Volume III, Issue 4, Page 44

“We need a little drama now,” I say. “Throw some water over there.”

“Won’t do any good,” chirps Crockford. “These tires spin like crazy, but they don’t make any smoke at all.”

Bob gives the 427 some stick, unloads the clutch, and leaves the scene nonchalant with his hand on the wing window rail, like its some kind of Willy Borsch. I can picture him clearly back in the day doing the same rigmarole, only this time with a cigarette between his fingers. He’s right, of course. The Coker redlines don’t smoke but they stripe the macadam for as long as Crockford crowds the throttle.

By this time, we’re at the end of  the driveway and threaten to spill out on the street. This is all going down at Crockford’s business. Loooong, straight driveway, niches for shooting, and no one bitching, “don’t do that here or I’ll call the cops.”

Meanwhile, it’s like he’s just risen from hibernation. The air is cool and crisp, perfect for the big-block to breathe heavy and run right. But Bob’s had this dude in the garage for a while. When he decks the throttle, it farts and spit, then cleans itself out with a mighty cloud of smog. The Chevelle seems to take on a life of its own and Bob’s acting like its Christmas Day. Tires spinning, engine howling, Flowmasters rumbling sweet, and ass end flailing, Crockford puts on his best shit-eating grin and laps his property making lots of noise, and going nowhere except inside his psyche. He loves it.

“I love this stuff, love it,” he says like a kid who’s just discovered girls.

And he has loved this stuff for a long time. He’s got more reindeer at home. Which number an ’07 ZO6 (still stock), a ’70 SS convertible, a Pro Street Nova, a drag race Nova, a dragster powered by a 555-inch Rat, and two or three “numbers” cars that escape me. For Bob, it’s about having the right stuff, but it’s also about using the right stuff. There are no queens cowering in his ample garage. He drives them all. He’s a member of the Gearheads and the CE Cruisers. They go out Thursday and Saturday nights. Sometimes Bob’s out there with them.

That’s what’s happening with his ’67 Chevelle SS. It’s authentic except for the 427 motor, which as you know was never available in the A-body. He found the car local and knew he would change the engine out and lower the icon down gently in its stead. In ’67, the 427 was the king of cubes, the ultimate air pump for a Chevy freak--and you could get one with a solid lifter camshaft. Bob’s biggest concession to the engine was the change from iron to aluminum cylinder heads.  With a modern roller cam, a sturdy bottom end, and a tight compression ratio, Bob estimates 600lb-ft. On the other end, the engine revs 7,200rpm but output has never been measured at the wheel. With DOT-legal drive tires, Bob’s banged a 10.95 at 128 out of it.

 I’m partial to Bob’s sled now, but I wasn’t interested in a Super Sport back then. Everybody had one. I didn’t like the big-block, either. I’d seen what Jenkins was doing with the 327 so I bought a stealth Malibu hardtop with an L79 325/327 engine (actually 350hp), a close-ratio ‘speed, and 3.73s in the 12-bolt. No power-assist anything. Drum brakes all around. No air conditioning, either. I gave the guy at McPeak Chevrolet $2,900 American in small bills and drove it home. Loved that car.

Now here’s Bob in my car. I gazed at that spaghetti-strand steering wheel, the key swinging gently from the dashboard, those sexy wing windows, all that old timey stuff and certainly went back in time. It was hot and stuffy in that garage, motes of dust floating in the slanted light. I got a taste. It smelled 40 years old.