First off, I tend to get carried away and ramble on, so I’ll try to divide this up into sections so when you get bored, you can skip to the next “important” part at the beginning of the next section.
The Background Story
My senior year of high school, I was looking for a car or truck to get around - I’d had my driver’s license since I was 16 but didn’t own a car, so getting around still meant bumming rides. I didn’t have much criteria other than something I could afford with what I’d saved working construction in the summers, and something I liked (at the time I wasn’t very well developed as a car-guy since nobody in my extended family saw cars as more than appliances; I’d literally never been around nice cars other than the occasion local show).
Weeks of browsing craigslist for trucks (practical!) led to eventually stumbling onto a listing for a 1971 4-door Chevelle for my max budget. Skipping random details that aren’t relevant, I eventually made it to where the car was and went for a test drive around a field (hadn’t been registered/inspected in 7 years - more on that later). The next day I met the owner at the notary.
After driving it home (30 miles in a car that hadn’t really moved in a decade), catching up on some normal maintenance stuff, and getting the car PA inspected (needed nothing!) it became my daily driver. I’d fix and upgrade odds and ends here and there, things like the water pump leaking, gas tank also leaking, etc.
When I went to college, the car got parked, and I’d pick it up to drive on breaks and in summer; it was the spring break of my freshman year that I rebuilt the carb, finally enabling it to idle in gear without a foot on the gas. Eventually school got busy, and with part time work and summer internships I needed something to reliably get me to and from work, and something I’d be willing to leave in a parking lot for months - that’s another story for another time.
So the Chevelle got parked under a cover under a series of tarps at my dad’s, and eventually got moved into a car port to keep it out of the elements. It’s been there since.
I bought the car from the son of the (late) original owner; in the glove box was the owners manual with a full service history written in the back. With about 96,000 miles, the car hard been resprayed the original color at some point (and not all that well) but looked good from a couple feet back. The interior was in good shape as well; the dash reflecting that the car had always been kept indoors. The only interior issues are the front bench being ripped and a crack in the top of the steering wheel.
Technically speaking: Engine is a 307 (that’s 5L) V8, Powerglide 2-speed auto, column shift. 2-barrel carb, which is terrible. Rear gears are 3.08:1 open (10-bolt). 4-doors, known as a “post” car since it has a b-pillar (there were “sport sedans” which didn’t have this pillar). Factory air-conditioning (which had a hole in the condenser; I have a new condenser but no R12 so I haven’t fixed it) rounds things out nicely. Power steering, too, but it doesn’t work under about 1000RPM. Still have to look in to that, since that’s, you know, the only time you really need power steering.
Work that I did on it during its time as my daily includes rebuilding the carb, replacing the gas tank, replacing valve cover gaskets, and rebuilding the whole front-end (steering linkage and suspension) factory-spec. The radiator was also re-cored (after it blew open at 100,002 miles) by a guy who worked in the factory that would have made that radiator in the first place. I did some bodywork on the front fenders as well, since they had some chips and a few spots of rust that needed addressed before they got worse. NAPA had the 1971 paint code/recipe, but the paint didn’t really match. At all. There’s another story to be told involving a moth and not-even-flashed paint, but that’s for later. The wheel arch trim had been in the trunk, so that got hit with steel wool and reinstalled as well.
How Things Are Now
As I mentioned, the car sat in storage through the latter 2/3 of my college years, and much to my dismay it continued to sit after graduation, while I got my life sorted out, career moving (I’m an electrical engineer in case I didn’t mention that; just in case you’re curious), learning the are in which I now lived, etc.
This whole time it was stored at my dad’s in gradually better conditions, for the most part under a soft cover, under two tarps, in a car port. In March 2015 it narrowly escaped destruction when the car port it had been in until the previous November collapsed under 18+ inches of wet snow. The newly constructed one, however, was okay.
At this point, I’m finally ready and able to bring my car back onto the roads, but it needs some work first.
If you’re skipping through because I’m long-winded, now is the part you want to continue reading from, since this discusses the plan and what will be happening in the coming weeks (which will, of course, be shared on Oppo).
In order to bring the Chevelle back onto the road (so I can resume daily driving it, of course) I’ve determined three main things it needs, in addition to some normal maintenance and other catch-up items like adjusting the transmission band, changing diff oil, points/rotor/cap, etc.
While in storage, the fuel pump died, and while replacing it one weekend I took advantage of the chance to disconnect both ends of the fuel line to blow it out with compressed air. While under the rear of the car, I bumped the tail pipe, which promptly broke off at a clamp/hanger.
I’d wanted to replace the existing single system with a proper dual setup (seriously who sends 5L of V8 through a single 2" pipe?) anyways, so that will be the first order of business. A complete system from some shorty headers back through a stainless 2.5" dual exhaust (with h-pipe) will be a big improvement.
I didn’t mention this above, but this car does have manual 4-wheel drum brakes. While I (and the old guy at the alignment shop who was grinning after the test drive - “Man I haven’t seen brakes like these in thirty years!”) am able to use these to safely drive the vehicle, they do leave a lot to be desired, and the lines are 45 years old now. With modern cars (and modern drivers...) for daily driving, these are not really sufficient.
The plan here is simple - I’ll convert to power brakes, with OEM-style disc in the front. This does mean I’ll lose my original 14" steel wheels with awesome brushed stainless hubcaps, but 15" rallys are pretty cool too. On the rear, I’ll fully rebuild the drum brakes (long term this axle will get replaced, and discs will go on with the new 12-bolt posi). New hard lines and flex lines all around, as well.
The current 2-barrel carb is, to be gentle, shit. It got a whole lot better when I rebuilt it, but overall it’s got to go.
The plan here is a new aluminum 4-bbl intake and a holley 600cfm carb. This will make the car actually drivable, and should help to return more than the 9 MPG I used to get.
Progress So Far / Conclusion
I recently got the Chevelle back to life after sitting, and remarkably the battery somehow can still start it now that it’s had time to charge. Since I’m renting a condo/townhouse/expensive-apartment right now, work has to be done at my dad’s, which is where the car is anyways. The downside of this means that it’s 2 hours away, so it’s all got to be done on weekends (and the nearest parts store to him is about 30 minutes away).
The weekend of Easter we got an area set up, basically converting the car port the car has been in into a temporary garage, with OSB floor (under the car at least), plastic to keep the dust down, walls, etc. It’s a pretty cool spot that really deserves its own post. This will enable work to proceed weekend-to-weekend without having to waste time covering the car back up, cleaning up tools, etc (he has chickens, turkey, etc. so you cannot leave anything out you don’t want covered in dirt/shit and/or perched on) since it’s enclosed now.
In the corner of my apartment I’ve got a bunch of fluids and some headers, and I have a spreadsheet full of parts to pick up from Summit in the coming weeks to get this project moving. There’s also a set of 235/60/R15 BFG Radial T/As waiting for me to find wheels for.
If you’re still reading this, thank you for your patience.
Now that I’ve introduced the car and the project, expect to see occasional updates posted here about things getting done. I don’t have a build thread on any forums or anything yet, and I’m not sure when/if I will, so this may be it for somewhere to get updates, at least for a while. I’ll tag posts related to this with... uh... whatever I decide to tag this. Probably “71Chevelle” or something.