Car: 1968 Chevelle
I have found more about the history of this car since the last article. The vehicle is a Framingham Massachusetts assembly plant car and the engine came from the Tonowanda plant. The engine was installed in the Framingham assembly Plant in early June of 1968 and the Muncie 4 speed transmission was a May, 1968 production installed in June. The original owner ordered the car in April and received it in July of 1968.
The original owner ordered the car as a special order from A & R Smith Automotive in York, Pennsylvania. The paint was the special order feature. Matador Red [code RR] body paint, no vinyl top, with both lower black wide stripe [code 96] and the narrow stripe kit [D69]. The stripe kit was originally only available in white on the RR paint code. In addition, the narrow stripe kit was discontinued in December 1967, leaving only the black lower wide stripe. The car was ordered with black stripe kit and was one of about 17 cars produced with both black stripes on Matador Red and no vinyl top. The Chevelle was 1 of 3595 produced with L79 [396/325] 4 speed cars, or < 6.5% of the Chevelle production. At a 5 % survival rate this car represents 1 of 18 cars remaining. Considering the special order paint feature of this car it is a RARE one. Most magazine advertisement shows the early production of RR with white stripe kits, lower broad black stripe and vinyl roof. The majority of these cars had the vinyl roof and either stripping, or just the plain paint colour.
The first owner drove the car as a second car and as a summer driver from 1968 to 1975. The owner stored the car away while he raised a family ( he didn’t sell it like most of us did!). The car had Cragar SS mag wheels installed in 1970 and these rims are still on the car. Hooker headers were also installed at this time and they are also still on the car.
In early 1996 the car was taken out of storage. It was not stored that well and the front seats skins, carpets and headliner had to be replaced. The SS has all its original steel and no patches. The car was also repainted in its RR paint code and re-stripped as originally ordered when it was brought out of storage.
The car was given to his son as a graduation gift; but father wisely kept the vehicle registered in his name. The son drove the car for only a few months as he apparently had too many problems with the police! The vehicle was taken away from the son and sold in late 1996. During the first ownership approximately 37,000 miles was recorded on the odometer.
The second owner, from Bloomsburg PA, did nothing to the car. He used it as a show and shine vehicle and weekend cruiser. He had it for 5 years and said he put about 3,500 miles or so on the Chevelle. He sold the SS on E Bay to a purchaser in Canada. This owner from Red Deer Alberta had the car for less than two years when he decided to sell it. He had done nothing to the car and only had put 385 miles on the odometer when he put it for sale on E Bay.
It did not sell, however, I was in contact him by email. I then gave him a call and found out what his reserve was and asked why he wanted to sell it. He said he had to sell in order to get a Camaro he wanted. We struck a deal and arranged to pick up the SS the following weekend at his business location. Well, this guy had a sense of humor! I arrived to pick up the car and in front of the business was this beat up falling apart red ‘69 Chevelle; obviously looking nothing like the pictures he had sent me. This couldn’t be my future car! I walked in and asked for the seller. He could hardly keep the smile off his face; he said to me, pointing out the front window. “Like your car?” He didn’t have me; I had seen the ‘real one’ in the back. I quickly responded, “Yes, but, I like the one in the back better!” We both had a good laugh over ‘the set up’.
I looked the car over, took it for a little ride and liked it. The 396 was a little rough running, however, I could work on that later for the price I was paying. The original rally wheels were supposed to be with the car, however, the shop they had been sent to for sandblasting and painting had suddenly closed down and cleared out; wheels were lost forever!
I have had this car since 2004 and I drove it for about a year the way I purchased it. The engine vibration never went away after a tune up so it was time to do some serious “looking”.
I found an engine rebuild place in Lethbridge, CEP Automotive [Custom Engine Performance] and took the Chevelle to them. After their inspection the conclusion was harmonic damper and drive shaft problem. On inspection the rubber was falling out of the damper sections. Bill took me for a ride in their shop car, a 68 Beaumont, with a nice sounding engine. He noted that the engine looked like it had never been rebuilt So besides the damper and driveshaft balance I ended up doing a rebuild over 2 years. First the top end, then the bottom end.
The first year, the drive shaft and damper problem was resolved then the top end rebuild. The old manifold and Rochester carburetor were replaced. (I still have them.) The top portion of the engine was built for minimum friction with roller cam and rockers and all the things that come with it. The slight rough idle provides a great muscle car sound along with the mufflers. Top quality and name brand parts were used.
The second year the bottom end was completed with new pistons and crank, bearings, etc. The original heads were cleaned up and re-installed, new clutch and a power brake booster was added to the drum brakes.
The third year, the bushings were redone, front to back, with rear sway bar added and anti-hop bars installed; On hard acceleration, wheel hop was noticeable before this upgrade.
The car is now completely refreshed except the paint, which I can get about another 5 years out of. (It will take me that long to save the money.) There are some paint bubbles at the trailing edge of the doors and there are also the scratches and rock chips from use, however, fortunately no dents! As it stands now, the car is an ‘on frame restoration’ or ‘refreshed car’. I’ll likely die before the car! The back seat was original until a couple of years ago when I put my knee through the seat bench where the stitching and vinyl were too old to take the weight. I only replaced the seat ... the seat back remains original.
I found a 1968 black and yellow 1963 California Plate for it, with 1964 and 1968 stickers. The plate is cool ... BM 5396. BM for Bruce McInnis, 5 for 5 passenger, 396 for the engine size; how cool is that? I also found a 1968 original Alberta plate (KB 68 69). In Alberta we can register the AB year plate to the vehicle and drive with it on, with collector plate available in the vehicle.
The quarter mile stats from the stock 14.8 sec and 98.8 mph are now about13.42 sec and about 104.6 mph
At about 8 mpg ...... “There is more to life, than worrying about the price of GAS!” In November 2007 when I wrote this story fuel was 92.9 cents per liter in Southern Alberta
What will I do for the 50 anniversary? Tour with Dave Weir across the country!