Volume I, Issue 3, Page 10

Close Encounters of the
Chevy Kind

Chevy? Chevy. Love 'em!

I really do -- had some good ones – a '69 Z28 with a cross ram intake (built that one up in the pages of Hot Rod Magazine back in 1981), a '70 Z, a '72 Z, a '66, a '67 and '68 big block Corvettes.

The '67 was and education, a 435 hp convertible that I brought back from the dead and a real '68 L88- silver on silver convertible that I drove as often as possible. On the repro Polyglas tires that car ran 13.08 at 111.38 mph easy shifting through the gears at LA County Raceway. I bent one of those big fatty factory pushrods on that day and still drove it home. Great car.

Cam Benty is a veteran automotive journalist who has served on such titles as Popular Hot Rodding, where he was the editor during the early 1980s.  Since then, Cam has built a successful career as a freelance technical writer who has contributed to virtually every enthusiast magazine there is.  In addition, Cam has created many relationships within the performance aftermarket industry and regularly comes away with the latest and greatest scoop.  Cam has also worked for SEMA and has a keen understanding of where our hobby has been and what lies ahead.

My first car was a Chevy.  Bought it so I could go to school . . . among other things. It was a 1965 Impala SS with the 396, 325hp engine. Picked it up for $525 from Lucky Auto Sales from a guy, whose real name was . . .  Harley Davidson. Plenty scary actually. The SS would only go eight miles before it would overheat -– especially bad when you considered that I purchased the car August while living in the central California valley town of Stockton. Seeing 112 degrees that time of year was not uncommon.

I learned a bunch from that car -- the joys of breaker bars, neighborhood painters, L-series tires and fatiguing idler arms. I fixed the overheating problem by cleaning out the radiator and pulling the heads to remove the rusted out head gaskets. Didn't have enough money to do even a simple valve job. Other than changing the gaskets, the heads went back on with little more than a little wire wheel clean up. Guess, what –- it worked. Fixed a 35 mph suspension wobble by swapping out an new idler arm and tire rods from junk yard in my friend's driveway. That worked too.

The best part of that Impala may have been the guys I met when fixing it up . . . and subsequent car connections I made thereafter. I had been working a part time job in a pizza restaurant while going to school and met two brothers-in-law, both named Ed. They both were into cars. Both big Chevy guys. One had a '65 Chevelle SS with a 327. What ever he had done to the engine, it was fast -- a lot faster than my green Impala. His brother-in-law had a '63 Impala (of all things) with an even better 327.

Over a few late night after hours beers, these guys decided to swap cars and engines, neither willing to part with their "secret powerplant." It took a day, me splitting my time between the two guys chasing parts and getting tools and operating the engine hoist for each team of one.  I swear it took more time to rent the equipment and purchase the parts we needed than it did for these two guys to do the actual work side-by-side in Ed #1's driveway.

But I learned more about engines and Chevys and beer in one day than I had in all my years leading up to the driveway swapfest. If nothing else, it branded me with the car-building bug. When those cars finally fired up and ran, it was one of the most gratifying things I had ever experienced. 

Maybe the best part of that experience was the confidence it gave me to do my own thing with my cars. Back in the '70s, Chevys were cheap and easy to work on. Folks were reasonable with their prices and we didn't care so much about making sure that the dates and part numbers were right on the hose clamps. It was a far more pure performance thing. The good old days -- yep, that was a great era.

But before you paint me as old school, I've kept current with new tech as well. Watching Gale Bank's Type-R road racing GMC Sierra -- running a Chevy Duramax Diesel at Buttonwillow Raceway last month -- it was clear that performance, both gasoline and diesel, come in many forms. New Corvettes are faster from the factory than we ever imagined possible from a production car.

Between tires, engines, electronics and the like, these days are every bit as good as the old days. Chevys have never been faster. That's a fact. Nor have really good performance parts and tech information been more readily available.

Chevy? Yep, love 'em. Always have. 

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