sean.  I’ll have more high-def videos of engine start-up and just maybe some angry rev sessions !

Have a great weekend!

Dashing Through The…


well, it’s certainly not snow… at least not here in Phoenix, Arizona in April!

BUT.. on the Chevelle project we are “dashing” about but in a slightly different way!

Remember all of those tasty Dakota Digital goodies I purchased many months ago?

Casey-Dash-001 Casey-Dash-002

Casey-Dash-003 Casey-Dash-004

So … yeah!   We’re not quite live yet (no start-up) but we’re close…  still some final connections for the electric fans but that should be soon.

And here’s a last shot of the engine bay with a shiny new addition


This Has Been Exhausting…

Hi all,

I know… it’s been a LONG time since my last post about the Chevelle.  Sean and AJ @ Top Gear have been making progress but they had a project car in their queue ahead of mine so it took priority.   That said the Jeep project (yep, an LS swap into a Jeep!) is now done and they are back to the Chevelle.

So, what’s so news-worthy to demand an actual blog post?  Ah…  some exhaust work!   Sean and AJ started with a 2.5″ stainless steel exhaust kit and custom assembled a setup including headers.  It’s been a long process but as you can see from the pictures below it looks great (as usual, click on the images below to see higher-resolution versions)

Casey-Exhaust-003 Casey-Exhaust-004

Casey-Exhaust-001 Casey-Exhaust-002


Sean and AJ have to  finish wiring up the electrical connections for the front fans (had to undo the wiring when we upgraded the radiator and fan awhile back).  A few minor items after that and Sean is telling me we might be getting close to a video of a running engine!  Stay tuned… things will get better from here!

Weekend Update

I dropped by Sean’s place after work on Friday for a quick chat with him about next steps.  Imagine my surprise when I learned they had been making more progress than they were initially letting on about.

Specifically, the picture below is of the new Holley oil plan.  In the last post I talked about the engine location being too low and there being interference with the pan.  That was true, but the fix wasn’t to change the motor mounts… it was to switch to a new Holley oil pan.  This design should eliminate the interference with the Chevelle’s front steering linkage.


Next up, Sean and AJ have made significant progress on the electrical setup!  This was the part Sean was sandbagging me about… I had no idea they had jumped into the electrical installation yet, to say anything about how far along they are!


Yes, I know this looks like a big ol’ plate of spaghetti for dinner but there is a a reason for every wire danging below the dash, and AJ was able to walk me thru every single wire.  I was very impressed.   Sean is tackling the full wiring of the car, including the main chassis harness, the front and rear light harnesses, the cabin wiring (lights, electric windows, etc.) as well as the obvious… the main engine and fuel injection harness.  In short, this is NO small job.

In fact, take a look at the picture below!


So this picture needs a bit of description for you to fully appreciate what’s going on.  Behind the dash, up toward the right side of the picture you will see a dull gray aluminum-looking box that says “DELCO”.  That is the engine ECM, or the electronic brain required to run the new LS engine in the Chevelle.   Now, in about the middle of the picture you will see the glove box.  Above that you will notice that AJ has already started installing some of the Dakota Digital add-on modules I purchased.  He also has laid out the installation for the Viper GPS / Remote Start alarm system, the full electronic cruise control and the appropriate routing of all the A/C ducting that also must fit behind the dash.   Yeah, there won’t be much space back there once AJ gets everything installed!

Anyway, just wanted to share yet another batch of pictures!   Once the oil pan gets swapped and the firewall smoothed out a bit and painted (both should be next week hopefully) then the engine and trans will be headed back under the hood.  Progress!

We’re Moving Again!

Hi everyone!   So, the last post I made a while back was pretty dark.  I had just experienced my first issue with a shop and it cost me financially to the point where I wasn’t sure when the project would continue… or even if it would.

Push aside the dark clouds!   Due to some situations happening in my life outside the automotive realm I was able to secure some additional funds (not as much as I lost in the shop dispute, but still…) and we are back making progress!

The car is back with Sean at Top Gear Motorsports in Mesa, AZ.  He has been shepherding the drivetrain portion of this project.  Sean was willing to tackle the core electrical work required to get the car into running condition.  This means all my fun additions such as the GPS-enabled, remote start Viper alarm and all my Dakota Digital additional goodies won’t make installation at this time but the core electrical harness (body, engine, interior) and all the wiring required for the LS engine will be there, and as will the connections to the base Dakota Digital instrument cluster to power the base set of gauges.  The goal is to get her into road-legal condition so I can drive her home.

With all of that “catch up” stuff done… what’s going on right now, you ask?   Sean and his team has pulled the engine and trans back out of the car so we can do some additional measurements on the exact location of the engine in the bay.  The first install was good but Sean noticed the engine itself was sitting a bit low… a bit too low when we were looking at the location of the oil pan.  We also had a few other small items to take a look at so Sean decided to do it right and pull the engine out.

Which gave us the perfect opportunity to fix something that I absolutely, positively WHIFFED on when I was having the body work done by Tony at Full Circle Auto Body.  The firewall.  Tony was rebuilding the entire thing for silly sake… why didn’t I have him fix the firewall?  I’m not talking a show-car quality smoothed and filled firewall, rather just a new panel that got rid of the factory one that had been punctured and perforated so many times.

Click on the images below…    🙂

Casey-Firewall-001 Casey-Firewall-002 Casey-Firewall-003

So, with a brand new panel in place Sean will have a friend of his do the final smoothing of the welds and then will shoot GM Black on the entire firewall.  Now we can make brand new holes in it!

Last update for today… we replaced the stock steering column several months back with a new Ididit GM tilt column unit.  Great stuff compared to the 40+ year old original!  When I was down in Mesa a while back I sat down in the car and realized the new column was inches longer than the stock unit we pulled.  It was to the point where I felt like a NASCAR driver, with the steering wheel in my chest.   This next picture shows where we ended up after AJ (from Sean’s team) found the adjustable sleeve and pulled the column back.   It’s a minor bit compared to everything else going on but I tell you it makes a big difference sitting in the driver’s seat.


So, that’s it for this episode my friends… I’m just happy to get some real progress happening once again.  Next post should have the finished firewall and we might be ready to plop the engine and trans back between the fenders for it’s final resting place.  Until next time remember… when you’re driving your baby, be it a Chevelle or just your funky old daily driver, drive safe and keep the shiny side up!      -john



Hello everyone,

I wish I had better news to report but due to a “conflict of direction” with one of my shops, I have had to pull back on my beloved Chevelle project.  The shop in question (which shall remain nameless)… promised a set amount of work for an estimated price.  Let’s just say I now know more about the legal process in Arizona regarding conflicts with automotive repair shops than I EVER wanted to know.   I ended up paying nearly 3x the original cost and virtually none of the work was accomplished.  Long story short but I conversed with my own attorney, the city Police department and had the case reviewed by two city attorneys.  All said I had a very winnable case, if I chose to spend more money in court versus what I was being forced to pay to the shop.  Yep, go broke winning my case.

I paid the shop and got my car back, with virtually no work completed.   This used up most of my remaining project budget.

Sean at Top Gear Motorsports got the car back from SHOP THAT SHALL NEVER BE MENTIONED AGAIN, and they are working to see if we can get the motor fired up to make sure that works as expected.  At that point the car will most likely come home to my garage while I save up some more money to continue the efforts.  I might end up teaching myself automotive electrical systems and installing that piece myself.  We’ll see.

I wish I had better news folks.  For those of you in the United States, please learn a lesson from my experiences…  ensure your automotive shops provide not only the upfront estimate in writing (which I got), but timely and exact cost estimates as the work progresses.  I thought I was doing so…  I was wrong.

-John, Dina and Renovatio, my VEAM (Very Expensive Automotive Mistress)

A Small Update

Hi everyone,

As you probably have noticed it’s been a while since my last update (March to July?  Yeah, a while!).  That doesn’t mean we’ve stopped work on the car, but it does mean we’ve had some challenges.  One of my primary shops on the project lost a very critical resource back in April and it has been extremely difficult to replace this person.  It really has hampered progress significantly.  We haven’t ground to a halt… but close.  Some of the small items we have completed since April:

1) The new valve covers are on and they look great with the coil packs!
2) Engine is pretty much sealed up, transmission is on and the driveshaft has been ordered
3) The engine was cranked over dry a few times to ensure there were no issues on the rotating assembly, cam/rockers/lifters/etc.
4) Some more progress on the Dakota Digital expansion modules but we’ve decided to keep our focus for now on the core items needed to actually get the engine running, so PCM/OBD interfaces, etc.

One challenge we still have is with the intake… we ordered that sexy Spectre dual-intake setup for the Chevelle way back months ago just after SEMA.  Guess what?  Spectre hasn’t shipped it yet… engineering backlog, shipping delays, etc.  I’m guessing they showed a prototype at SEMA and weren’t truly ready to start accepting orders.   If we don’t get the Spectre gear by the time the rest of the drivetrain is ready we will go with a simple cone filter on the intake to get things running and we’ll install the Spectre when it shows up (eventually!)

SO…. there you have it.  Apologies for not having any new pictures but I am hoping that our resource challenge mentioned earlier will soon be behind us and we’ll be getting the car running and back on the road in short order.   Cross your fingers for us!

-john and dina

Making Progress

Hope everyone is having a great weekend!

So I dropped by Top Gear Motorsports yesterday afternoon and got an eyeful of sweet, sweet… PROGRESS!   Now that Sean nailed the transmission crossmemeber issue he and the team have had time to really grind down on the To Do list.  Take a look!

So let’s just dive into the good stuff:   The LQ4 now has an intake manifold and fuel rails.  Looking good, huh?  We’ve got Holley valve covers on order that will allow us to install LS2 coil packs (instead of the LS1 coils you see on the engine right now).   Sean mounted the PCM on the firewall behind the dash, all nice and safe.  The Dakota Digital modules are going in next and those have to connect to the PCM so they will get mounted above the glove compartment under the dash pad.

Casey-EngineBay-001 Casey-EngineBay-002 Casey-EngineBay-003 Casey-EngineBay-004

The fuel system is done… tank to fuel rails…

Casey-FuelLines-001 Casey-FuelLines-002

Also, the Kooks headers are in… good fit, huh?


Here’s the LS swap radiator setup…   the Vintage Air A/C condenser and transmission cooler are also installed but not visible here…

Casey-Radiator-001 Casey-Radiator-002

And the rest of the Vintage Air system is already in as well…  the hoses behind the dash aren’t in yet because they are still doing the wiring work but the system is even loaded with coolant… everything works!

Here’s a shot of the Flaming River steering box.  On the top end (in the engine bay pics) you should be able to see the new steering linkage/shaft leading to the new Flaming River steering column (I’ll get pics of the interior work next visit)


And let’s be honest.. this is about the only vantage point where you can still see the Chevy Orange engine block!


Overall Sean and the team at Top Gear are making great progress.  They’ve already done a test crank of the engine to ensure oil pressure and everything was great.  We are not that far away from actually turning this beast over!

OH, and as a last tease…  here is the cold air setup I’m going with…  click the link below and check it out!

Spectre Performance SEMA Product Announcement

Is this going to look good under the hood of the Chevelle or what?   It’s on order and should arrive in a few weeks.  More pictures then!

Crossmember Conundrum

Hi all,

Yep, it’s been a while since my last update.  Sean has been battling an issue I had considered but never thought it was going to be a challenge… the transmission crossmemeber.   Remember while my car is a coupe, I have a boxed convertible frame underneath.  Something about the combination of the 4L60E that we picked up and the boxed convertible frame rendered all of the crossmembers on the market useless.

Sean worked with one company to fab up a specific one for our install and here it is, fresh out of the box and mocked up on the car:

So while we have a bit more “force-fit engineering” to accomplish (the driveshaft might not have the clearance required right now), we’re pretty confident we have something we can work with.

SO… hopefully that means we hit the ground running.  Sean set a tentative target for the end of March to get the car running and back to me.  This crossmember conundrum might add some time but now that the engine/trans will be in their final position, it’s really all about the hundreds of small items required to get the beast running.  The fuel system has been completed so no issue there.  We’re ready to feed the beast!

Next possible challenge in the back of my mind?  Exhaust.  I want to downsize from the 3″ system I had in the old setup to a more manageable 2.5″ setup, but I want stainless steel and I have decided to move to headers, but now we’ll have to find some that fit.  This could get fun. Time to hit again.  🙂

More Pictures!

Hi everyone!

So Sean & Team are making great progress.  Here’s another quick picture update before Christmas arrives!

Fuel Tank
And here’s where we are on the tank.  Looking Good!

TankCompleted-001 TankCompleted-002 TankCompleted-004 TankCompleted-003

Engine Accessory Drive Install
Here’s the latest picture of the front of the engine, with the accessory drive installed.  Some clearance issues still remain but for the most part we’re pretty close to done on the front engine assembly.


So here’s a sneak peak of the new GenIV Vintage Air system that’s about to get installed…


Spaghetti Anyone?
And with so many electronics packages getting installed, plus the new Vintage Air system, here’s a shot of the Chevelle cabin.  Fun, huh?



This might be the final update for 2013…  if so, I’d like to thank all of you for visitng this blog… I am truly stunned at how many countries are represented by you all…   !

-john and dina


Mid-December Status Check

Hi all,

So Sean and Team @ Top Gear Motorsports has been burning some midnight oil on my behalf and you all get the benefits of a picture update!

First Up – Fuel Tank

I think I mentioned in a past post that we decided to go with the Tanks, Inc. “ready for fuel injection” fuel tank for the Chevelle.   We ordered a big honkin’ fuel pump that should handle anything I do under the hood up to about 800 HP.  Yeah, baby… build it ONCE!  🙂   Here’s some pics of Sean & Team following the old saying, “measure twice, cut once”… and then the assembled tank at the end

Casey-FuelTank-001 Casey-FuelTank-002 Casey-FuelTank-003 Casey-FuelTank-004

Next – Some Work in the Engine Compartment  

Sean & Team have been working hard in the engine bay as well…  in this picture they’are assembling the accessory drive kit that I purchased from Pace Performance (it’s a Corvette accessory kit with a special bracket to relocate the AC compressor up higher, to avoid the crossmember)


In that picture you can see the mess of wires…  I’m guessing part of that is my doing from all the electronic components I bought from Dakota Digital.  🙂

And even though plenty of LS swaps have been done in  Chevelles, not everything is perfect the first time.  Here is a picture we have of a clearance problem between the power steering pulley and the new gearbox.   They’ll come up with a fix for this as well…


So that’s what’s going on these days with the car… my thanks as always to Sean and his crew at Top Gear…

Thanksgiving Update on the Chevelle

Hello!  First, to celebrating Thanksgiving…  I hope you had a great holiday!   Dina, my wife, made her usual…  a turkey made to perfection!  I will now strive to lose the 10 pounds I gained yesterday, all before I gain the next 10 pounds at Christmas!

So, on to the Chevelle.   The car is still at Top Gear Motorsports and progress is being made, but extremely slowly.  The block is in the engine bay, getting mocked up for appropriate firewall clearance, eventual pinion angle with the transmission mounted, etc.   The reason progress is so slow has more to do with me than anything.   If this had been a simple engine swap I’m sure I would have had the car back by now.  Trouble is, with a ground-up build project like this one, just putting the engine in the bay doesn’t cut it.   The car has a brand new wiring harness (Sean’s been troubleshooting some weird gremlins with that) and I stepped up and purchased a BOAT LOAD of electronic goodies from Dakota Digital, most of which need to be installed, wired and test with the engine/trans/PCM.  The troubleshooting process gets pretty crazy when a problem appears… is it engine related?   Electrical?   Electronics?  All of the above?  You get the point.

In summary, I gave Sean a LOT of work to do.  In my opinion (and that of others), he’s the best guy in the four-state area to do this project, but I am having to refocus the timeframe a bit.   This coming February will mark two years since I dropped the car off and started this whole journey.   Right now I’m hoping to get the car back from Top Gear by that February mark.  Of course, she still won’t have an interior but that’s another story!

So… I will be getting some pictures of the car from Sean hopefully next week and I’ll post those as soon as I get them.  Until then, be safe (wherever you are, since it seems my international audience has grown once again!)… and look for some more updates soon!

So About That Dakota Digital Dash

A quick picture update from Top Gear Motorsports….

This is the brand new SS dash carrier I bought from Original Parts Group.  Looking pretty good, eh?
Yep… much better than the old Malibu sweep-style dash
Wait… that looks suspiciously like a powered-up instrument cluster!?!?

SO…  what does this mean?  Not a whole lot, to be honest.  The engine was test fitted this week but it and the trans are not installed yet.  Top Gear is handling all of the electrical stuff now so making the connections to the engine, PCM, etc. is easier.

Oh, and we’re waiting for the delivery of a brand new Vintage Air Gen IV SureFit A/C system!  I had an old Gen II system from Vintage Air and while I’m sure it would have been great for most cities, it couldn’t handle Phoenix in the summertime (119 degrees F earlier this summer!)

That’s it for now…  Sean and his crew are definitely pounding away on the beast!

Stopped By Top Gear This Weekend…

Hey all,
So, you know what happens when you’re a Good Hot Rodder?   The UPS guy shows up on time!  That’s right, it was Christmas in August for me last week!

Casey-DakotaDigital-001  …and a little closer look at the boxes reveals…


Yep, most of my Dakota Digital order arrived!  There are a few items on backorder but they are not critical modules (cylinder head temperature modules and sensors, stuff like that).  The dash cluster itself and many of the modules (including the electronic cruise control!) all arrived last Friday.   Here’s a quick shot of the dash cluster itself, still wrapped in protective covering:

Casey-DakotaDigital-003 Casey-DakotaDigital-004

Sean at Top Gear was just reaching the point where they needed this stuff so the timing was perfect.  Dina and I drove to Mesa on Saturday (about 95 miles round-trip from where we live) to drop off the goodies.  Of course, if I was going to make that drive I was sure going to bring my iPad to take some more pictures of the car!


They have the front-end covered in protective blue cling-wrap to help prevent paint damage…


And a good look into a very empty spot… but not empty for long!


There’s the beast that will fill that engine bay!   Once the engine is in it will be topped with an LS6 factory intake and upgrade fuel injectors, fuel rails, etc.

Sean said they are hoping to do a test install this week to get the exact engine/trans location worked out, the engine mounts set up, etc.  He promised me a pictures as they go, which I will post ASAP for you to see.

Oh, and I did receive the 2004 Pontiac GTO front seats from my recent eBay purchase.  They are awesome!   The shop I bought them from had disassembled them to make shipping easier so once I get them bolted back together I’ll take a few pictures.   I can’t wait to see them in two-tone grey leather!

Have a safe and fun week everyone!

Renovatio Is Getting Her Powertrain

Hi all,

As mentioned earlier, we took the Chevelle down to Top Gear Motorsports on Friday, starting our next critical phase of the project.   Here’s the car on the trailer before we left Full Circle:


Gotta say she is looking pretty good, even if she’s sitting pretty high upfront with no engine or transmission!

Here are some final shots of the car once we arrived at Top Gear and dropped her off:

Casey-AtTopGear-001 Casey-AtTopGear-002 Casey-AtTopGear-004 Casey-AtTopGear-003

So, at this point we start the next steps… Sean at Top Gear will be handling all aspects of the powertrain install…  engine, transmission, fuel system, cooling, etc.  On top of that I also purchased the full suite of Dakota Digital VHX gauge cluster and support modules…  Top Gear will be installing all of those electronics into a new SS dash carrier.

In fact, the goal I set for Sean is pretty steep… I said this would be the last time she is towed…  when Top Gear is done, I’m driving her home.  That’s a pretty tall order so I’m expecting them to have the car for between two and three months.   Hard to believe that just last week (week of July 4th), it was one year ago that I was in the paint booth with Tony laying out the stripes.  How time flies.

Oh.. and with us moving to the powertrain install with Sean, I’ve started to step up the planning for the interior.  On Saturday I purchased two front seat assemblies off eBay from a 2004 Pontiac GTO… these seats make great swap options for muscle cars, as they are sized appropriately, have easy-to-reach seat fold mechanisms, and this particular set is full-power for both driver and passenger.   I’ll post some pics when they arrive in a few weeks but in the meantime here’s a stock picture of the GTO seats… the ones I bought are black but of course they will be completely re-covered when I do the full interior.


So, that’s about it for now…. in case you’re curious I’ve provided some links below to the Dakota Digital hardware that I purchased last week.   It’s going to be awesome!


Dash Cluster

OBD II Diagnostics Module

Cylinder Head Temperature Module

Pressure Module (Fuel and Vacuum Sensors)

Electronic Cruise Control

Support Modules that Work with the VHX System

Compass and Outside Temp

Retained Power / Lights





Hello everyone!

Yep, it’s been a while since my last post… but there hasn’t been much going on.   Top Gear Motorsports (my engine/trans shop) was relocating their facility down in Mesa, Arizona so we had to put the Chevelle into hibernation for a bit.   Now, the shop relo is done and Sean @ Top Gear is ready for the Chevelle!   Tony will be towing her down this morning, in fact.   I am hoping to post again this weekend with some new pictures of the transport and of Sean’s shop, etc.

Thanks for hanging in there…  we’re about to start another burst of activity on this long journey!


S L O W Going…

Hi Everyone!

I know it seems like I fell off the face of the Earth for the past month.  My “real” life got very busy as I started a new job here in Phoenix, plus we had a bit of a hiccup on the timeline for the Chevelle drivetrain.  My engine builder is looking to move his shop (hopefully just up the street!) so he and I both agreed it would be best to not drop off the Chevelle right in the middle of his move.   Right now I am hoping to get the car down there by mid-May but that will be completely driven by Sean’s schedule at Top Gear.  He’s making critical decisions about the future of his business, and I for one won’t be applying any pressure on him just to speed my own project along.

SO…  not much news on the car itself.  I did briefly venture down the path of researching what it would take to swap my planned 4L60 up to some kind of six-speed automatic, such as the GM 6L80 or the TCI 6x transmission.  For all you LS swap folks, it looks like you best be running a Gen4 engine/controller if you hope to be using the GM 6L80.  Despite many hours of research, I couldn’t come up with a single case of a Gen3 Engine / 6L80 swap going well.  So that left me evaluating the TCI 6x transmission, which is essentially a 4L80 tranny case stuffed with 6 forward gears.  TCI warrants the thing beyond 800HP so I’m not worried about it standing up to my “wimpy” 425 HP LQ4.  Trouble is, the gear ratios they used in the 6x is really meant for racing, not cruising or daily driver use.  That, and the package (trans, controller, cooler, shifter) come in at about $7,200.  Yep, back to the 4L60.  🙂

Thanks for staying tuned.  I am continuing some design work on the interior but obviously that’s not going anywhere until the drivetrain is completed.


The Search for My Interior Shop

Afternoon everyone… thought I’d do a quick post to update you on my quest to find an interior shop here in Phoenix to handle the Chevelle.  I’ve now met with three shops (no names will be used since I haven’t decided yet)… one (Shop #2) was rejected fairly quickly because they essentially said “no” to just about everything I asked.  Not a great way to start with a prospective new client, wouldn’t you say?

Of the two other shops, I am presented with a challenge… namely, what value do I assign to quality craftsmanship and quality materials?

Both shops could do the work from a technical know-how perspective, but Shop #1 gave me a ball-park estimate of $4,000 to $5,000 for my interior.  Shop #3 gave me an estimate of $12,000 to $18,000.  Keep in mind this is pretty much all-inclusive…  leather seat recovers, custom center console (leather wrapped), new customer headliner, new carpet, door panels, etc.  Right now the Chevelle has virtually NO interior so these prices include everything.

Now, at first glance those prices seem wildly out of whack.  That’s what I first thought, too.  Then I started asking questions.  Shop #3 only uses leather hides that conform to the standards once set by Connolly, the UK leather producer that supplied the likes of Rolls Royce, Bentley, Ferrari and Aston Martin (Connolly stopped producing leather back in 2002 but their standards were maintained).  Click here to learn more.  This essentially means the coloring process goes all the way through the leather material, unlike cheaper hides where the color is a dye that is applied only to the surface of the hide (and thus wears out quicker), and Connolly standard hides are simply higher quality from the onset.

Shop #3 also has more experience with custom interiors, like what I have envisioned for the Chevelle.  That is not to say Shop #1 can’t do the work… I’ve personally seen examples of prior projects and they are top-notch as well, but Shop #3 has more years of experience doing custom work.  For example, I am looking to use 2004-2006 Pontiac GTO front bucket seats in the Chevelle.  That’s no problem for either company, but Shop #3 said the first thing he would do is replace the weak factory seat foam with new material since the factory stuff simply doesn’t last that long.  Shop #1 didn’t say anything about replacing the foam with new (not to mention custom) stuff.  These component costs start to fill in the gap between Shop #1’s estimate and Shop #3’s.

If you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time you know that I am looking for true partners to help me complete this car.  Tony (Full Circle), John (M&M) and Sean (Top Gear) are exactly what I am looking for from an interior vendor.  Shop #3 impressed me with not only with the questions they asked, but the ideas they had on how to solve some of the tricky ideas I have, such as the stereo / navigation install I’m envisioning.  So… how do I value quality workmanship and quality material?  Is it worth it (to me) to pay an additional $10,000?  Perhaps.  I’ve waited more than 25 years for this project…. as Dina said to me this afternoon, “Why take the compromise route now”?   Sounds good, but an additional $10k?  Gulp.

So… the car is getting ready to head down to Mesa next Friday (3/22) so Sean can start the engine and transmission install.  I have approximately two months to contemplate my issue about the interior.  I have other companies to visit so perhaps I”ll find a clear-cut winner there.  My gut is telling me that I’m going to come down to “Shop #1”, which is quoting a cheaper price tag but is probably using an inferior leather product, or Shop #3, which has the higher price tag, but they bring the better material and the know-how to do it right the first time… and most importantly… craft an interior that will last my lifetime and then some.

I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts….   any feelings one way or the other?  If so, leave a reply below.  Thanks!!

A Quick PIcture Update

So, since you all survived my crazy-long post yesterday I figured I’d post a few pictures.   Just please keep in mind that the current work progressing isn’t quite as sexy or fun as the bodywork.  🙂

In these pictures you will see the work progressing on the new brake system… new booster/master/brake lines all installed.  Next up, bleeding the system and sealing it up.  You will also see the emergency brake lines hanging down… they’ll be strapped up soon as well.

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And the final picture is a fun shot I took just looking for an unusual camera angle…   Enjoy!



Update on the Electronics Package and Interior Work


Hello everyone!  I realize it’s been over a month since my last blog post… things are progressing but right now the work we’re doing doesn’t lend itself to frequent picture updates… we’re installing the brake system (master/booster and new stainless steel lines) and the new American Autowire wiring kit.  I promise I’ll try to snap a few pictures and post over the next day or so.

The subject of this update is more related to the upcoming work… specifically what I’m calling the “electronics package” and the interior work.  This one is a long read… just be warned!  🙂

Electronics Package
If you’ve had the chance to experience a car with remote start capabilities, you probably know how habit forming it can be.  Dina and I own a 2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ/RS with remote start via the key fob but also “worldwide” remote start via the Android app for On*Star.  Here in Phoenix our summertime air temps can reach 117 degrees or higher.  The temp inside the car is obviously far higher than that.  The ability to remote start our Cruze and let it run for 10 minutes with the AC on full makes a HUGE difference.

So now you understand why I was so excited when Dina forwarded me a link to the Viper website… no, not the former Dodge product… Viper Alarms.  They now offer a full alarm and remote start kit that uses a key fob AND Android/iOS smart app to remote start your car.  Even a 1971 Chevelle!  I’ve found a place here in town who specializes in their installation and they confirm it should be no problem whatsoever to install.  The Viper website has a compatibility chart but doesn’t go back as far as the 70’s.  It’s VERY cool tech for a tech-nerd like me.  I am opting for the GPS upgrade so I will receive alerts whenever the car goes outside of a geographical “fence” that I input into the system, if the car exceeds a top speed, etc.  The GPS upgrade also allows you to view the car’s location in real-time on your phone via the Viper app.

Once I get the car back from Top Gear, the next stop is SoundWerks (Bell Road and 41st Street in Phoenix) for the install.

I’ve also been doing a TON of research on new dash guage clusters.  With me moving to an LS-based engine we obviously have to make changes to nearly every support system in the car… fuel tank/fuel pump and sending unit, all the way forward to the radiator.  The car currently has a sweep-style Malibu dash that I plan to upgrade to a round-style SS dash.  That brings me to Dakota Digital and their VHX line of digital/analog hybrid gauges.  Click Here to visit their website!

While the gauge clusters come with analog (sweep needle) gauges, the technology behind it is 100% digital:


The cluster itself comes with speedo, tach, oil pressure, water temp, voltmeter, fuel level, odometer, trip odometer, 0-60 and quarter-mile timer.  That’s pretty significant for “out of the box” functionality, but the VERY cool part of the VHX family is the add-on modules that interface into the cluster, giving you the ability to monitor up to 16 additional sensors, all showing in the two LCD screens.  Neat and clean!   I’ve decided to buy modules that will add the following functionality:

* Independent temp sensors for each cylinder head (BIM-12-1)
* OBDII/CAN interface to my powertrain computer (BIM-01-1)
* Compass w/ outside temp (BIM-17-1)
* Fuel Pressure and Vacuum sensors (BIM-03-1)

Also, Dakota Digital has additional electronics modules that I’m planning to have installed:

* Electronic Cruise Control (CRS-3000)
* Retained Power w/ auto headlight control and interior light dimming (PAC-1300)

You’re probably starting to get the idea that I want to make my Chevelle into a rolling example of modern electronics conveniences in a nice, tidy 71 muscle car.   Once again I have my partners to thank on this…. Sean at Top Gear Motorsports will handle the VHX dash cluster install with all of the add-on modules, and Josh at SoundWerks will handle the Viper SmartStart GPS / Alarm install.

The last piece of the electronics package is the stereo system.  I have a number of ideas (based primarily on Pioneer autosound equipment) but final decisions will need to wait until I talk with my interior shop (TBD) about whether I will need a semi-custom dash.

And on the top of an interior… well, I have identified a number of potential shops in the Phoenix valley but I won’t start interviewing them until I get the car back from Top Gear and SoundWerks.  That’s right… for the first few months the interior of the car will be bare… two front seats, some seat belts and a wicked dash cluster.. but that’s about it.   Dina and I plan to tackle the DynaMat install right after we  get the car back from Top Gear but the rest of the interior will need to wait until I find the shop with which I’m comfortable working.  I can share some basic concepts so far:

* Two-tone grey leather interior.  I believe the gray colors inside will blend with the silver stripes on the body.
* Custom center console.   This might be where the new stereo resides, along with the AC/heater controls…  and two cup holders big enough for Circle-K thirstbuster cups!
* Leather or some kind of “soft touch” material to cover most (all?) of the hard plastic on the dash, A-pillars, etc.
* Front seats – I want them to be fully powered on both sids, with many adjustment points.  I loved the front seats from a 2012 Chevy Malibu LTZ but since that is a four-door car, the front seats don’t fold forward, which is required for a two-door car like the Chevelle.  Options include investigating some tilt-forward seat mounts, or different seats like something from a C6 Z06 for example.
* The rear seat package out of a 2012  Chevy Malibu measures almost the exact dimension of the Chevelle interior so we’re thinking of modifying one to mount in the Chevelle then cover it with the matching grey leather.  That would get us modern rear seat belts but also should net us the modern LATCH system for child seats (yeah, we might someday have a junior crewmember in need of a ride with Dad!)
* Aftermarket 3-point front seat belt systems (the 71 Chevelle came with the old-style two-belt systems.. one belt for the lap and a second belt for the shoulder)
* Huper Optik window tinting, so block maximum amounts of UV (critical in Phoenix for both heat reduction but also for interior material protection)

So… as you can see (and thanks for making it all the way through this long update!)… lots more work left on Renovatio.  Stay tuned!  If the schedule holds, she will be headed to Top Gear Motorsports the end of next week to start the engine/trans install!

Quick Update

So the Chevelle is still at M&M with John…  Tony was scheduled to drop by yesterday to install the last chrome bits and the trunk lid lock setup.  I haven’t had the chance to go visit her lately for pictures, as I’m down with the cruddy flu bug that’s going around Phoenix these days.  😦

Oh, and a guy from Chandler has bought the frame/engine/transmission I had for sale!   He’s a car guy with a couple of projects so the ZZ4/700R4 combination will work great for him.   That was the last piece of my “grand strategy” to get my original High School Chevelle restored.  (And once the new owner drops by this weekend with a trailer to haul it home, it will mean our garage is actually usable for OTHER things besides holding Chevelle parts!)

Hope everyone is doing well… I’m planning to snap some pictures next week but they probably won’t be too exciting… we’re talking wiring kits and brake lines.  🙂


On To The NEXT Phase!

So…  it’s been a long time coming but today the Chevelle left Full Circle Auto Body for the first time since April, 2012.  Tony and the crew did some final work yesterday afternoon and early this morning…  he shot more RhinoLiner on the very lower rocker panel (the bottom 1/2 inch or so) to help protect the car from rock chips (since we eliminated the factory chrome rocker covers), then some last minute hood alignment fixes and she was DONE.  By noon Tony had trailered the Chevelle over to John and M&M Automotive… more about that later though… let’s get to some pictures!

These shots were taking at M&M after Tony delivered the car…

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With John now taking over, his list is much shorter than what Tony faced, but they’re still extremely important:
1) Install the new American Autowire full car wiring kit
2) Install the new stainless steel brake lines
3) Install the previous hydraboost brake system (once Tony is finished painting the master)
4) Reconnect the steering column to the steering pump
5) Tighten up the suspension parts (now that the body has been re-installed on the frame)

These steps are critical because when the car heads off next to get the engine and trans installed, I want it drivable afterward (albeit not finished…)

And even though Tony has delivered the car, there’s still a few small items left…  I am picking up the chrome drip rail kits and the chrome wheel opening molding kits tomorrow from Restoration-Performance Center in Tempe, AZ.   Tony plans to drop by M&M and spend a few minutes installing these last chrome shiny-bits!

As I wrap up this post, I’d like to finish with a few words regarding Tony and Lisa, and Full Circle Auto Body.  When I first approached Tony with this crazy idea of finishing my Chevelle, I quickly realized I had picked the right place to work with.  Tony got it… he understood that I had a vision but needed him to make it real.  At every step he kept me involved in the process… if there is anything wrong with the car coming out of Tony’s shop, I’m equally as guilty in letting it happen.

I CANNOT recommend Full Circle Auto Body enough…  if you have a project car and you’re looking for that kind of shop that takes their time (but in the BEST possible way) to make your ideas and dreams a reality, give them a call… you won’t be disappointed!

And now we’re moving on to the next phase… stay tuned!



Only a Few Days Left…

Hey everyone…  so, before I get to the status update I’d like to send everyone our hopes for a quiet, peaceful and enjoyable holiday season!

Now, to the fun stuff!

This past week has been a whirlwind of final assembly on the Chevelle.  First up is the installation of a new windshield and back glass.  Tony knows a shop that does a modern install job with these classic cars to make sure there are no water leaks and most important, a tight fit with the new chrome window molding.

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And in those pictures you can see where we are on the paint job…  YEP, the wet sanding and buffing is done!  Tony is planning to lay down a deep wax job on the paint before the end of next week and that will mark the final work on the paint.  In these next few pictures one of Tony’s guys is working to complete the front clip with the new grille, the headlights, side lights, bumper, etc.

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Not too shabby, eh?

This next batch is a walk-around of the car, showing various angles of the car.

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Yep, that last picture was taken by Dina as Tony was explaining to me what work they did on the interior package tray before the new glass was installed.

In my last post I mentioned I had a surprise for you regarding the trunk lid… well, here are pictures of Tony executing an idea I had while sitting at a red light over a year ago…

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Yep… I decided in my quest for a cleaner, more modern look to the car that I would not be replacing the original nameplates and insignias after the paint was done.  Instead, I had this crazy idea while sitting at a red light behind a Chevy Avalanche.  I was daydreaming and realized if you rearrange the letters in “AVALANCHE” you can spell CHEVELLE (well, if you buy two sets of letters).  So I did… I went to one of the Chevy service departments and bought them.  When I arranged the letters on the kitchen counter the first time, I knew I had a winner on my hands.  The kicker is in the last picture above…  on the passenger side of the trunk lid, I had Tony install an “SS” badge straight from the latest 5th generation Camaro SS trunklid.  I feel this is a clean and simple way to put the name back on the car but with a modern, “official” look since the letters are genuine GM parts.  I can honestly say I have never seen this done (and I subscribe to a LOT of muscle car mags!)  Hope you like it!

SO…  next week is Christmas here in the States.  Tony is taking a few days off but the BIG surprise for me was what happens after Christmas… Tony will be delivering the car this coming Thursday to M&M Automotive where John will be installing new stainless steel brake lines, a new American Autowire complete wiring kit, and some other minor adjustments and tweaks.  We’re literally one or two work-days away from Tony’s work being 100% done!  That means the car could be off to Top Gear Motorsports by mid-January for the new engine and transmission install!

So, to wrap up…  Dina and I wish you all a great holiday seasons and our sincere thanks for following our Chevelle story this year!  We’re hoping to have the car back by the end of February essentially complete minus the interior so we have a few more months of updates ’till that point… stay tuned for more in 2013!


The Color Sanding Has Begun!

Stopped by Full Circle today at lunch to drop off some more parts for Tony and here’s what I found!

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The color/wet sanding has begun!  This is the final step before the paint job is officially completed… all that remains at that point is the installation of the brand new windshield and rear glass, the installation of the all the chrome trim and of course the final installation of the front/back chrome bumpers, the front grille / headlights, and the new sport mirrors!  Wait ’till you see what I have planned for the “CHEVELLE” nameplate on the rear trunklid!   🙂

Some More Assembly Progress on the Chevelle

Hello everyone!  Again, it’s been a while since my last update but I was able to snap some new pics of the car this morning…  more progress on the final assembly!  (click on each picture to see the full-resolution images)
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The hood and trunk lid are back on the car, with the edges taped off to protect the paint during final alignment and tweaking.  The trunk lid is “done”… aligned, tape removed and the new rubber weatherstripping now installed, but the new rear bumper is just basically hanging there, waiting to be aligned with the lower valence panel (not shown).

The hood is mounted but until the rest of the front clip gets assembled, the hood won’t be final.  It’s the last piece to get aligned and signed off.

Tony offered to grab a wet rag and wipe down the Arizona dust and grime on the hood and trunk before I took the pictures so you can see what it will look like (more or less) when it’s done.  He’s hoping to have the final wet sanding done by mid-next week.  All in all I could have the car back from Tony by first week in January.  🙂

For Sale – ZZ4 / 700R4 drivetrain

Happy Friday everyone!

So Tony stopped by my house today with a little present… no, it’s not the finished car (but that’s close!)  Rather, he dropped off the old Chevelle frame that had been supporting my car since it rolled off the factory line in ’71.  The frame currently holds the GM ZZ4 355HP 350CI crate motor and GM 700R4 4-speed auto transmission that used to motivate the Chevelle.  It also has the 3″ stainless steel MagnaFlow exhaust, the GM 10-bolt rear end, the Vintage Air FrontRunner serpentine accessory setup and dual electric fans w/ controller box.

And it’s now officially for sale! Think of it as buying the drivetrain and me throwing in the roll-away delivery system for free!

I’m asking a very reasonable $3,950 for the entire roll-away package… all of the drivetrain pieces, the frame / suspension / etc.  If you’re interested (and you have a trailer handy!), drop me an eMail at  As might be expected, I am selling this “as is” with no warranty, but anyone who knows me knows this drivetrain brought plenty of smiles to my face right up to the moment the car started the restoration process early this year.

Here are some pictures I took this morning:

Front Clip Revisited

So I was able to grab some new shots of the front clip assembly… these are high-res pictures so click on each one to see the full-size versions.

Also – yeah, things look pretty dirty but keep in mind that sitting right next to my car is another car that’s currently going through some serious primer sand-down so there is dust EVERYWHERE at the moment!   🙂

and a high-res side view…

also, another small achievement… this picture may look like a shot of some pieces sitting in the trunk… what I was trying to show is the brand new weatherstripping!  I bought a new weatherstripping kit from stem to stern and Tony surprised me by starting to install these new bits of kit.  It’s probably been 20 years or so since the Chevelle has had real, soft rubber weatherstripping!

Progress on the Front Clip

Good morning everyone!

Some update pictures to share today…  Tony and his crew have started the assembly of the front clip.  Tony had the inner wheel wells and the radiator support all powdercoated for durability (and good looks!), so with those pieces secured they’ve started putting the front back together.  These are low-res pictures, unfortunately… I’m hoping to stop by the shop sometime soon to snap some new, full-res shots!

…and with one fender reconnected (although clearly not aligned yet!), you get a better sense of what the side view will look like when she’s done:

Body, Meet Frame

It’s a big day… for the first time ever, the nearly completed body has been joined to the new frame!   I visited Full Circle early this morning and snapped the pictures (below).  This was a little worrisome, as this is NOT the frame that the body left the factory with back in ’71. I bought this frame off eBay 3 years ago because it originally came from a convertible, so it is fully-boxed (and thus much stronger). Mating a body and frame that have never been together before can always expose little alignment problems.  Not in our case!  All mounting holes lined up perfectly!  Next up is final assembly of the front clip, wet sanding and then lots and lots of chrome bits get installed!  As always, click on each picture below to see the full-size image…






Rhino Liner is Awesome

Hey all,

So Tony was able to shoot Rhino Liner (yeah, the truck bed liner!) on the Chevelle last week.  Where, you might ask?  Well, here’s a few pictures but in summary, Rhino Liner now covers the entire underside of the body, the complete inner trunk area as well as the interior.  Essentially, between the Rhino Liner and the zinc etch primer Tony is using on all non-painted metal surfaces, I should probably never have to worry about rust on this car again!   🙂

Sorry for the lack of updates… now, here’s more pictures!

Hello again!  I know it’s been a rather long time since my last flurry of updates and pictures.  That’s how these projects tend to go…. a blizzard of activity, followed by relative quiet periods.  In this case Full Circle (the body shop) had some other projects come in with a bit higher priority than my Chevelle so it took them some time to clear those out.

So, what’s been happening lately?

The body is now been fully separated from the OLD, original factory frame.  This was a huge step because this is the first time that body has been separated from the original frame since they both rolled down the assembly line back in early ’71.  With the two pieces separated, Tony and his crew can now focus on the patch repair work on the floorpans (some minor pinhole rust here and there), paint the firewall (black, to match the powdercoated inner fenders, radiator support, etc.) and then they’ll be spraying RhinoLiner on the bottom of the car, the wheel wells and on the inside on the floorboards.

The RhinoLiner is nearly indestructible.  Having both sides of the floorpans coated will add some weight to the car, but that’s okay.. the upside is I will never have to worry about the floorpans rusting out again.  Ever.  🙂

And at the bottom is the last picture for the day… this is the original frame plus the GM Performance Parts ZZ4 crate motor, the GM 700R4 4-speed auto transmission and various remaining pieces and bits. It needs a bit of cleanup and TLC but the go-fast parts are all in great working condition.

At some point in the future I will be selling this rolling frame/engine/trans/rear differential on eBay to help pay the bills from the rebuild.  Before I started down this road I was driving the Chevelle nearly every day so I know the ZZ4 / 700R4 combination is as solid now as it was when first installed.  The ONLY reason I chose to go a different route was so I could drop a new LS-based engine into the car to get better fuel mileage as a daily driver.  If you or someone you know might be interested in buying the frame/engine/trans, drop me a message!

Ready to see Stripes (and LeMans Blue paint) ???

Well, I warned you.  I told you that if time allowed, I would be working with Tony @ Full Circle Auto Body to lay out my stripe patterns on the hood and trunklid… and if time permitted, we’d shoot paint.   Goes to show you what I know.  In only four hours, we went from primered body panels to final LeMans Blue and the first coats of clear on the trunk area and the hood.  Ready for a BIG update post?   🙂


Nothing great appears out of nowhere.  It takes hard work, dedicated people and… well, lots of ideas and re-do’s.  These first 11 pictures show the trunk and hood starting off with a base silver paint coat, and then you will see us laying out ideas for stripes, removing some ideas while moving forward with others… but eventually we have the shape and size correct.


This next section of 11 pictures shows progressively how Tony builds the stripes layer upon layer.  Many people think that stripes like mine (multiple areas, multiple colors) are masked off all at once and painted, with each non-painted stripe being masked off.  You could do that but it would take 10 to 12 hours to duplicate what Tony did in just 4.  He painted the silver base layer first (above), then we masked off the areas for the red, then shot it with paint, then we masked off the areas for the grey and shot it last.  Key thing – we did NOT have the “stencil” laid down the entire time, just the areas that needed to be protected.  It’s hard to describe in words but you essentially build the stripes in successive layers of paint.  Follow the pictures and I think you’ll get a feeling for what I’m saying… in the last picture you see a stripe that is silver on the bottom, with red next and gray on top…


So once Tony had the last of the stripes down and masked off, it was time for the big surprise… he didn’t tell me upfront that he had planned to shoot not only the stripes, but the actual LeMans Blue paint for the trunk area and the hood, including the first 4 coats of clear!

These next pictures show the blue paint laid down with NO clear coats yet.  The paint has a dull surface, almost “matte” in appearance.  Just keep in mind this is a work in progress… Tony estimates that there will be between 12 and 15 coats of clear once the project is done.


Something that Tony calls, “A little like Christmas…” it’s time to remove the masking material and show the stripes alongside the LeMans Blue paint!  Keep in mind, there still is no clear coat over these colors…  it’s going to look dull and rough because it hasn’t been prepped, wet-sanded, etc.


The final two pictures show the trunk area and hood, with all masking material removed and 4 coats of clear applied.  You can start to see the metallic in the paint come out.  Again, no wet-sanding has happened so there are irregularities that may be in these pictures that won’t be in the final product.

Tony was hoping to shoot the entire rest of the body with LeMans Blue and clear coat by tomorrow (7/3), giving the car time to “breathe” over the July 4th holiday.  Stay tuned… we still have PLENTY of work left, but it certainly is exciting to see the progress!

Please note:  Tony uses the latest in water-based low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) automotive paint.  It allows him to spray in the booth for up to three minutes without the use of a respirator.  You will notice there are no pictures of Tony spraying the LeMans Blue paint or the clear coat… that’s because I was out of the room and he was fully gowned and protected.  Tony takes the environment and his health very seriously.


A small update for Friday…

Hey everyone,

So we are a GO for laying down the stripes on the hood and trunklid tomorrow (Sat 6/29).  I’ll be at Full Circle with Tony to help him lay out the shape, sizing, etc. and it looks like he may have enough time to lay down the first few layers of paint.  I’m bringing my iPad with me so I’ll have plenty of pictures!

Lastly, it’s been a while since I mentioned the drive train.  Sean at Top Gear Motorsports has been toiling away but at a slower pace since the body needed to complete first.  He’s got the new 4L60E transmission completely built and ready and they are making final prep on the intake manifold, fuel rails and injectors.  In short, their work is just about done and they’re simply waiting for me to bring the (soon to be) painted and assembled chassis / body down to them.

Once the engine/transmission is mated to the car, Sean’s team will then focus on installing the new fuel delivery system (tank, lines, pump, filters, etc.) that are required since I am moving from a carburetor to high-pressure fuel injection.  They’re also tackling the front accessory drive setup (alternator, power steering pump, AC compressor, alternator) and the new cooling system (radiator, electric fans, etc.)  Yep, Sean has his work cut out for him…

I will have more pictures this weekend so expect another post before Monday…   have a great and safe weekend!


Massive Chevelle Update!

Hey everyone… sorry for the 3 week period between updates but the wife and I headed across the pond to the UK to see family (Hi Delk!) and to spend time in London (escaping Phoenix, Arizona’s blistering 110+ degree heat!)

SO… I’m back and do I have a big picture update for you today!


In the last update you got to see the new sheetmetal panels on the car but they were just roughed in and held in place by clamps.  The entire rear of the car had to be pulled back about a half-inch to make sure everything aligned.  Today’s update starts with pictures of the new sheetmetal now fully attached to the car’s skeleton.  I’ve left these picture in full resolution so apologies upfront if you click on the thumbnail pic and the resulting full-size pic is a bit overwhelming… just zoom out a bit… but this way you can see all the detail work done by Full Circle!

For the car people out there, here’s a quickie…  Full Circle doesn’t replicate the lead filler the factory used to use back in the ’70’s and before.  Rather, they actually weld metal into the panel gaps to full attach the panels securely, then they use a light coat of plastic filler to smooth it out.  No lead and very little filler.  And speaking of that…


So, the above pictures are already old, because as of yesterday here’s the current state.  If you’re just breezing through the pics you might not notice the big difference…. in this new batch all of the heavy metal work is done and Tony’s body guys have done the smaller adjustments, alignments and cleanup of the sheetmetal.  As of today (6/21) the car should be in primer, meaning we’re getting dangerously close to real PAINT!

The overall design of the car calls for a clean, more modern look… thus, we won’t have all of the original factory chrome emblems on the fenders, trunk lid, hood, etc.  The only chrome will be around the front/rear windows, along the side windows and the drip rail… no chrome around the wheel openings, rocker panels, etc.


So… one last picture…  here is the test panel done by Tony so I could approve the color and stripe designs.  This is one of the nice touches Tony does for his customers… I can see an actual painted panel, with my choices, before the car gets painted.  If I don’t like the end result I have no one to blame but myself.  You will DEFINITELY want to click on that image to see the full-size picture… that’s the only way you will see the full blue metallic effect!

You’ll notice the LeMans Blue metallic paint from the 2004 Corvette Commemorative Edition.  That paint color is now approved…  no more changing my mind!

The middle stripe… with the red highlights… is the stripe pattern we’re going with.  It’s a blatant rip-off of the stripes from the same 2004 Corvette, as you can see from the last four pictures..)  The test panel was roughed in for the stripes but the final product on the Chevelle will match exactly the style from the Corvette, and the stripes will be buried in clearcoat so you won’t feel them when you run your hand over them!   🙂

If the car made it to primer today I might have some quick pictures of that for a weekend update…

Talk About Going Global!

Just a quick post this morning to let you know some tidbits about this blog that shocked me.  WordPress (the host for this blog) has some interesting site statistics available for me as the blog owner, including breakdown by country on how many visitors. I don’t see anything personal, mind you, just a cumulative count of unique visitors by country.  Since I launched this blog it’s been viewed by people in the US (1,396), Japan (24), Norway (18), the UK (15), Canada (15), New Zealand (8), Nigeria (1) and Saudi Arabia (1).

I guess muscle cars do have a global appeal!

My thanks to ALL visitors who stop by and check out the progress we’re making on Renovatio (her formal name, by the way, is Casey…)   Feel free to post a comment to this blog entry and let everyone know where you hail from!

-john and dina

Progress !!

So, I don’t have pictures yet but I was talking with Tony @ Full Circle Auto Body last Friday.  They are test fitting the new body panels to the Chevelle body skeleton, including the new roof skin (the entire roof panel is one large piece of metal). 

No surprise I guess that he’s finding the 40+ year old body of my car is definitely showing it’s age.  The roof skin aligned perfectly across the front (above the windshield) but at the back of the car the roof skin was off by 3/4 of an inch.  That’s a huge margin when you’re doing bodywork. 

The new roofskin was removed and measured and it was perfect.  It seems at some point in the past the car took a passenger side rear hit that was strong enough to knock the entire rear end over by 3/4 of an inch.  Fortunately Tony’s got the tools necessary to fix it so the body is now straight and the roof skin fits like a glove.  🙂

Hopefully I will have some more pictures up on a few days.  Right now Tony is working to acid wash the car’s internal skeleton so he can zinc primer it (should never rust again!) and then the body panels get welded up!

Hope everyone had a great weekend… I spend mine wondering about color choices for the paint that’s coming up…

So what is your favorite car?

Hey everyone… as I predicted it’s a little slow on updates for the car right now so I thought I would turn the tables and ask you a question!  If you’ve read any part of this blog then you know by now that the Chevelle (any year, really) is one of, if not my absolutely favorite car.  Sure, I love Corvettes, Aston-Martins, etc.  There’s just something primal about a Chevelle in my book.

So, that said, what is YOUR favorite car?  It can be modern or ancient, classic sports car or muscle car.  It can be anything but here’s the trick… you have to explain why it’s your favorite in your reply.  🙂

Click on the cloud icon in the upper right hand corner of this post to read what others have left and to let us know your choice.  This should be fun…

Hopefully we’ll be back in the swing of updates and pictures in the next few days… and thanks again for taking the time to visit our site!


A Quiet Time For Updates, So I Have a Question For You

Hello everyone!
We’re entering a period where I probably won’t have updates for a few days as the teams are heads down working on certain items.  I thought I would take this time to thank you all for showing interest in our project… according to my blog host I have had visitors from the US, UK, Norway and even Japan!  I’m not listing all of the countries but I thought those last two might be entertaining to think about for a moment!

Here’s the aforementioned question I have for you:   What would you like to see in future posts?

If you click on the Cloud icon in the upper right hand corner of this posting (just to the right of this blog post’s main title) you can leave your comments and suggestions, or you can read what others have left and perhaps reply to them.

I’d love any feedback you might have!  I wanted this site to be a documentary of sorts on what it took to get my car from Point A to Point Done, but also I was hoping I could lay the foundations for others who are interested in doing the same thing with their classic muscle car.  Am I hitting those targets or am I shooting wide?

Thanks again…  we should have some pictures ready for next week’s posts!

-john and dina


A Little More Chevy Orange…

So we have a few new engine shots this morning.  You’ll notice the new Holley LS engine transplant-specific oil pan is now bolted up, along with the valve covers (the valvetrain is done!) and the timing chain cover.  Sean will be adding some more bits to the block here shortly but we will keep some of the stuff off (exhaust manifolds for example) until the LQ4 is actually bolted to the car, that way we have maximum clearance for hoisting the beast into the engine bay.  I’m guessing the 4L60E build-up will start shortly.

The engine / transmission work is moving a little slower on purpose since the bodywork was a few weeks late in starting.